Set your direction
IntroductionOnce your group is established, there will be a point at which you will need to do some planning. With a good plan your activity will have a greater chance of being effective.
Once your group is established, there will be a point at which you will need to do some planning i.e. to plan your activities and how the group will run. With a good plan your activity will have a greater chance of being effective. See planning principles for more information.
Plans may be simple or in-depth (depending on your group or scale of the project) but there are a number of features of a good plan. The typical steps involved in planning include:
- Assessing the current situation
- Identify your vision, goals, objectives and actions
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Confirming and communicating your plan.
You can use planning to set your direction worksheet (PDF, 55K) to help set your direction, filling out the worksheet as you go and referring to these sections for ideas.
Features of a good plan
While a simple task list may be sufficient for the planning of some groups, there comes a point in the life of most groups when a more detailed strategy or plan is required. The need to obtain funding is a common reason. Most funders and sponsors who make money available for conservation projects will require a written plan with clear goals, tasks and cost estimates.
A good plan will show:
- The community and environmental results desired (your vision, goals and objectives).
- Actions that will be taken.
- What needs to be done first (priorities).
- What resources are required.
- How resources will be provided.
- Who will take which roles and responsibilities.
- How coordination, communication and decision-making will take place.
- Time lines.
- How progress will be monitored.
You’ll usually end up with a written plan at the end of the process, which might be simple or in-depth, depending on your group or scale of your project.
Some groups start off with a very simple action plan for the immediate issues (e.g. a flipchart list of tasks and who is responsible), returning later to work out a long term vision or goals. Other groups might decide to spend considerable time developing a clear, shared vision and goals before taking any action.
Volunteers assisting with habitat
Assessing the current situation
You will have gathered information during the initial work to get your project started. It is now time to bring this together and fill in any gaps. Additional information needs might include:
- Existing information about the issue such as scientific studies, reports and media items.
- Plans, strategies or procedures related to the site or species your project is concerned with e.g. a management plan for the area.
- Historical information.
- Information from others engaged in similar projects, which can help with deciding where to start.
Check that the information you have so far has given you:
- A good understanding of any related actions planned or underway by an agency or another group.
- An understanding of the resources available within your group or outside resources that could be made available.
- An understanding of who should be involved in the planning.
- An understanding of how your project might impact on other areas.
Double check whether there is anyone else likely to be interested in and/or affected by your project and take steps to involve them now at the planning stage.
Identify your vision, goals, objectives and actions
This is the ‘gutsy’ part of your planning work and helps to set out your group’s direction. Doing your planning as a group is important as it gives everyone the chance to take ownership of the plan and build commitment.
See group planning for information on how to plan as a group, including techniques for setting visions, goals, objectives and actions and examples.
Using a workshop for your planning is often the most effective because it gives everyone a chance to be involved and helps to build relationships. see basic group techniques for simple ideas on running workshops.
A clear, shared vision that signifies general agreement on the key issues and priorities is essential. Generating a shared vision is about looking at what you want in the future - your ‘ideal’. It’s useful to describe what things could be like in the future, in words or pictures, or both. They key to a shared vision is to find something general enough that people can agree to, without losing the essence of what you want to achieve.
A goal is a major result or outcome the group wants to achieve. Goals should be related to a group’s vision and should be brief and focused. Goals should answer the question - ‘what would we need to achieve in order to realise our vision?’ Goals may need to be re-examined on a regular basis as the project develops.
Once you have your goal(s), it is helpful to break them down into ‘do-able’ chunks of work. Objectives are carefully thought-out targets, which move the group closer to its goals and ultimately its vision. Objectives are much more specific than goals. To be achievable, objectives should be realistic, measurable and have a set timeframe.
Once you’ve developed objectives, you need to decide how these will be achieved. Action planning involves working out the tasks required to complete each of the goals and/or objectives. Actions should be specific and assigned to someone to do within a timeframe.
See developing a forest restoration plan for more specific details about developing ecological goals, objectives and actions.
Monitoring and evaluation
As part of the planning phase, it is important to identify how you will ‘take stock’ of your progress and know that your work has been effective. The information and guidance in monitoring and evaluating progress will help with this task.
Confirming and communicating your plan
When you’ve finished your plan, it’s a good idea to mark the occasion in some way – this might be a social occasion at the end of your planning workshop.
Completing your plan is also an opportunity to get some publicity about your group and its intentions. It is also useful to let other relevant organisations know about your plan in order to build understanding of your project’s goals. Consider:
- How you’ll ensure all members have access to the plan e.g. a summary item in a newsletter.
- Other organisations that would benefit from a copy.
- Local media, particularly if you want the benefit of wider publicity for your efforts.