Strategic Direction/Action Plan
Strategic direction and an action plan (flowing from the SWOT analysis), which should be consistent with other relevant state/regional/local plans.
Sample Vision and Goal/Objective:
Vision - Increase regional prosperity by being a globally competitive, business-friendly region, comprised of healthy communities that sustain a high-quality of life.
Goal 1 – Enhance emerging health care cluster
- Objective 1 – Expand rural health care workforce development by increasing the percentage of people age 25+ with a completed postsecondary degree by 10% over the next five years
The strategic direction and corresponding action plan contained within the CEDS are the heart and soul of the document. They should answer the questions “Where do we want to go?” and “How are we going to get there?” by leveraging the analysis undertaken in the SWOT. The strategic direction and associated action plan should logically flow from the critical internal and external factors that speak to the region’s assets and limitations and its role in capacity building. The strategic direction should evolve from a clearly defined vision with prioritized goals and measurable objectives. A successful action plan should then focus on those regionally-driven strategic priorities that will be undertaken to bring the prosperity aspirations of the region’s stakeholders to fruition.
Strategic Direction: Vision Statement and Goals/Objectives
The vision statement, goals, and objectives should respond to the analysis of the area’s development potential and problems (i.e., SWOT analysis). The goals should reflect the desires of most regional stakeholders and should also be realistic and limited to a manageable number. Some should address things that can be realized within a short period of time, while others require a longer period for implementation. The vision, goals, and measurable objectives will provide a strategic framework for public and private decision-making and serve as the basis for the formulation and focus of the action plan.
The vision statement should answer the question “Where do we want to be in the next ten to twenty years?” The most common method for developing a vision statement is through a series of sessions or workshops. Regardless of the method used to form the vision statement, the visioning process should include broad community participation. A draft vision statement (and the associated goals and objectives) should be widely circulated for review and comment to ensure maximum stakeholder engagement.
Goals and objectives provide the basis for formulating the action plan and serve as milestones to evaluate regional progress. Goals are broad outcomes or general intentions that build upon the vision and are often intangible. Each goal should have a rationale that is clearly understood and publicly supported. Objectives are more specific, measurable, concrete, and support the obtainment of the goals. Goals and objectives provide benchmarks by which area officials, economic development stakeholders, and the community can measure performance. The goal and objectives should be consistent with community aspirations for economic prosperity.
The goals and objectives should be prioritized to provide a basis for decisions on the use of available resources. Establishing priorities at the goal-setting stage is a critical step toward formulating the CEDS. The following factors should be considered:
- The effect that achieving each goal will have on the development potential or problem.
- Actions related to the goals and objectives that are already underway or planned.
- The relationship of this goal and objective to the accomplishments of the other goals and objectives.
The successful establishment of a vision with corresponding goals and measurable objectives—properly prioritized and based on a reasonable view of the region’s strengths and capabilities—will result in a well-defined strategic framework that will drive overall implementation of the CEDS.
Recommended Resource: See North Central Florida RPC’s CEDS (http://ncfrpc.org/Publications/CEDS/NCFRPC_CEDS_2013-2017.pdf (PDF)) or the measurable aspects of the Mobilize Maine strategy: http://mobilizemaine.org/goals-accomplishment/.
Action Plan: Implementation
The action plan answers the question “How do we get there?” and is based primarily on the prioritized goals and objectives of the strategic direction. The action plan distills the vision, goals and objectives into concrete, specific actions to achieve the aspirations of the region’s stakeholders. Building on the well-defined strategic direction, the action plan should explicitly describe how the region will work together to achieve its goals and measurable objectives, including activity ownership, timetables, and committed resources.
The action plan, however, should NOT simply be a list of projects. Nor should it exclusively reflect those activities which EDA alone could potentially support.
The action plan should include a wide-range of activity types (housing, transportation, broadband, environmental, sector specific or cluster asset-leveraging efforts, etc.) and must be clearly linked to the goals and objectives from the strategic framework. A limited number of activities with the highest priority and potential for regional impact should be identified and described. Descriptions of these high priority activities of regional significance should include:
- An outline of the steps required to take each selected high-priority activity from inception to successful completion;
- A roster of the key individuals and institutions that will be responsible for implementing and supporting these steps;
- A reasonable estimate of the costs associated with implementing the activity;
- A list of the integrated funding sources (public, private and nonprofit) to support the costs; and
- A realistic time frame for execution (i.e., implementation schedule), with relevant benchmarks and performance measures that speak to overall impact.
A detailed, well-considered action plan increases the overall value of the CEDS, and makes it relevant and useful. While the action plan should provide a guide to prioritizing resources and efforts, it should not be used to limit the identification and implementation of other activities that support the strategic direction that was established as part of the development of the vision, goals and objectives within the CEDS.
Identification of priority activities should include broad-based participation from regional stakeholders, involving those affected by the proposed activities and those that can ensure their success. Partnerships with a variety of organizations and the private sector in the region are a key to successful implementation. Identifying elements for action may be undertaken using the following questions for guidance:
- What are the activities and what are their expected benefits?
- Which activities address the area’s greatest need or best enhance the region’s competitive advantages?
- Do these activities represent the best use of limited resources?
- Will the activities have positive economic, environmental, and social impacts and how can these be measured?
- Will the activities contribute to the overall economic resiliency of the region?
Recommended Resource: For example, see the Action Plan in Southeastern Utah’s CEDS at http://seualg.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Rough-Draft-February-Edited-2019-SEUEDD-CEDS.pdf (PDF).
As with the background summary and the SWOT, the goals, objectives and action plan should incorporate the efforts undertaken to increase inclusivity and equity (for more information, see the Equity section). Use any disparities identified during discovery and research to inform the goals, objectives, and/or action items aimed at building inclusive economic development capacity (and consider whether it makes sense to include a separate goal/objective/action that is specifically aimed at benefiting a specific underserved population or community). Specifically, make sure all goals, objectives and action items:
- Clearly identify an equity advantage found during the strategic planning and engagement process;
- Identify what institutions to convene to activate a collective approach to elevating opportunity;
- Outline what is being measured or the desired outcome;
- Identify the length of time needed to address an approach which builds shared prosperity; and
- Name who is responsible or best equipped to drive a new approach.