Strategic Planning for Change

Submitted by connor@tamarack... on May 3, 2017 - 4:17am

The concept of planning is a relatively new idea to me. The only planning I had been exposed to was planning birthday parties or small scale events in high school. It wasn’t until I took a Planning and Evaluation course in the beginning of my third year, I had grasped what planning was. My professor had pointed the class to The Community Toolbox, which is a service of the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. This is a great resource for any individual or organization to build healthier communities and to create social change. 

The class mainly focused on one chapter of the Toolbox: Chapter 8, Developing a Strategic Plan. This chapter explains VMOSA and shows you how to use it effectively. Here is a very brief breakdown of what VMOSA is.

V – Vision

A vision is the perfect goal that you could achieve as an individual or as an organization. A vision can range from being local, like creating safe neighborhoods, or can be global, like safe drinking water for every person on the earth. Vision statements are important because everything your organization does will be tied back to this statement. Creating a vision is not always an easy task, but the toolbox provides helpful tips to help develop vision and mission statements.  A vision statements does not have to be static either. As your organization strives to your original vision, more issues that may not have been considered may arise. It is more than okay to have a dynamic vision where it changes as issues come and go. 

M – Mission

A mission statement builds off a vision statement. The vision is the ultimate end goal, but the mission statement is what you or your organization is going to do to achieve this goal. The mission statement is very action-oriented, meaning it describes what is going to be done and describing why it needs to be done. Going back to the two previous examples, the mission statement to go along with creating safe neighborhoods could be: “To create safe neighborhoods by regular communication in the community and developing a neighborhood watch". The mission statement for our global example would be something along the lines of: “To ensure that every human has access to clean drinking water by fostering inter-collaboration between charities and by working with different country’s governments.” 

O – Objective

Objectives are quantifiable results that will be achieved through working with your mission and vision. These are time specific, for example, having 20 volunteers for the neighborhood watch by 3 months into the program. Objectives can be viewed as checkpoints along your organization’s journey to achieve its vision. The Community toolbox identifies several important characteristics that most objectives should have. These characteristics are nicely shortened into S.M.A.R.T + C.

Objectives should be "SMART" (plus a C!):

  • Specific – They tell how much of something will be achieved by a certain time.
  • Measurable – The objective can be collected or recorded.
  • Achievable – Your organization can meet these realistic objectives.
  • Relevant- This objective ties back into the organization’s mission and vision
  • Timed – Like specific, is to develop a timeline for when this objective will be achieved.
  • Challenging – The objectives challenge the organization to make as much of an impact as possible. 

S – Strategies

Strategies are what bridge the objective, vision and mission statement together. They are how you are going to achieve the goals by completing each objective. The Community Toolbox lists 5 specific strategies that can help most interventions: Providing information or enhancing skills, increasing services and support, modifying access and addressing barriers, provide incentives, and modify policies.

A – Action Plans

The final part of the VMOSA part is the step by step procedure that includes all the specific details on how the strategies with be used to reach objective. A well thought out action plan is complete, concise and relates back to the vision and mission statement.  An action plan needs to include what is being done, who is doing what, what resources are being used and how long will each step take.

VMOSA is just one model for planning. There are hundreds of different ways to approach planning. I wanted to share this model because it helped me understand two important things. The first thing I realized, is that to make any type of change, a lot of time and resources is required. The second understanding is that creating social change is very possible. It will take a lot of time, planning and resources, but IT IS possible!

If you're interested in planning or community, make sure to register for our Resilient Neighbourhood Webinar on May 10th and to register for the Collective Impact 3.0 Work Shop that runs from May 9-11th. 

Did you like this blog? Want to talk about the topic further? Let me know! Send me an email:

Further Reading:

  1. Collect Impact Self Assessment and Planning Tool
  2. Building a Plan on a Page 
  3. Community Vision for Change Tool