The planning process that La Plata County has implemented incorporates and integrates three elements – a planning model, an overarching framework, and key principle – that will ensure the final plan is strength-based, driven by the expertise of both professionals and lay citizens, strategic and focused on all the county’s children, youth and families rather than only those identified as “in-need”.
The planning model is based on four basic steps of master planning:
The model being used allows for adaptation, ensuring current as well as unforeseen future issues in La Plata County are addressed. It also ensures a systematic approach and reduces the tendencies to jump around based on “issues of the day”. Using a standard, predictable and sequential planning model is especially important when the process involves large numbers of people who are not familiar with planning. By adhering to these four steps and in this order, the county will increase the likelihood that the resulting recommendations are ones that are well researched and have overwhelming support.
The framework is based on the seven key action areas identified in the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Platform for Strengthening Families and Improving Outcomes for Children and Youth. This Platform was developed by the NLC to assist communities as they create the foundation needed to effectively, efficiently, and with sustainability, address the issues of their families and youth. The Platform also focuses on creating a sound infrastructure that will support the implementation of strategies within the following seven key action areas.
The framework also is structured to allow the entire infrastructure that will be needed to support and sustain the long-term implementation of the Plan and its recommendations to be identified. The framework focuses on NLC’s four general areas of infrastructure, which can also be adapted to meet the specific needs of La Plata County.
And finally, the planning process’s key principle is inclusiveness. Every citizen of La Plata County will have the opportunity to contribute to this Plan. This will be done in a variety of ways, respecting the limitations of citizen participation. We will incorporate:
This planning process goes far beyond simply creating a document outlining the status of La Plata County’s children, youth and families. It will accomplish this; however, much of the attention focuses on ensuring that the process leading up to the plan is comprehensive and inclusive and that the infrastructure needed to ensure the long-term viability of the plan is in place. The planning model also puts into place a whole new way of addressing and engaging youth and creates a process that brings young people and adults together that will forever improve La Plata County.
The planning process will continuously ask everyone within the planning process to measure their efforts against this question, “Are we doing all that we can to ensure that all children, youth and families thrive”? By maintaining the participants focus on this question, we also increase the likelihood that they also focus on:
The majority of the data collected on children, youth and families is related to problems or is worded in the most negative of terms. Therefore, communities naturally fall into the trap of planning based on deficit data that, for the most part, only represents a small number of people. While this may have an impact on reducing an individuals at-risk behavior, it fails to address anything about the majority of young people who are not currently exhibiting that behavior, it does nothing to ensure all youth are fully developed for the future, and it does very little to promote thriving. By starting with an inclusive question focused on thriving, the intent shifts from a singular focus on a problem behavior, to allowing La Plata to create strategies that benefit all children, youth and families. This also greatly increases the likelihood that the ever-increasing amount of resources needed to implement and maintain risk reduction strategies can be significantly reduced over time.
The following diagram indicates the shifts that were promoted in the Pre-Planning phase:
|Intended to solve youth problems||Building a community where all youth thrive|
|Focused on individuals||Focused on systems|
|Focused on problems||Focused on opportunities|
|Addressing the few in need||Addressing the first two decades for all youth|
|Reducing deficits||Increasing assets|
|Fragmented in its approaches||Collaborative in its approaches|
In addition to creating a planning framework that will encourage these shifts, the planning process also asked the primary stakeholders (La Plata County, Bayfield, Ignacio and Durango) to collectively solidify answers to these questions:
In the Initiating Phase, we create the “snapshot” of current conditions and what the county wants to accomplish. This begins by identifying who has a stake and what role they will play throughout the planning and implementation phases. This phase is as much about building partnerships that ensure success as it is about data gathering.
During this phase the primary stakeholders created the Plan’s vision: “La Plata County, where all children, youth and families thrive”. This vision needed to one that could be embraced by the many, rather than the few; would help those involved understand the “real” current reality, rather than the “statistics only” reality; would assist in creating a groundswell of support to ensure resources and energy can be placed into the development of La Plata County’s children and youth; and could create structures that begin the process of learning to work effectively and efficiently together, especially among the county’s youth and adults.
The initiating phase of planning answers the question, “How do we keep this plan off the shelf”? Research indicates that the greater the involvement in the earlier phases, the greater the involvement when it’s time to implement. A community intent on creating thriving children, youth and families will have services, opportunities and supports that allow every citizen to play a role in the healthy development of its children and youth. Those in the planning process need to understand that thriving systems are what it takes to raise thriving children and youth and to support thriving families. In the implementation phase, the more that formal systems (government, schools, faith-based organizations, non-profits, businesses, etc.) and informal systems (families, youth peer groups, athletic associations, neighborhoods, etc.) have a clear and meaningful role and understanding that they must also be willing to make shifts in attitudes and behaviors, the more likelihood that success will occur.
During the Action Planning Phase, youth and adult citizens will work in committees constructed around the seven key action areas in the NLC platform framework. These committees will research, benchmark, deliberate and achieve consensus on a recommendations that address their area of focus. Then, following a method agreed upon during Pre-Planning, the recommendations of the seven committees will be synthesized into one coherent set of strategies for the county. Following the planning that is done at the county level, each community will also have the opportunity, using the same planning process, to address the issues that are germane to their specific community. Both the countywide recommendations and the community specific recommendations will all be contained in one document.
The Implementation Phase begins with a “ stamp of approval” from those who have the formal and informal authority to make it happen. These individuals and groups will need to be identified and enrolled. Then local leaders will partner with the service providers and citizens in assuming responsibility for actual implementation of the Plan. Click here to see the time line for this planning effort.
The following is a more detailed look at the planning process: