Stage 1: Prepare

Basic stages of strategic planning

There are four basic stages of efficient and effective strategic planning: Prepare, Plan, Implement, and Review/Monitor. Each stage builds upon activities in the preceding stages. 

Preparing to develop a strategic plan requires work towards three primary outcomes. First, planners must:

  1. Build constituency and engage partners to form the planning workgroup;
  2. Use that workgroup to identify the shared mission and vision; and then
  3. Use the shared mission and vision to drive the development of overarching goals and principles. 

Building a Constituency

As Joan Dodge notes, “creating a comprehensive strategic plan is dependent on creating a  core group or leadership team  that comes from the various constituencies that are committed to and interested in system of care expansion efforts.”1 Sheila Pires suggests that the core leadership team should be assessed with the “five C’s.”2 Are the leaders part of the constituency you seek to affect?  Are they credible, capable, committed, and consistent?

Additionally, a larger constituency group of stakeholders should be created — beyond the core leadership group — to also participate in developing, supporting, and reviewing the strategic plan. This larger group should provide opportunity for a variety of interested community members to participate.

Complete Worksheet 1 “Identifying Your Core Leadership Team.”

Complete Worksheet 2, “Identifying Your Community Collaboration Members.”

Engaging Partners

Identifying credible, capable, committed, consistent leaders is only the first step in building a constituency. Engaging these partners in strategic planning requires ongoing attention, communication, and outreach. Effective communication and outreach begins with sharing information, identifying shared values and principles, and collaborating around shared goals. Partners are looked to for input, feedback, and leadership. Engaging young people who receive services in one or more of the community agencies and family members of young people is especially important. 

See our courses on engaging family members and young people and cultural and linguistic competence.

Core Leadership Team Meetings

The first meeting of the Core Leadership Team is critical and sets the stage for future expectations.

  1. Consider the convener. Who is inviting members of your Leadership Team? Is there a person in your community who is a champion for children’s mental health, yet outside the traditional agencies? 
  2. Consider the location of your meetings. Is there a site that feels equally “shared” — perhaps a meeting space in a community center, public library, or university? 
  3. Consider the agenda. Carefully craft your agenda to make the most and best use of your time. Provide adequate time for background information, team-building, and future planning.  Use interactive methods of idea generation (e.g. Liberating Structures) to give your meeting a good blend of thinking, sharing, moving, and talking. 
  4. Consider your partners. Use the first meeting to gather information from your Core Leadership Team about meeting frequency, location, conveners, and establishing common understandings about potential differences in opinions will be resolved. Pay attention to the cultural make-up of your team. Does it reflect the diversity of the community the agencies serve?
  5. Consider specific engagement strategies, depending on the population. How will you ensure that all individuals are actively and authentically engaged? Review Toolkit Modules 3, 4, and 10 to ensure you are paying close attention to cultural and linguistic competence, and meaningful engagement of young people and family members. 

Complete Worksheet 3, “Planning the first Core Leadership Team Meeting.”


  1. Dodge, J. (2014). Strategic Planning Guidance for System of Care Expansion. National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health, Georgetown University.
  2. Pires, S. (2010). Building Systems of Care: A Primer. National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health, Georgetown University.
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