9 Planning and Leading Community Initiatives

Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D.


  1. What is Planning
  2. Why is Planning Important for Community Workers
  3. Levels in Planning
  4. Project Management-Concepts, Process and Tools
  5. Case Study on Planning


Successful community initiatives need careful and thorough planning. One of the key roles of a CD worker is to facilitate discussions with community members, leaders, and various stakeholders to develop vision, mission, objectives, and action plans for a community change. This chapter will focus on defining what planning is, its importance, and how to plan for a community project/initiative. This chapter will orient project management and result-based management concepts and process for planning and managing community initiatives.

1. What is a plan?

A plan is a document that provides a roadmap and directions to achieve the desired goal for a community initiative. According to Parada et al. (2011), “A plan is a set of decisions made with regard to actions to be taken in order to reach a goal. It is the product of the process of planning” (p.142). Each agency usually develops its strategic plan (a detailed plan), engaging its board, staff, volunteers, community members, funders, supporters, and policymakers, and set its program priorities, target audience, and plan resource for 3-5 years. Accordingly, community workers execute their ongoing programs and plan new projects to address emerging community issues.

A women’s group joined in a planning session in Kustia, Bangladesh. Community workers engage people in planning through their excellent facilitation. Photo: Mahbub Hasan, Bangladesh, 2007

2. Why Planning important for community development workers

A plan is developed based on the consultation with multiple stakeholders, including agency staff, community, and funders, that guides community workers to carry out their actions for community change.  Stakeholders are “people who are actively involved in a project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution or completion of the project” (Government of Canada, 2014).

  • A clear plan helps for better coordination with various stakeholders and promotes teamwork and collaboration.
  • A detailed that defines work/tasks, roles clarity with timelines (who will do what and when), and guide to achieve project goals that enhance the well-being of community members
    Effective planning needs time, resources, and active participation from the community. Photo: Mahbub Hasan,  Toronto, Year: 2013.

3. Levels in Planning

Community development workers  are integral part of a planning process in agency. You will participate in various levels of planning for your agency and community projects and in many cases you may facilitate this planning process with internal staff and external consultants. This section will orient you with various levels of planning for an agency and project. It is important to note that each community initiative/project are based on developing vision, mission, objectives and actions. This section will define key concepts and provide some examples.

Materials in this part of the chapter is adapted from: Berkowitz & Wadud (2022, July 11). Developing a Strategic Plan. Community ToolBox.  Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

3.1 Vision (The dream) 

Your vision communicates what your organization believes are the ideal conditions for your community – how things would look if the issue important to you were perfectly addressed.

There are certain characteristics that most vision statements have in common. In general, vision statements should be:

  • Understood and shared by members of the community
  • Broad enough to encompass a variety of local perspectives
  • Inspiring and uplifting to everyone involved in your effort
  • Easy to communicate – for example, they should be short enough to fit on a T-shirt

Some examples of vision statement at community level

  • Safe streets, safe neighborhoods
  • Education for all
  • Zero Gun Violence in Toronto

Some examples of vision statement at agency level

  • A world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential (BRAC)
  • A Toronto where everyone has the opportunity to thrive (WoodGreen Toronto)

3.2 Mission (What and Why)

Developing mission statements are the next step in the action planning process. An organization’s mission statement describes what the group is going to do, and why it’s going to do that. Mission statements are similar to vision statements, but they’re more concrete, and they are definitely more “action-oriented” than vision statements.

The mission might refer to a problem, such as an inadequate housing, or a goal, such as providing access to health care for everyone. ASome general guiding principles about mission statements are that they are:

  • Concise. Although not as short a phrase as a vision statement, a mission statement should still get its point across in one sentence.
  • Outcome-oriented. Mission statements explain the overarching outcomes your organization is working to achieve.
  • Inclusive. While mission statements do make statements about your group’s overarching goals, it’s very important that they do so very broadly. Good mission statements are not limiting in the strategies or sectors of the community that may become involved in the project.

Some examples of mission statement at community level

  • “To promote child health and development through a comprehensive family and community initiative.”
  • “To develop a safe and healthy neighborhood through collaborative planning, community action, and policy advocacy.”

Some examples mission related to organizations are:

  • Our mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Our interventions aim to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable women and men to realize their potential (BRAC)
  • WoodGreen Community Services enhances self-sufficiency, promotes wellbeing and reduces poverty through innovative solutions to critical social needs (WoodGreen Toronto)

3.3. Objectives (How much of what will be accomplished by when)

Once an organization has developed its mission statement, its next step is to develop the specific objectives that are focused on achieving that mission. Objectives refer to specific measurable results for the initiative’s broad goals. An organization’s objectives generally lay out how much of what will be accomplished by when.

For example, one of several objectives for a community initiative to promote care and caring for older adults might be: “By 2025 (by when), to increase by 20% (how much) those elders reporting that they are in daily contact with someone who cares about them (of what).”

Why should you create objectives?

There are many good reasons to develop objectives for your initiative. They include:

  • Having benchmarks to show progress.
  • Completed objectives can serve as a marker to show members of your organization, funders, and the greater community what your initiative has accomplished.
  • Creating objectives helps your organization keep focused on initiatives most likely to have an impact.
  • Keeping members of the organization working toward the same long-term goals.

Types of Objectives

There are three basic types of objectives. They are:

  • Behavioral objectives. These objectives look at changing the behaviors of people (what they are doing and saying) and the products (or results) of their behaviors. For example, a neighborhood improvement group might develop an objective around having an increased amount of home repair taking place (the behavior) or of improved housing (the result).
  • Community-level outcome objectives. These are related to behavioral outcome objectives, but are more focused more on a community level instead of an individual level. For example, the same group might suggest increasing the percentage of decent affordable housing in the community as a community-level outcome objective.
  • Process objectives. These are the objectives that refer to the implementation of activities necessary to achieve other objectives. For example, the group might adopt a comprehensive plan for improving neighborhood housing.

It’s important to understand that these different types of objectives are not mutually exclusive. Most groups will develop objectives in all three categories. Examples of objectives include:

  • By December 2030, to increase by 30% parent engagement (i.e., talking, playing, reading) with children under 2 years of age. (Behavioral objective)
  • By 2025, to have made a 40% increase in youth graduating from high school. (Community -level outcome objective)
  • By the year 2026, increase by 30% the percentage of families that own their home. (Community-level outcome objective)
  • By December of this year, implement the volunteer training program for all volunteers. (Process objective)

How to develop SMART Objectives

We often use our each objective should SMART. Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.

Let’s discuss an example:

  • By 2025, to have made a 40% increase in youth graduating from high school. (Community -level outcome objective)

If you look at the above objective, you will find this objective is specific, measurable (40% youth), achievable (considering time and goal), relevant (to the community issue) and time bound (by 2025).

  • Specific. That is, they tell how much (e.g., 10%) of what is to be achieved (e.g., what behavior of whom or what outcome) by when (e.g., by 2025)?
  • Measurable. Information concerning the objective can be collected, detected, or obtained.
  • Achievable. It is feasible to pull them off.
  • Relevant to the mission. Your organization has a clear understanding of how these objectives fit in with the overall vision and mission of the group.
  • Timed. Your organization has developed a timeline (a portion of which is made clear in the objectives) by which they will be achieved.

In addition, an objective should be challenging.

  • Challenging. They stretch the group to set its aims on significant improvements that are important to members of the community

3.4 Action Plan: The specifics of who will do what, by when, at what costs

Finally, an organization’s action plan describes in great detail exactly how strategies will be implemented to accomplish the objectives developed earlier in this process. The plan refers to: a) specific (community and systems) changes to be sought, and b) the specific action steps necessary to bring about changes in all of the relevant sectors, or parts, of the community.

The key aspects of the intervention or (community and systems) changes to be sought are outlined in the action plan. For example, in a program whose mission is to increase youth interest in politics, one of the strategies might be to teach students about the electoral system. Some of the action steps, then, might be to develop age-appropriate materials for students, to hold mock elections for candidates in local schools, and to include some teaching time in the curriculum.

Action steps are developed for each component of the intervention or (community and systems) changes to be sought. These include:

  • Action step(s): What will happen
  • Person(s) responsible: Who will do what
  • Date to be completed: Timing of each action step
  • Resources required: Resources and support (both what is needed and what’s available )
  • Barriers or resistance, and a plan to overcome them!
  • Collaborators: Who else should know about this action


Here are two examples of action steps, graphed out so you can easily follow the flow:


Action Step Person(s) Responsible Date to be Completed Resources Required Potential Barriers or Resistance Collaborators
Draft an Community Outreach plan Shanna, Outreach Worker. April 20XX 30 hours (planning, meeting and documentation


(Networking and planning with stakeholder)

None anticipated Members of the Community Development Team
Project Kick off Pamela, Project Manager June, 20XX 20 hours

(10 hours for outreach/invitation), 4 hours for preparing presentation, 2 hours for coordinating with presenters, 2 hours for venue setup, and

2 hours event

Low participation due to COVID fear Members of the Community Development Team

The example remixed with Community Toolbox

4. Project Management-Concepts, Process and Tools

In this section, I am going to share key definitions and concepts about project management. While working with community initiatives, you will come across these concepts and tools and involve in various phases of a project.

4.1 Project
Let’s define what is project? A project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result,” and Projects end when their objectives have been reached or the project has been terminated (Project Management Institute/PMI, 2013).  A project is progressively elaborated. Projects can be large or small and take a short or long time to complete.

Examples of Project:

  • Constructing a Community center
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Engagement
  • Create a Community Garden
  • Zero Gun Violence

Let us watch a video titled Introduction. Part 2. Types of Community Development Projects


Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/jBPbqFc6u00

Here you will learn about various types of community development projects like events, placemaking & public art, social entrepreneurship, and education projects.

Basic Characteristics of a project:

The following characteristics are discussed by PMI (2013) which I have expanded in the following manner:

  1. A project has well-defined objectives
  • Product/service specification– that outlines key requirements for building a new feature, service or product. Like a blueprint, a product spec contains key information (e.g., target users, business needs, goals, and other essential details) to help guide the product team in building
  • Scope –task, boundaries, responsibilities/who will do what
  • Cost- project costs are the total funds needed to monetarily cover and complete a business transaction or work project
  • Schedule- A project schedule is a timetable that shows the start and end date of all project tasks, how the tasks relate to each other and usually which team members or other resources are responsible for delivery.
  • Quality- the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.
  1. Utilizes various resources: Human, Physical & Financial
  1. Has interested stakeholders (Community members, Funders) – Stakeholders are people who are actively involved in a project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution or completion of the project (Government of Canada, 2020)
  2. Performed by an organization/your agency/NGO or Government
  3. Involves a degree of uncertainty


4.2 What is Project Management?
“Project Management is the skills, tools and management processes required to undertake a project successfully,” (PMI, 2013). As a community development worker, you are already or will be engaged in project management. Therefore, in this section, I am going to orient you to the basics of project management.

Project Management comprises of:

  • A set of skills. Specialist knowledge, skills and experience are required to reduce the level of risk and thereby enhance likelihood of success
  • A suite of tools. Various types of tools are used by project managers. Examples include document templates, registers, planning software, checklists, etc.
  • A series of processes. Various management techniques and processes are required to monitor and control time, cost, quality, scope, etc.

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/Jk-JwtScIlw

4.3 Project Life Cycle/Process
The series of phases that a project passes through from its initiation to closure is called Project life cycle (PMI, 2013).

PMI has outlined following steps in project

  1. Initiating: performed to define a new project or a new phase by obtaining authorization to start the project or phase
  2. Planning: required to establish the scope of the project, refine the objectives, and define the course of action required to the objectives that the project was undertaken to achieve.
  3. Executing process: performed to complete the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project specifications.
  4. Monitoring and Controlling: required to track, review and regulate the progress and performance of the project
  5. Closing Process: performed to finalize all activities across the process groups to formally close the project.

Daddey and Watt provided details about  Project Life Cycle. You may click here to review it.

4.4 Gantt Chart : A tool for Project Planning and Scheduling

A Gantt chart, commonly used in project management, is one of the most popular and useful ways of showing activities (tasks or events) displayed against time (Duke, 2022). On the left of the chart is a list of the activities and along the top is a suitable time scale. Each activity is represented by a bar; the position and length of the bar reflects the start date, duration and end date of the activity (Duke, 2022).

Pert example gantt chart by Dbsheajr is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This allows you to see at a glance:

  • What the various activities are
  • When each activity begins and ends
  • How long each activity is scheduled to last
  • Where activities overlap with other activities, and by how much
  • The start and end date of the whole project

5. Case Study on Planning

“Project planning and evaluation” by Public Safety Canada.

This reproduction is a copy of the version available at https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/cntrng-crm/crm-prvntn/tls-rsrcs/prjct-plnnng-en.aspx#a03

Let’s review a Project Plan developed by Public Safety Canada on addressing dating violence. Dating violence means physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a romantic or sexual partner. You will carefully review the project plan and understand how the agency describes Project Inputs, Activities, Outputs and Outcomes and answer following questions:


  • Are the project objectives SMART? If yes, why? If not, how can you make project objectives SAMRT?
  • Do you think the inputs, activities, Outputs, and Outcomes are consistent? Please critically reflect and think about your answer.


  • Objective 1: To reduce the incidence(s) of dating violence among high school youth.
  • Objective 2: To increase public awareness and understanding of dating violence as a serious issue.



What resources are needed to make your project operate?


What activities will take place during the project?


How many and what kind of products/services will be generated from these activities?


What will happen as a result of your project?

Project coordinator

Meeting space Transportation

Library resources

Phase 1
Problem assessment, consultation and development of crime prevention purpose (assessment phase)
Organize meetings with key stakeholders (youth, parents, youth workers, school representatives, police, social workers, public health, etc.) to discuss dating violence as a current community problem.Get information on dating violence: books, articles, newspaper, statistics and reports.Identify risk factors (RF) and protective factors (PF) related to dating violence: gender (RF), low self-esteem (RF), negative attitudes about women/girls (RF), supportive adult role models (PF).
Participation of key stakeholders/people who would like to help with the project

Research activities completed

Project plan developed

Increased involvement of community stakeholders in collaborative efforts to reduce dating violence (immediate outcome)
Volunteer staff

Funding to cover design, printing costs

Phase 2
Curriculum design
Volunteer public health nurse and social worker will design curriculum that will include individual work, discussion groups, role modelling, skills training, a written information package and a community outreach component.A subcommittee of key stakeholders will review and approve curriculum content.
Working sessions held to draft curriculum

Curriculum that conforms to best practices in the literature, responds to community needs and is feasible given project resources

Curriculum available and ready to use on time

Increased availability of prevention resources relevant to the local community (immediate outcome)
Project staff

Meeting space

Phase 3
Mentors deliver the curriculum (Implementation)
Select and train mentors. Mentors will deliver the curriculum including individual activities to examine issues related to self-esteem; group exercises such as content analysis of film, music videos and other media to identify sex-role stereotypes communicated to youth; discussion about how youth receive these messages, what youth seek in intimate relationships and how they react when their needs are not met; and assertiveness, communication and conflict-resolution skills training to help youth clarify their needs and communicate them to others in clear and positive ways.
Fifteen mentors are hired, trained

Sessions are offered weekly to youth at the local youth centre

Approximately 75 youth are reached

Increased participant awareness about factors that contribute to teen dating violence (immediate outcome)

Improved communication skills (intermediate outcome)

Increased use of non-violent conflict resolution skills by participants (intermediate outcome)

Rental facility

Funding for information display, printing costs, audio-visual equipment.

Phase 3
Public awareness activities (Implementation)
Mentors work with participants to arrange interviews with local print and radio media to discuss what they’ve learned about the root causes of violence in dating relationships and to invite the community to a public awareness night.Participants put together an information booth and a public presentation based on the projects and ideas they worked on during the year in the mentoring sessions.
Coverage in the local paper and on the local radio station

Information booth and public presentation are held

Information packages are produced and distributed

Approximately 150 people attend the event

Increased community awareness of the root causes of dating violence (immediate outcome)

Improved community perceptions of the benefits of prevention activities to reduce dating violence (immediate outcome)

Source: Government of Canada, Public Safety Canada (2021).



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Berkowitz, B. & Wadud, E. (2022, July 11). Chapter 8, Section 1. An Overview of Strategic Planning or “VMOSA” (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans). University of Kansas. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from the Community Tool Box: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/structure/strategic-planning/vmosa/main Duke, R. (2022). What is a Gantt Chart? Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.gantt.com/

Government of Canada. (2020). Results-based management. Retrieved from https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/funding-financement/results_based_management-gestion_axee_resultats.aspx?lang=eng

Government of Canada, Public Safety Canada. (2021). Project planning and evaluation. Retrieved from  https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/cntrng-crm/crm-prvntn/tls-rsrcs/prjct-plnnng-en.aspx#a03

Government of Canada. 2018. Results-Based Management Tip Sheet 2.1: Results Chains and Definitions. Retrieved from https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/funding-financement/rbm-gar/tip_sheet_2-1-fiche_conseil_2-1.aspx?lang=eng

Government of Canada. 2003. Project Management Template. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/information-technology-project-management/project-management/project-plan-template.html

Planview. (2022). Project Management vs. Program Management vs. Portfolio Management. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.planview.com/resources/guide/ppm-solution-guide-beginners/project-management-vs-program-management-vs-portfolio-management/

Daddey, F., Watt, A. (n.d.). Project Management. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/fdaddey/chapter/chapter-2-the-project-life-cycle-phases/

Parada, H., Barnoff, L, Moffatt, K., & Homan, M. S. (2011). Promoting community change: Making it happen in the real world. (2nd Canadian Ed.). Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd

Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide) (5th ed.). Project Management Institute.

Stakeholdermap. (2022). Project Management, Project Planning, Templates and Advice. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.stakeholdermap.com/plan-project/finding-a-job-work-breakdown-structure.html




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Community Development Practice: From Canadian and Global Perspectives Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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