Develop Community Systems Strategies Together

Once your community decides upon a shared vision, gathers local knowledge, and explores and identifies the root cause of the problem, your early childhood care and education collaboration is ready to develop strategies.

Developing strategies consists of four steps: generating solutions, refining and prioritizing solutions, evaluating the proposed solutions, and outlining each solution’s process.

Your collaboration should continue to engage diverse stakeholders throughout this process, as a collection of varied perspectives will provide a more comprehensive strategy.

Collaborative Approach

Step 1: Generate Solutions Together as a Community

All of your collaboration partners should participate in generating solutions—together. Engaging a facilitator to help guide your collaborations’ strategic discussions can be helpful, as facilitators often provide a more neutral position and can help mediate varying opinions. They can also help by asking probing questions and guiding the team to remain focused on solving the root problems, rather than addressing symptoms.

For example, a facilitator might ask: If money was not an object, what might we do to address the root problem?

Some methods to generate ideas for solving problems include:

Your collaboration should consider which idea generation approaches will be best suited to meet your specific needs. This is a place for your group to be creative and innovative, so participants should be reminded that there are no bad ideas in a brainstorming session.

Step 2: Refine and Prioritize Solutions

Once your collaboration has generated a robust list of possible solutions, it is time to refine and prioritize those that will move the needle most effectively and efficiently. Refining solutions is critical because unclear solutions are much more likely to lead to future misunderstanding.

One way to refine your solutions is to consider the “Five Ws” (who, what, when, where, why) for each proposed solution. If the solution clearly answers each of the Five Ws, then it can move on to prioritization.

Prioritization involves bringing all of the refined solutions back to the collaboration. Together, you will rank the ideas from most to least effective at solving the defined problem and creating the change you want to see. Then, you will work together and look at all of the ideas to discuss feasibility. Ask: “Can we get people to do this now? Is this idea affordable given current constraints?”

As a collaboration, discuss which should be prioritized right away and which may be better down the road.

Step 3: Evaluate the Proposed Solutions 

It is important to examine each proposed solution and question whether it would be both effective and feasible. If the prioritized solution is not effective or feasible, your collaboration should return to step 2 and refine as necessary.

The questions below may help your collaboration assess a proposed solution:

  • Will this solution produce the desired outcome?
  • What are the potential side effects of the approach?
  • Who may be unintentionally affected?
  • Will it solve the problem’s root cause?
  • Does it align with the collaboration’s vision? 

Step 4: Outline Each Solution Step-by-Step

The final step before implementation is to outline each solution in detail. Breaking down the solution into steps will make the action items more manageable. This is an asset for community collaboration work, as it makes the work more achievable and creates a process to celebrate small wins early and often.

If the strategies still feel unclear, consider using SMART goals to transform abstract ideas into concrete ones.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievement
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

At this point, all of your collaborations partners should know their role in the strategy and understand the benchmarks in place to gauge its progress. 

SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based

Transform Abstract Ideas

Collaboration leaders should include the new strategies in the shared agenda so that it remains a focus moving forward.

With the solutions properly outlined, your collaboration can now move towards implementation.