Implementation of any community vision is the last, and most important, step in a community-planning process. This is the phase where residents and businesses witness their unified community visions or goals “come to life” and make an impact for the community as a whole. Without this vital step, the community will not achieve a sense of fulfillment or feel that their voice on the future of the community has been heard.

All too often communities are diligent about preparing the necessary or government-mandated planning documents, yet never get around to implementing the goals or recommendations. This lack of follow through fosters cynicism within these communities, creating a feeling among residents and business owners that their voice does not matter and that nothing will ever change, leading ultimately to apathy. It is this growing apathy that will become the biggest hindrance for a community in ever gaining adequate consensus and unification on community goals for all future plans.

Although this discontent can be seen in many communities across the US, the good news is that there is a growing trend to develop necessary implementation strategies, which is inspiring municipalities to meet local needs and goals. Implementation strategies utilize a set of tools to take the project from paper to reality by focusing on the recommendations or goals and providing a real-world “roadmap” for implementation of each. Through this process the community is provided with an easily understood and implementable plan to ensure that the necessary enhancements come to fruition.

In recent years, tools for implementation are being increasingly offered as part of a comprehensive or general planning process, yet not all communities have developed implementation strategies for their community plan. Even if implementation strategies have not been developed for your community plan as part of the original process, it is not too late to rectify the matter. Outlined below are important tools to help your community create a set of implementation strategies:

  • Use and Source of Funds – Understanding the potential costs and who is responsible for each portion of the costs is the first step for any implementation strategy. The Use and Source of Funds tool is a clear and concise document that will prepare cost estimates for each of the prioritized recommendations or goals, matching them with potential grant-funding sources and necessary internal-funding commitments. Through this document your community will be provided with a clear understanding of their potential “exposure” or the necessary matching funds for each recommendation. This will allow your community to plan rank, prioritize, and schedule implementation to match local budgets.

  • Roles and Responsibilities Matrix – This tool identifies WHO is responsible for each recommendation and defines WHEN it is to be completed. While simple in nature, it may be tough to complete. The matrix lists each recommendation, identifies which parties are responsible for ensuring implementation, and provides a set of milestones or deadlines. Without milestones or deadlines, a community cannot hold the responsible parties accountable for their respective components of the overall larger process. The matrix must be kept up-to-date and is usually updated yearly.

  • First/Last-Mile Planning – This is a term typically used in transportation planning, but it is also applicable to implementation strategies. It refers to the most confusing and often most challenging steps to complete: ranking and prioritizing the recommendations (“first mile”) and financing (“last mile”). These steps are provided under the first/last-mile planning process, focusing on the needs of each community at the specific implementation step they have reached.

  • Grant Making – Financing for a project is often seen as the most challenging part of the process. From the Use and Source of Funds tool (mentioned above), a list of highly likely grant-funding sources (local, state, and federal) can be drawn. Out of this list, the community is provided with the pertinent details for each program and encouraged to apply for funding assistance.

  • Local Fundraising – One of the hardest and most rewarding elements of an implementation strategy is preparing a process for attaining private funds from local residents and foundations. This process will determine the best way for locals to fundraise local dollars for the match requirement of grant funding.

As a result of the implementation strategies, your community will have a clear roadmap to implement the most important catalytic recommendations. Through this process your community will witness their input become a reality, invigorating civic pride and creating a stronger community.