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Dear Tooolbox Advisor,

My community is awash in great plans - plans for transit, housing, sustainability, and more. Our community has a strong comprehensive plan that links issues and solutions. The challenge is that we persist in operating in silos, and are ineffective at moving forward to realize the bold and promising ideas in our plans. Our new civic infrastructure initiative will link mid-level and anchor institution leaders to prioritize the most important issues. We don't want to go through another long planning process - our community won't tolerate it - how do we build on the existing plans, prioritize and focus on just a few of the highest level priorities? We have a clear purpose; we have convened great leaders. How do we build on the work to move forward quickly?

Thank you for contacting ask an advisor! Because I am obviously not familiar with your specific community, my response will be a bit more general. To try and paraphrase your question, it sounds like you may have convened a community coalition or committee of sorts, correct? If not, I would recommend this as a first step in identifying which issues to prioritize.
If you have not, I would recommend going the route of a community coalition and ensuring diverse representation on the coalition, particularly from your community’s most marginalized residents/members. I think part of your major challenge will be to identify the “most important” issues because these will likely vary across different residents. For example, lower income residents may prioritize public transportation (due to easier access to jobs) while higher income residents may prioritize schools.
Once (or if) you’ve convened stakeholders in a coalition, I would highly recommend creating the structure of the coalition. This includes your leadership, voting and decision-making processes, rules, roles, etc. What I have found (this is anecdotal) in my work with organizations is that they are anxious to begin the work on the issues and don’t give enough attention to the structure of the organization. A strong foundation creates organizational stability that can withstand internal issues precisely because there should be a process or rule for issues that come up.
To try and summarize more concisely, I would recommend the following: 1) convene a coalition, 2) include diverse representation, especially among marginalized members, and 3) build a strong coalition structure.
You may find some good insight from the chapters on community assessment (chs 3-5), developing a strategic plan and organizational structure (chs 8-12), leadership and management (chs 13-16), and analyzing community problems (chs 17-19) in the community toolbox:
Good luck on your work!

Question Date: Mon, 09/09/2019