What Are The Elements of a Good Out-of-School Time Action Agenda?
A good action agenda will help to set the course for stakeholder and partner efforts on this issue. It might include:
- A big picture vision of success for the children and youth in a given community.
- A discussion of the barriers that get in the way of the vision—i.e. how does the current reality deviate from the community aspiration?
- A clear position on the role that out-of-school time opportunities can play to help realize the big picture vision.
- The current out-of-school time landscape (school and community-based)—what types of programs are available; where; who do they serve?
- Challenges and issues that need to be addressed to ensure that out-of-school time efforts have the intended result (e.g., access, availability, quality, alignment and coordination, sustainability).
- Specific recommendations and strategies for addressing these issues. (To see a sample out-of-school time strategy map, click here.)
- Roles that specific community organizations will play (including a lead coordinator) to “take action” and implement the recommendations/strategies and hold themselves accountable for results.
- Ways for individuals that are passionate about the issue to get involved.
Click here to view out-of-school time action agendas developed by local United Ways as part of a grant from United Way Worldwide with support from jcpenney.
What Are The Elements of a Good Out-of-School Time Action Agenda Planning Process?
An action agenda will only be as good as the process used to develop it. Although different action plans may lay out similar goals, strategies, and recommendations, the community context in which this work plays out varies tremendously. As a result, it is necessary to look at community level data and engage key stakeholders to ensure the plan is sufficiently grounded in your community context. It is also critical to go through a planning process to build community buy-in and support for the plan. When individuals and institutions are engaged, they will take greater ownership and responsibility for doing the work called for in the action plan.
All good action agenda-planning processes should:
- Identify key community stakeholders to support plan development. Your community may already have an existing youth development or out-of-school time coalition. If so, this group should be tapped to help develop your out-of-school time action agenda; if not, the process of developing an action agenda presents an opportunity to organize and convene a coalition of the willing focused on this issue. Use existing tools like the Forum for Youth Investment’s stakeholder wheel to identify essential stakeholders that should be part of the process.
- Identify by consensus a lead organization that will facilitate the action agenda planning process. Don’t assume that your United Way will play this role. Instead, the broad stakeholder group should make this decision. Make the case for your United Way (see Why United Way), but be willing to accept that the group may feel differently and that there are other community-based organizations and entities that may be qualified to be the lead, especially in communities where there is an existing out-of-school time coalition. Whoever the lead ultimately is, they should be prepared to assume primary responsibility for ongoing communications, organizing and facilitating regular group meetings, summarizing and synthesizing conversations and decisions, taking the lead on writing the action agenda, and communicating back to the community.
- Engage the community to develop the action agenda. Use community conversations, surveys, focus groups, etc., to engage community stakeholders, especially those who will directly benefit from this work (parents, youth, teachers, school administrators, municipal leaders, providers, the business community, etc.). Stakeholder input should be used to develop a shared vision and prioritize issues, challenges, and solutions.
- Gather and use data to inform strategies that will be included in the action agenda. Community demographic indicators, school and student performance data should be analyzed to help inform the strategy development. Out-of-school time stakeholders also need data on existing school and community based programs—where they are, who they serve, what types of activities they offer, frequency and duration, etc.—to identify gaps in opportunities.
- Create an ongoing representative group to help refine and develop the action agenda. Identify representatives of the key stakeholder group above to support the actual writing of the plan. These individuals can be grouped into sub-committees that align with key issues or strategies that will be included in the plan (e.g., subcommittee on access, or middle school out-of-school time). They can also be asked to solicit feedback on the work and regularly share with their peer’s progress on action plan development.
- Establish clear expectations, time commitments, and deliverables. To sustain involvement and bring the planning process to a successful result, it helps for individuals to know what is expected of them. The representative group should know up front what their estimated time commitment is (Three months? Six months? One year?). They should also understand what they are expected to produce. (An actual document? Feedback and input on drafts? Participation in meetings - how many? How often?)
- Write an action plan that includes the components listed above.
- Publicize the final agenda and share it with the community. The product of this planning process, an action agenda, should be available in multiple formats (hard copy, electronic); disseminated at key community meetings and public events; posted on relevant websites; and sent to all stakeholders and the interested public to have maximum visibility. Stakeholders will know that their input resulted in something tangible, and those not already involved might become more interested and willing to raise their hand to support out-of-school time efforts.
- Periodically Adjust, Measure and Communicate Results. An action plan will not be valuable if it does not become a “living document”—periodically adjusted as community needs change, and used as a basis to measure progress and share results on shared community goals. Although this notion is beyond the scope of the initial process to develop the plan, this element of the work is critical to sustain public engagement and advocate for increased resources to ensure that young people have access to quality out-of-school time initiatives.