Step 3 outlines the essentials of good planning.

Prioritize and brainstorm

There are many different tools for selecting focus areas to work on. Choose the method that works best for your team. The act of prioritizing is based wholly on what matters to your community. Here are some examples of prioritization tools:

Tool Description Advantages
Changeability matrix A simple table consisting of four squares that help users differentiate between degrees of importance and degrees of changeability of a community issue. Simple design and easy to use; visual appeal
Pair matrix A table that includes a long list of community priorities and allows for comparison of two community priorities at a time. A table that includes a long list of community priorities and allows for comparison of two community priorities at a time.
Dotmocracy A method of voting for preferred priorities. Participants may feel a greater sense of ownership and commitment to an issue as  a result of voting

After the team has prioritized areas for action, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas the group would like to act on. Don’t forget to use learnings from previous conversations, meetings and walkabouts, and remember to keep the community’s strengths and opportunities and partners’ interests in mind. Brainstorming can be a lot of fun. Be creative; all ideas are welcome, and the possibilities are endless!

Community Brainstorming

Brainstorming ideas the group would like to work on can be a lot of fun. Try the series of energizing questions in the Community Brainstorming Template to help capture the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ of possible community project activities.

Project planning provides clear goals, deliverables, and key milestones along the journey. Planning guides decision making and action.

Planning Action:

When starting any planning activity, always consider where your community is at.  Begin by reviewing your team’s assets completed in Step 2. Consider whether you have the resources, capacity, and support to take on many strategies or need to simply focus on one improvement area and then build from there.

It is critical to consider all the pieces you will need to get your project off the ground. The following are some planning essentials: leadership, participation, resources, community action plan, communication and motivation.


  • Identify community members who are skilled at facilitation and leading the way.
  • Identify emergent leaders as you go along.


  • Having a person or persons manage the main components of a project keeps everyone on track.
  • Meetings that have a purpose, are well organized and are documented will help keep people focused and engaged. Create meeting agendas with key discussion points.


  • Leverage connections and resources that could support the work (e.g., meeting space, access to volunteers, access to equipment such as copiers, computers, printers, etc.).
  • Consider the success of past projects to identify useful tips and tried and true approaches. How were resources allocated? How were the challenges addressed?

Community action plan

  • An action plan is a detailed breakdown and schedule of what needs to be done (tasks) and when (timeline). Revisit the action plan on a regular basis to ensure the team is on track (track progress), and/or to add things that may have been missed at the start.
  • The action plan is a living document and will evolve along the way.


  • It’s important to keep all team members up to date with project milestones and challenges.
  • There are many online tools that can help the team manage the project through sharing and editing documents or posting upcoming meeting and events.


  • A little gratitude goes a long way. Remember to thank active and connected members for all their contributions.
  • Celebrate progress and successes along the way!

Building an action plan

An action plan identifies tangible activities to move your priorities forward. Writing down what you'd like to achieve and identifying the activities to work on and the resources needed breaks down your plan into achievable steps.

  • Identifies the selected focus area(s) to work on and needed resources
  • Establishes an achievable goal and objectives to reach it
  • Details specific tasks and who will do them
  • Sets a realistic timeline, including a start and completion date
  • Includes how you know you’ve been successful
  • Continuously tracks progress
  • Should be re-evaluated and tweaked along the way

Work with what you have

Working with what you have is about being creative, identifying resources that are already available and using them to do more with less in your community. Connecting with multiple partners who can share resources will, in turn, maximize collaboration without spending extra dollars. Working with what you have forces your group to consider how to solve problems using or reusing the resources and assets at hand. Incredible innovation comes from creative planning.

LEARN MORE      Grants and Funding

Community Stories

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  1. Green, L. W., & Kreuter, M. W. (1999). Health promotion planning: An educational and ecological approach. US: McGraw Hill.
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