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Action plan helps agencies prove value of recreational services

This is an excerpt from Creating Community by California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS).

Because trends vary according to geographic locations, and each park and recreation agency fits into its local environment in a unique way, the market opportunities presented in chapter 3 and appendix A must be adapted for use in your own agency or organization. By conducting an action-planning process in your community or agency, staff will identify market opportunities that respond to local trends and needs and build on unique organizational competencies and available partnerships. The following questions will assist staff in developing your own VIP Action Plan. Possible information sources and research activities for your agency's use are suggested. These sources and ideas are starting points for your work and are not intended to be all inclusive.


• What are the core values of your organization?

Hold a staff workshop and brainstorm core values. Compare the values identified by your staff with the core values presented in the VIP Action Plan. See figure 2.1, Discussion of Core Values, in chapter 2.

• What is the vision of your organization?

Discuss the VIP vision at a staff meeting and determine if it will fit your needs. Adopt the vision for your agency, department, division, or even program. A recreation supervisor decided to use the VIP vision for the summer day camp she supervised. Staff members were involved in determining the values they wanted to incorporate into their planning and interactions with the campers, and they decided which of the mission components they thought were most important to the campers. They focused on promoting health and wellness and increasing cultural unity. The program received high evaluations from both the campers and the parents or caregivers. Many of the staff wanted to return the following year because they felt they were part of a community while working at the camp. This example shows that you can take a leadership role in bringing the VIP Action Plan to your agency regardless of your position. Remember, it can start with a conversation.

What is the mission of your organization?

Hold a staff meeting to brainstorm your organization's mission. You can start with the mission statements identified in the VIP framework. Select the mission statements that address the needs of your community. Adopt those statements within your agency, department, division, or even program.

Do your proposed values, vision, and mission meet the needs of your community?

Hold a community workshop, have a discussion with your strategic partners, and discuss with your board and commission to get feedback from your target markets, policy makers, customers, and partners.


• How will the demographic makeup of your community or agency change in the next 5, 10, or 20 years?

Check the local government's planning department or U.S. Census Bureau,, for information.

• Will there be significant population growth?

Check the local government planning department or U.S. Census Bureau,, for information.

• Who are your community's leaders?

Identify community and business leaders and key stakeholders who are beneficial to your short- and long-range action-planning efforts.

• What social issues are affecting your community or agency?

Check with your planning, public health, public safety, and transportation departments. Talk to your local school superintendent, conduct a community survey or review the results of past surveys, talk to your staff, and conduct a focus group or workshop of current participants or potential new users. Interview your community leaders (chamber of commerce, real estate business owners, local nonprofit leaders, neighborhood associations). Talk to staff at partner agencies.

• What administrative or policy changes will affect your clients?

For example, are schools instituting a year-round schedule? Is your budget being reduced or increased? Is there governmental restructuring?


• What are the specific competencies and strengths of your organization and staff, including recognized skills, model programs, services, facilities, location, staff, partnerships, and funding sources?

Hold a staff meeting to identify your strengths. Look at letters of appreciation from customers or participant evaluations, review past awards, and ask customers and community leaders why they value the agency's staff. After you have determined the competencies needed for your future success, create staff development plans that focus staff training efforts on those necessary skills. Include those competencies in your job descriptions, job evaluations, and job announcements. Ask candidates about these skills in the interview process.

Barry Weiss, when recreation superintendent for the City of Palo Alto (California), was looking for a new recreation supervisor in youth development. He added this to the job announcement and recruitment efforts:

We are looking for someone to help the department foster youth development, strengthen community image and sense of place, reduce juvenile crime, and promote health and wellness. . . . The ideal candidate must possess skills in the following core competency areas: leadership, communications, partnerships and coalition building, outcome-driven management, resource development, and strategic thinking (City of Palo Alto, recreation supervisor-youth development job announcement, May 2000).
Reprinted, by permission, from B. Weiss, Recreation Superintendent for the City of Palo Alto, CA.

It was thought that the competency-based job announcement attracted a much higher quality of candidates than a traditional job announcement that refers to report writing, supervision of staff, or budget development. Barry further stated that candidates specifically mentioned the language and said that was one reason they were attracted to the position. The candidates thought it conveyed an organization that was operating in a strategic manner, and they liked that the mission of parks and recreation was communicated and seen as an important part of the department.


• Who are your current and potential partners? What services do they provide? Are you duplicating efforts? What resources are they willing to share? What resources are you willing to share?

Inventory your current partnerships, survey other providers, and hold a focus group of potential partners. Identify overlapping resources and services and potential collaborations.

• What gaps (or opportunities) are notable in park and recreation services and facilities?

Review collected data and consider the type of service and outcome provided, location, and age group served. Assess whether your agency is the best agency to close the gap.

• Which of the opportunities identified in the trends analysis or opportunity section (chapter 3) matches well with your local trends, your unique strengths, and your current and future partnerships?

Review data with staff and select those that will strengthen your agency's position in the community.

• Are there market opportunities not presented in the VIP Action Plan that fit well with your situation?

Identify those with staff. Review the example of the City of San Carlos (chapter 3) and their identification of missed opportunities by not programming with active adults in mind.

• Which opportunities are the highest priorities based on community need and agency strengths? Of those, which are areas of your greatest strength?

Review data with staff, the board or commission, other department heads, and your policy makers.


• For each identified opportunity, select your implementation strategies. You may need to redesign your programs, staff hiring procedures, budget development, or criteria to select partners in order to achieve your specific goals.
• Identify lead responsibilities and supporting responsibilities. Reassign staff if necessary.
• Identify agency needs for implementing your action plan. Consider internal and external communications (using the resources in chapters 7 through 10), your agency professional development needs, and resources needs. The City of Manhattan Beach organizes its commission report using the mission of parks and recreation as its format (see figure B.1).


• Start by developing and writing down goals for your program (see chapter 6).
• Develop a means of measuring the attainment of goals as the plan is implemented. Conduct observational studies or customer surveys.
• Monitor your success. Use an established instrument to measure goal achievement, or work with educators or consultants to develop a customized instrument based on your needs.
• Establish a communications program to publicize your success using the resources in chapters 7 through 10.

Beginning this action-planning process will seem daunting to even the most seasoned park and recreation professional, but it is a process that begins with that one first step, which involves becoming familiar with the values, vision, and mission of parks and recreation as articulated in the VIP Action Plan. Where can you start? Figure B.2 (see page 152) presents ideas on where you can start talking about the mission of parks and recreation whether you are a student or a seasoned practitioner.
What will be the progressive impact of your outreach? Just as the single stone drops into the water and creates a ripple across the water, your words and actions will do the same. Figure B.3 (see page 152) gives you an idea of how your voice can be magnified throughout your agency, throughout your professional association, and to your peers. VIP begins with you.

This is an excerpt from Creating Community: An Action Plan for Parks and Recreation.

More Excerpts From Creating Community