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Program Planning

Program Planning and Implementation

The planning stage is critical to strong implementation of a program or strategy. It is at this stage that research into what the evidence supports to be effective gets explored (see the Youth Violence Prevention Programs page for more on evidence-based practices).

It is also important to think about performance measurement and evaluation at this stage for purposes of continuous quality improvement, and build these into program planning from the start. Using a logic model framework for you program planning is very helpful for prompting measurement and evaluation at an early stage.

Always keep in mind the continuous quality improvement loop!

framework

Key Steps at the Planning Stage

The following are some of the high-level key steps to work through when planning a program or strategy (adapted from The Health Communication Unit (2001) Introduction to Health Promotion Program Planning, University of Toronto):

1. Pre-Planning and Project Management

  • "Planning to plan"
  • Identify key stakeholders and their level of involvement
  • Identify resources
  • Identify the purpose of the program - what is the need?
  • Gather and analyze preliminary data and role of applicable theory
  • Identify decision-making processes and project approach

2. Situational Assessment

  • "Should we proceed, and if so, how?"
  • Stakeholder consultations
  • Review the evidence/ gather data about the local context and issue
  • Review existing mandates and strategic plans/priorities
  • Complete PEEST (political, economic, environmental, social and technological factors) and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses to examine the external and internal environment.
  • Identify any information gaps

Steps 3 - 5 help to develop your program logic model.

3. Identify Goals, Objectives and Target Audience(s)

  • State the goal of the program - what you want to achieve
  • Describe your target audience/population of interest
  • Develop short and long-term objectives
  • Objective statements should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented)

4. Identify Strategies, Activities and Resources

  • "Connect what you want to do with what you want to achieve"
  • Gather evidence about what is effective.
  • Review current activities and assess what may need to stop or changed
  • Identify the resources required to implement the strategies and activities

5. Develop Indicators

  • Develop and align short and long-term indicators with your short and long-term objectives

6. Review the Program Plan

  • "Does everything fit together?" "Is this logical way to achieve what we want?"
  • "Are the causal linkages between objectives and strategies/activities plausible?"
  • Summarize program into logic model and outline the resources required, and develop a work plan to accomplish the goal.

Program Planning and Implementation Resources

While many of these resources have a health promotion lens, the frameworks can be adapted to a variety of issues for community program planning and service delivery.

Program Adaptation Issues

When it comes to implementing programs or strategies that are evidence-based, a common challenge is adapting it to your local community while not compromising the effectiveness of the program. This issue is often referred to as fidelity (i.e. staying true to the original program design). It is important to think about this issue early on in your planning to ensure that program fidelity is maintained, while making acceptable adaptations if necessary.

Here is a snapshot of the types of program adaptations that are typically acceptable, risky or unacceptable from a program fidelity perspective:

Acceptable Adaptations Risky or Unacceptable Adaptations
  • Changing language- translating and/or modifying vocabulary
  • Replacing images to mirror the target audience
  • Replacing cultural references
  • Modifying some aspects of activities such as physical contact
  • Adding relevant, evidence-based content to make the program more appealing to participants
  • Reducing the number or length of sessions or how long the participants are involved
  • Lowering the level of participant engagement
  • Eliminating key messages of skills learned
  • Removing topics
  • Changing the theoretical approach
  • Using staff or volunteers who are not adequately trained or qualified
  • Using fewer staff members than recommended

Source: O'Connor, C., Small, S.A. & Cooney, S.M. (2007). Program fidelity and adaptation: Meeting local needs without compromising program effectiveness. What Works, Wisconsin Research to Practice Series, 4. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension.

Resources for Program Adaptation and Implementation

Topic-Specific Program Implementation Lessons Learned

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