Keys to Successful Planning Efforts

Successful approaches to economic development have been reviewed for common themes. Based on this research, the following three conclusions have been reached.

  1. No strategy for development should be dismissed automatically as inappropriate. Many successful communities have learned to think in creative and innovative terms, and in doing so, they have adopted completely new and original approaches.
  2. There is no one formula that works in all places under all conditions. Rural economic development applies to communities that are diverse, both socially and economically.
  3. Patient and careful analysis of unique local situations is required for success in development efforts. The strategic visioning process is a good starting point for local development efforts.

Further research was done in several states and communities with working strategic visioning programs to determine keys to their success. Based on these survey results and the supporting literature, the commonalities to their successes are listed below:

Local Commitment

If local residents and leaders do not endorse the effort, it probably will not work. Outside forces cannot drive effort, but should be resources.

Broad Community Involvement

The effort should involve more than a few community leaders. Wide participation from many groups within the community is essential.

Community Ownership

The community should take an active role in planning the program. Outsiders can be facilitators, but the final plan must come from the community if successful implementation is to follow.

On-Site Resources

Successful strategic visioning programs must include service providers from the community. Training and Assistance should be made available through community resources.

Reliable Survey and Secondary Data

Good planning requires good information. Communities need access to reliable, up-to-date data on their community. Assistance in interpreting and analyzing their community data might also be necessary.

Exposure to New Information

The program should challenge community participants. Old assumptions about community conditions should be challenged and new ideas explored. The community participants should begin to think strategically about the future.

Timely Response

Service providers must be flexible and reasonably responsive to community requests for assistance. Programs offering assistance in strategic visioning must be flexible and innovative in dealing with community needs.

Source: Sears, David W. and J. Norman Reid (1992) "Rural Strategies and Rural Development Research: An Assessment," Policy Studies Journal, 20 (2) pp. 301-309.