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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

ESSENTIAL TOOLS —
Community Resource Mapping


Step 3: Taking Action

"We have invited new enthusiastic partners to the table to help develop our action plan. These new members have reinvigorated our team." —Community service provider

Once the data have been collected and analyzed, the challenging part begins. Acting on the information from the mapping process is an important step. What are you going to do with the information now? The misconception exists that once resources are identified and mapped, the work is completed. It is not. The greatest challenge in community resource mapping often exists in developing a plan of action for implementing the map. This step in the process allows the community to take action in planning and building its system.

  • In Minnesota and Massachusetts, the data collected during the mapping process will be captured in an electronic database and used as a tool to communicate with stakeholders the resources available to reach their goals.
  • A Michigan community found gaps in services while analyzing its map. New policies and practices as outlined in its action plan were instrumental in filling these gaps.
  • When determining its organizational structure to implement its action plan, a rural community in South Carolina realized it needed a stronger leadership function and therefore brought additional community partners to implement the plan.


Developing an Action Plan

Developing a written plan detailing the action you will take to build your system is critical in the community resource mapping process. Action planning allows you to determine how to strategically act on the information revealed in the information analysis step. The action plan aligns your resources with the goals outlined in the pre-mapping stage. For example, you may identify new resources to support your goal. If this is the case, the action plan would focus on pursuing those resources. You also may discover that existing resources could better meet your goals if they were realigned. This action plan would outline a course for redirecting these resources to support the goals as outlined earlier in the pre-mapping step. Other possible actions, in light of the information analysis, are aligning services to fill gaps or eliminate duplication, sharing staff across state agencies, and sponsoring joint legislation or issuing joint requests for proposals (RFPs) across organizations/agencies.

All stakeholders must have a voice in developing the action plan. While the entire task force may not be in agreement with every decision, it is critical that each member feels that his or her concerns have been heard and discussed. The action plan should be organized around the goals identified in the pre-mapping step. Document the person(s) or organization(s) accountable for a particular action, the targeted date for completion of the action, and how you will measure success.

Achieving Consensus

Consensus is based on cooperation among the group members, not competition; the decision is supposed to respond to the interests of everyone in the group. It does not mean that everyone should be completely happy with the decision, but that all group members are willing to implement it. In order for consensus to work, an atmosphere of trust and appreciation of different opinions should be created. There should be willingness to work through differences.

What Helps People Reach Consensus
  • Express your ideas as well as the logic behind them. Often agreement is more easily reached at the logic level—the group agrees with the logic, if not the proposed action, and an alternative option can be found.
  • Listen to and be open to the logic of others.
  • Explore ideas rather than debate them; actively seek agreement; and look for common ground. This is not a competitive process—an effort to see whose ideas can win; it is a search for what ideas the whole group can support.
  • Ask yourself, “Can I support this?” If you find that you see a decision differently from others in the group, ask yourself, “Did the group listen to my points? Have I listened to them? Even if I wouldn’t have put this idea on the list, I can understand why others want it there.”

In addition, for each major action identified, try to anticipate any potential challenges to proceeding with the plan and document methods for overcoming these challenges. If this action is done at the beginning, there will be fewer surprises, stalls, and delays as you implement the action plan. A good action plan has a reasonable timeline, well-coordinated strategies, assigned roles and responsibilities, and clear benchmarks for success.

COMMUNITY RESOURCE MAPPING TOOL 7: Formulating Action Steps

Implementing the Action Plan

Many people have taken part in developing an action plan. And many people have experienced the frustration when completed action plans collect dust on someone’s shelf. Establishing an organizational structure up front allows for ease of implementation and follow-through of your action plan as well as the entire mapping process. There are three critical roles that task force members play to facilitate the implementation of an action plan:

  • The leadership role is typically filled by an individual with decision-making power in their organization and clout in the community. Leaders in the mapping process can bring on new partners by communicating the vision. These individuals also can implement change in policies or practices if need be.
  • Another key function is that of planning. Individuals on your task force responsible for planning manage the day-to-day implementation of the action plan. Planners advocate for change and secure additional resources to make change happen.
  • Finally, the implementation role focuses on designing and implementing strategies to help carry out the action plan.

These responsibilities are not mutually exclusive. It is possible for one person or organization to work across more than one of these functions. Make sure when assigning roles that you include all stakeholders. As a result, you will be able to implement your map with more ease and, perhaps, cultivate the skills of your partners.

Sharing the Action Plan

The task force must now determine the best method to communicate and share the content of the action plan. New knowledge gained from the mapping process needs to be shared with the community in a comprehensible and meaningful way. Communicating and disseminating new information are both complex tasks that require the development of a strategy.

What do you need to consider when planning a strategy for sharing the action plan you have developed? Decisions about the appropriate communication pathways should be informed by what is known about the target audiences, the content, and its possible applications. The timing of any dissemination activity should be carefully planned to maximize its impact. Remember, the goal of your communication and dissemination efforts is the utilization of your findings/product(s).

First, consider the intended target audiences when communicating your community resource map. You will need to communicate to these audiences how the goals and information gained from the mapping process are compatible with their individual or organizational needs, beliefs, and circumstances.

Ask yourself the following questions when determining how best to communicate and disseminate your community resource mapping plan to your targeted audiences:

  • What are their dissemination-related characteristics (e.g., average reading/comprehension level, dominant language, level/extent of desired information, and accessibility requirements)?
  • What information do they need to better serve their local customers?
  • Do they have the resources to receive and use the information?
  • What is the most appropriate and effective product format or medium?
  • Will you need to provide technical assistance to facilitate understanding and use of the product(s) by the targeted audiences?

Next, evaluate the information content—the message to be communicated and disseminated. Think about what aspects of the mapping information may motivate particular target audiences to change in an effort to improve their outcomes. Information use requires a willingness to change on the part of the user. It is important, then, to know what motivates your audiences and tailor your communication and dissemination efforts to those motivations.

Then think about the way in which your findings are designed, described, packaged, and transmitted to your target audiences. A general principle is that optimum dissemination is achieved through using a wide variety of pathways, from traditional to innovative and from print to electronic media. It is important to ensure both the physical availability and accessibility of the materials to as much of your target audiences as possible. For each information medium, consider the following factors (National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research, 1996):

  • User-friendliness;
  • Accessibility;
  • Cost-effectiveness;
  • Clarity and attractiveness;
  • Intended uses;
  • User preferences; and
  • Need for technical assistance and training.

Consider mapping the dissemination mechanisms in your local community as well as at your regional, state, and national levels. This task may inform you as to the most productive or feasible avenues for your dissemination efforts, as well as help identify individuals or organizations that can support your efforts.

Finally, the communication and dissemination plan must have both a leadership component and an evaluation component. Decide which individual or organization will oversee the plan; what the timeline for dissemination will be; what time constraints may interfere with your progress; and how these challenges will be addressed. Team members must also evaluate whether there is adequate funding for dissemination to be carried out effectively now and in the future.

COMMUNITY RESOURCE MAPPING TOOL 8: Identifying Technical Assistance (TA) Needs and Next Steps

It is critical to evaluate the effectiveness of your work. Responsibility for monitoring and measuring the impact of your products must be assigned to task force members. Remember to evaluate your efforts to communicate new information and disseminate this knowledge, as well as the efforts of the target audiences to use each technical assistance service to improve their performance outcomes.

Reflection Questions

  • Do you have a plan for “next steps?”
  • Can you redirect efforts and focus on fewer priorities?
  • Do you have an understanding of the time and resource commitment needed to move forward?
  • Do you have benchmarks established to measure growth and improvement?
  • Have you established a plan for communicating new information?
  • Does your communication plan outline a timeline and persons responsible for each task?

Table of Contents

Setting the Stage
Federal Context for Aligning Resources
State-Level Context for Collaborating
Implications for Mapping Resources at the Community Level
How to Use This Issue of Essential Tools

Overview
What is Resource Mapping?
How Resource Mapping Can Help Transform Your Community
The Mapping Process

Step 1: Pre-Mapping
Establishing a Task Force to Guide the Process
Setting a Vision
Setting Goals
Communicating Continuously
Reflection Questions

Step 2: Mapping
Identifying Resources
Developing Mapping Tools and Strategies
Gathering Information
Determining the Meaning of the Information
Communicating and Using the Mapping Results
Reflection Questions

Step 3: Taking Action
Developing an Action Plan
Achieving Consensus
Implementing the Action Plan
Sharing the Action Plan
Reflection Questions

Step 4: Maintaining, Sustaining, and Evaluating Mapping Efforts
Evaluating Progress
Maintaining Momentum
Sustaining the Effort
Reflection Questions

Summary

References

Resources

Glossary



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Citation: Crane, K., & Mooney, M. (2005). Essential tools: Community resource mapping. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute on Community Integration Publications Office, 109 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-4512, icipub@umn.edu.

This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.