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Strategic Planning Toolkit: Step 1.2

Checklist: Organizing a Structure for
Plan Development

  • Top-level commitments
  • Plan development leader
  • Steering committee composition
    • City and county agencies
    • Federal partners
    • Nonprofit organizations
    • Community and faith-based organizations
  • Steering committee member roles
    • Operational teams
    • Work groups, ad hoc committees
    • Expert facilitator
    • Advisors, e.g., research partner

Organize a Plan Structure

Because the youth violence prevention plan is the result of a documented process that includes multiple stakeholders, organizing this effort effectively is critical if the process is to move beyond the meet-and-discuss stage.

The checklist items at right represent keys to a successful structure for plan development, based on experiences in Forum communities and other cities with similar youth violence prevention plans.

Click each checklist heading below for more details about each:

Top-level Commitments

At a minimum, there must be demonstrated and visible commitments, support, and leadership from the Mayor, Chief of Police, and School Superintendent. The involvement of the local U.S. Attorney has also proven helpful, and the Forum recommends engaging other top-level leaders connected to youth violence prevention, such as the Public Health Department Director.

By providing visible, top-level support for crafting a jurisdiction-wide plan, these leaders also send a public message that “this level of violence will not be tolerated in our community," and that the city is committed to putting the plan into action. Partners who enforce the law can often serve as the one of the best and most persuasive spokespersons for prevention.

Plan Development Leader

An identified leader for plan development is critical for completing a comprehensive Forum plan for youth violence prevention. This individual must be empowered to lead a multi-disciplinary effort within a well‐designed, staff-supported organizational structure, which includes a steering committee and operational teams. The following skills, knowledge, and abilities will be needed to direct the plan development effort:

  • Ability to understand and work within complex systems such as law enforcement, education, public health, and social services, and to develop short- and long-term plans for implementation.
  • Understanding of data collection and analysis protocols, and an ability to assess, interpret, and clearly explain data orally and in writing to a wide range of audiences.
  • Flexibility to personally handle or provide professional oversight for a variety of complex tasks, from public speaking and writing grants to managing project funds and effectively supervising personnel.
  • Professionalism in dealing with personnel at different levels of responsibility, from agency heads to grassroots personnel, and from a variety of disciplines, including law enforcement, education, social services, justice systems, and outreach.
  • Meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, and consensus-building skills that enable the individual to serve as an intermediary between agencies, resolve differences of opinion during meetings, and effectively address potentially divisive topics in which participants are professionally or emotionally invested.
  • An understanding of complex material such as risk factors leading to gang involvement, local gang activities and gang research, community dynamics and history, and prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry strategies; and an ability to explain these concepts to others from a range of educational and cultural backgrounds.
  • Skill in engaging and motivating staff from a variety of agencies and ethnic and economic backgrounds, including staff over whom the leader does have direct supervisory authority. This is especially important when working with outreach staff who may have prior offending histories, prior gang affiliations, and unstable work histories.
  • Ability to generate passion and enthusiasm to inspire others to achieve solid results.

Forum cities also found it beneficial to designate one person responsible for recording information, taking notes, organizing materials, and managing the timeline throughout the planning process.

Steering Committee Composition

The steering committee is the broad-based, multi-disciplinary group that develops the written plan—with data and guidance from many sources—and coordinates both initial implementation and later revisions to the plan. Strategies will be developed for prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry, and each of these major plan components must be staffed. That staff should have a leader serving on the steering committee. Leaders from the following groups should be represented:

  • Local agency representatives. Agency representatives and other steering committee members will have roles in implementing and sustaining the plan. These roles will be stated in the plan document. Depending on the relationship of a given city to its respective county government, the plan will also describe roles for ongoing coordination with county systems, such as schools, social services, juvenile justice, probation, public health, and child welfare.
  • Federal agencies. In Forum cities, the local U.S. Attorney’s Office is a helpful steering committee participant and contributor. Other federal agencies may also be represented on steering committees, including the regional HUD Office, the Department of Labor’s Job Corps, and other federal agencies whose staff contribute to local youth violence prevention efforts.
  • Nonprofit organizations. These may include philanthropic foundations, direct service providers, local colleges and universities, and business organizations.


  • Community and faith‐based organizations, such as faith communities and inter-faith alliances. Their inclusion in the planning process is crucial for successfully implementing and sustaining a youth violence prevention plan.

    The faith community is often an essential partner in a city's youth and gang violence prevention work. Obligations to assist those in need are central to most faith traditions. Many faith community members want to help prevent youth violence but are uncertain how to get involved with the city’s efforts.

    Those leading comprehensive planning and action must realize that faith communities have different capacities and concerns and should be provided the widest possible range of involvement opportunities, which can include:

  • Grief response
  • Street work/peacekeeping
  • Joint patrols with police, probation, or parole
  • Mentoring
  • A neutral locale for mediation between gangs
  • A convening place for neighborhood meetings
  • A source of volunteers for prevention work of all sorts; for example, those not comfortable working with gang-involved youth might be engaged in tutoring young children in local libraries.
  • A communications network, e.g., through bulletins or announcements during services
  • A bridge between the community and government
  • Anti-violence/peace marches

To ensure broad representation, city leaders should work through existing inter-faith committees or ministerial alliances. Working with only one religious tradition or with only one denomination narrows the volunteer pool and may send a message that such work is the concern of only one faith entity.

Steering Committee Roles

  • Operational teams and work groups. Steering committees form operational teams around the four strategy areas of prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry. Work groups and ad hoc committees are needed to address critical tasks like data collection and analysis.
  • Facilitator. It is important to ensure that the plan development leader or steering committee chair has meeting facilitation support, if needed. Outstanding meeting facilitation skills are critical for ensuring that all members have opportunities to fully participate in discussions and decision making, and that all meetings are action-oriented.
  • Advisors. Steering committees may also benefit from having participants who serve in an advisory capacity. The Forum recommends engaging an expert in data analysis or a research partner. To show that the plan’s results are linked to achieving its stated objectives, you will need to be sure your objectives and activities are expressed in measurable terms, and that you have the data you need.

Planning toolPlanning Tool: Forum Site Roster Form
This form assists with selecting a broad array of leaders and other key contacts from pertinent agencies and organizations to interview or engage in the effort.

Assessing Levels of Collaboration

Many cities find it valuable to assess the extent to which stakeholders currently collaborate around youth violence prevention issues. This information can be used to better understand local assets, gaps in services, and opportunities. The following tools can be completed by the plan development leader as a quick assessment, or by steering committee members individually or as a group.

Planning toolPlanning Tool: UNITY Roadmap Gauge
This 3-page questionnaire from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Urban Network to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) project can provide a snapshot of a city’s partnership efforts to prevent and respond to youth violence. The Gauge lists characteristics for nine partnership elements, including leadership, data and evaluation, strategic plans, community engagement, and funding. Users can assess the city’s efforts on each characteristic with respect to level of effort, effectiveness, and priority level (high, medium, low).

Planning toolPlanning Tool: Collaboration Factors Inventory
This online questionnaire from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation uses 20 known factors for success to assess any group’s level of collaboration. It can be completed by an individual or group and takes about 15 minutes.