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Strategic Planning Toolkit: Step 1.3

Vision Statements are:

  • Statements of what organizations would like to accomplish in the future.
  • Guides for choosing current and future courses of action.

Agree on a Common Vision

Agencies, organizations, and individuals in any city will enter this planning effort with different missions and agendas, which can make it challenging to reach agreement on strategies going forward. The entire planning process is essentially a consensus building process, with the completed plan representing a consensus that the planned actions are the right way to proceed.

One technique that can aid in identifying areas of agreement is a structured visioning activity. The products from this activity—in addition to a vision statement—can also give a steering committee a head start on drafting goals and objectives for the city’s youth violence prevention plan.

Structured Visioning Activity Steps

The time needed for this activity will vary with the size of the group, but a realistic estimate is a minimum of two hours.

Click each step below for more details.


At a steering committee meeting, an experienced facilitator might begin by asking everyone to think ten years ahead and envision a major award ceremony or celebration, or another scenario that indicates great success. Additional prompts from the facilitator would build on the scenario, asking group members to reflect on different aspects of that success, but without defining success for them or suggesting what their responses to any of the prompts should be.

As a brief example, a steering committee might be asked to imagine a speaker at the event who lists the accomplishments that merited recognition, and to envision youth talking about opportunities and residents discussing neighborhood conditions. The group might also be asked to imagine a steering committee spokesperson explaining to the audience how the plan the city developed years ago contributed to the success, or to visualize people who carried out that plan recalling how they were able to accomplish so much. Before participants move on to the next part of the visioning process, they might also be invited to jot down notes about what they saw.

Discuss Individual Visions

For the next steps in the visioning process to end with the group reaching a level of agreement, the facilitator would also assist as group members discuss their individual visions and discover the vision elements they have in common. Identifying, grouping, and recording these common elements can move the planning process along in several ways:

  • Prepares the steering committee to draft a vision statement. This statement both serve as a touchstone to help the committee stay focused and reminds the broader community—through meetings, articles, and other opportunities—that all involved are working to achieve the same results.
  • Leads into developing the plan’s goals. For example, one goal might emerge from a discussion of desired outcomes for youth who have already committed violent acts, another might be suggested by a shared vision of safe neighborhoods and schools, and another goal might emerge from a common vision of a city where all youth have the support and resources they need.
  • Provides one way to de-emphasize status and rank among group members by giving all an opportunity to participate equally in expressing their visions and desired outcomes.

Variations in Forum Cities

Approaches for conducting visioning activities vary, and the scenarios and questions that guide the process in any given city should be selected carefully by someone who understands the particular characteristics, needs, and dynamics of the local steering committee and community groups. Initial Forum cities developed vision statements to reflect their own shared visions of success; for example:

  • “Youth and families thriving in safe and healthy neighborhoods vibrant with opportunities for personal, spiritual, educational, and economic growth.” (Boston)
  • “Detroit envisions a city where youth and education are valued, it is safe to walk the streets, conflicts are resolved nonviolently, and young men and women have real job and career opportunities.” 
  • Safe and healthy youth connected to their families, schools, communities, and their futures.” (San Jose)
  •  “Memphis is a city where all children and youth, valued and nurtured by strong families and communities, are fully prepared for lifelong success.”