The balance of this toolkit will describe the many different approaches and tools that state arts agencies can employ when planning. All will make demands on an agency's human and financial resources. So where should an agency begin? How should the myriad options and opportunities be considered?

A planning-to-plan exercise can help provide some initial structure. It identifies the most desirable results that planning may achieve and suggests which planning processes might best achieve those results. Ultimately, planning to plan is about prioritizing—deciding what issues, partnerships and activities your plan will tackle.

Accountable Individuals

Begin by engaging a team of "accountable individuals"—those people who will chart the course of the planning process, play a leadership role in decision making, and be responsible for making the process purposeful and responsive to constituents. Accountable individuals generally include the agency chair, the executive director and any other people directly responsible for the plan's outcomes and expenditures. As circumstances dictate, a few additional individuals could be invited to participate in the planning to plan exercise. Such additional individuals at this early and intimate planning stage might include:

  • a liaison to the governor
  • a cabinet officer
  • a budget officer or other executive branch official
  • the leadership or staff of the legislature
  • other agency staff
  • representatives of key partner groups and constituencies
Key Questions

Once a team of accountable individuals has been identified, that group's primary responsibility is to determine what outcomes or results your agency wants planning to achieve. Useful questions include:

  • Why plan now? What circumstances affect what we can or need to accomplish at this time?
  • Have we clearly articulated our agency mission?
  • Are we satisfied with our priorities and goals?
  • Can we communicate what the achievement of our current goals looks like?
  • Do we already know the major problems we need to address?
  • Are there decision makers who control our resources from whom we need more understanding and support?
  • Are there constituencies from whom we need stronger and more effective support?
  • Do we have the necessary partnerships in place to achieve our goals?
  • Are we weakened by competing constituencies with differing agendas?
  • Are we confident that the strategies manifested in our programs and services are as effective as they can be?
  • Are we collecting the kinds of information we need to answer questions like these now and in the future?
You might also use this opportunity to take stock of how your agency has done planning in the past. Try to build on your strengths, and be realistic about previous problems. The self-evaluation checklists may be helpful tools at this stage.

A Matrix of People and Perspectives

Next, decide who the primary constituents and participants are for the overall plan. Involving concerned, affected and potentially allied parties can broaden support for the resulting plan and greatly increase the likelihood that your goals will be achieved. Consider using a matrix to organize individuals and groups who represent important tactical perspectives:

  • Identify those who make decisions and control resources important to your agency.
  • Identify those who contribute in important ways to your community's cultural resources (human, intellectual or financial).
  • Be specific about those who represent key constituencies or potential allies.
During the planning-to-plan process, your team of accountable individuals can refer to this matrix and determine an appropriate role for each party. People in your matrix may be added to the lead planning team, consulted at one or more designated points in the process, surveyed or convened as one or more focus groups, invited to review draft language at one or more points in the process, or their roles may combine any of the above.

Shaping the Process

Together, your key questions and matrix should reveal the main issues and perspectives that your planning should address. The next step is to consider your process. What types of input do you want, and when? What overall approach should you use to explore your key issues? What is your timeline? And what are the key events or actions that need to be arranged? It is important to understand that different kinds of processes are required to address different kinds of issues. Some issues call for visioning or for brainstorming. Other situations call for negotiation or conflict resolution. And still others may fall into the category of structured response—getting feedback to an existing set of ideas. Consider, too, the potential of using different venues. Some issues are best addressed at a statewide conference, others in a series of interviews or small focus groups, others in statewide public hearings.

It is important to understand that different kinds of processes are required to address different kinds of issues.

Your team of accountable individuals should consider the options and come out of the planning-to-plan process with a comfortable roadmap for how the plan will unfold step by step. (See the case studies for examples of how five different arts councils structured their own processes.) Each state's plan is unique in shape and sequence. But there are some common denominators typical in most process outlines. Those common denominators, explored in detail in subsequent sections of this toolkit, include:
  • visioning the characteristics of an ideal future
  • reflecting on (or revising) mission and values
  • gathering information
  • setting goals
  • selecting objectives and strategies
  • gathering field response to plan drafts
  • gaining approval and endorsement
  • securing resources
  • implementing and promoting the plan
  • evaluating progress
It is often handy to conceptualize your planning process by drafting an outline or drawing a diagram of key steps. This helps everyone visualize the process, and also helps to test the soundness of the approach by highlighting any gaps or activities that seem disconnected from your ultimate purpose.

Taking Stock

At some point in the planning-to-plan exercise, your team of accountable individuals should step back and review the roadmap you've created. Double-check to be sure that you have:

  • articulated concisely the reasons for planning
  • identified the results you want
  • decided how to involve constituents, the public, partners and other concerned parties in the planning process
  • begun to explore the environmental scanning and data review that should get underway
  • mapped the steps of your planning process from start to finish
  • defined the roles of agency staff as well as council members
  • described the process in enough detail to develop realistic timelines and a planning budget
  • considered the follow-up necessary to promote the plan's recommendations to key decision makers, constituencies and the public

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