What does implementation of the Comprehensive Plan look like?
Ideally, implementation of the Comprehensive Plan is a community-wide effort. Cities never have enough in the way of resources – there is always a shortage of staff, time, budgets, supplies, and more. The clearest path to success in implementation includes welcoming of locals – groups, organizations, volunteers, officials, and community partners – to join forces with city government. There is truth to the statement that “together we accomplish more”.
For example, every community has small improvements in neighborhoods that can be made. These small improvements tend to be overlooked by city officials, but locals understand these small improvements can yield big results. Local service organizations, youth organizations, and city governments can collaborate to accomplish these small improvements with modest funding and sweat equity. Likewise, local partners can join forces to leverage and maximize grant funding for the community, volunteer effort can help fill the staffing gap when it comes to event planning, or small coalitions can provide the type of non-monetary economic development – think services for startups – that truly helps support a climate of entrepreneurship.
Implementation discussions work best when they are conducted in a highly-visible setting where residents can see their local leadership making progress on plan execution. Some of the more frequent criticisms from residents often include not knowing why decisions are being made, and not being able to see progress firsthand. Having quarterly or biannual conversations that celebrate and openly share progress while welcoming interested parties into the dialogue helps address these criticisms. When there are delays, sharing those challenges also helps better educate locals about the impediments their leaders often face.
For a comprehensive plan to truly guide a city into the future, it must be consulted frequently and be present in proceedings where decisions are made. By checking off actions and strategies as they are finished, updating those on which progress has been charted, and identifying new steps for action in each subsequent period, the plan continues to act as a tool for motivation and organization.