Once you have developed a plan and laid the groundwork for success, begin executing towards your goals. As you make progress, measure results and adjust as needed.
Implement the Plan
Before implementing your action plan, examine your community’s readiness by determining the resources and planning that may still be needed to successfully reach your goals. Ensure all key roles and responsibilities are accounted for and that you are leveraging each stakeholder in the most strategic way. Use the list in "Questions to Ask" to assess your readiness for action.
As you begin executing against the action plan, leverage the resources of the leadership team and all willing stakeholders. Think about the most impactful activities that each group can engage in. For example, elected officials can hold a hearing about a top issue in your community. A stakeholder from higher education can lend her team’s ability to collect and analyze data on families with young children experiencing homelessness. A local news outlet can create a platform to make the public aware of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and prevention strategies to reduce early life stress.
As part of this process, it is critical to work with communications staff to build a detailed external communications plan to support your overall action plan. A communications plan will set objectives that help drive toward your community goals, help you define the audiences who can help you achieve your goals, and determine the right messages and strategies to reach those audiences.
Communications encompasses traditional media, social media, advocates, community networks, and any avenues you can leverage to share your messages to the community. Keep in mind that your communications goals should be targeted to directly impact the goals of your action plan. As part of your strategy, be sure to create a timeline for activity that leverages key moments and maintains visibility for the work by highlighting ongoing needs and promoting successes. By creating a favorable environment for your work, you ease the way with key stakeholders and decision-makers to help you achieve your goals.
You should expect to adjust your execution plan to accommodate unforeseen challenges. Be open to alternative ideas from stakeholders who may offer new ideas for how to accomplish goals and get the work done.
Actively monitor your overall initiative and strategies to address needed mid-course correction and integrate continuous improvement strategies. Use your short-term strategies to map what steps and adjustments are needed to keep driving toward your long-term community goals.
- Do you have the data and other information you need to understand the most critical issues facing infants, toddlers, and families in your community?
- Who will facilitate your leadership and stakeholder team discussions?
- Is your vision for change clear?
- Based on the data, have you determined a SMART goal and selected outcomes and indicators to track against your goal?
- Have you created a communications plan to reach the right audiences with messages and success stories that can help you achieve your outcomes and generate momentum toward your goals?
- Do you have all the necessary team members to achieve your goals? Do you have their buy-in?
- Do you have staff and resources committed to supporting family outreach and engagement?
- Do you have a person who is focused on keeping everyone on task and holding team members accountable to their work?
- Do you have office space? Where will your team meet?
- Do you have a dedicated space and time for stakeholder and community meetings to occur?
- How will you report progress?
The Hexagon Discussion and Analysis Tool helps organizations evaluate new and existing programs and practices. This tool is designed to be used by implementation teams to facilitate a discussion of six contextual fit and feasibility indicators.
The Administration for Children and Families developed this Confidentiality Toolkit to help jurisdictions successfully navigate the delicate balance between privacy and security with the delivery of efficient and effective services. This toolkit analyzes, explains and aids states and local jurisdictions in the navigation of a number of federal laws that impact the implementation of human services.
Created more than 130 years ago, Family & Children’s Place, a community-based organization in Louisville, Kentucky, has a long history of serving area residents in need. In the early 1990s, Family & Children's Place partnered with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness to ramp up prevention, intervention, and treatment programs to assist children and families in crisis. This case study details the success of their voluntary home visitation program for at-risk families.
Be Accountable for Results
Evaluate the results of your initiative on a regular basis to identify successes, areas of improvement, and look for elements of your activities that need to be changed. Make constant feedback and learning a priority in your evaluation process.
Your ability to show long-term impact may take multiple years, but short-term goals can be measured to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction. For example, your goal may be to reduce infant mortality among African Americans, and given the profound societal causes of this disparity, achieving this outcome may take years. Two short-term goals that support this long-term outcome could be to increase the percentage of African American women who receive all prenatal visits and to improve communication between health care providers and this community.
From the beginning, have a timeline in place that will help manage expectations around both short- and long-term goals and help you to feel less pressure to present results before they are ready. Be open to the unexpected since there will always be factors outside of your control that may impact your results. If your initiative is taking place across multiple communities, pay attention to the factors that make each community unique, and avoid making generalizations regardless of location, political context, and community attitudes.
As you plan for long-term success, consider that underlying a robust community support system for families with infants and toddlers is an infrastructure that enables families to get the right services at the right time. Building and maintaining this infrastructure is crucial to sustaining momentum for your policies and programs and achieving impact at scale. Data integration and sharing, coordinated planning and financing, supports for continuous quality improvement, and workforce development are essential for an effective, outcomes-focused early childhood system. Creating and sustaining these essential infrastructure components can be a multi-year effort and may necessitate public action and funding at the local or state level.
- Who is the audience for this evaluation?
- Who needs to be involved in the evaluation?
- How will we include the opinions of parents, families, and caregivers?
- Who has the capacity to analyze the data we have collected?
- What contributed to the successful implementation of our strategies? What were the barriers?
- How does the Leadership Team or other stakeholders assess the work we have accomplished?
- How well did we engage the Leadership Team in the process?
- What are the results of our efforts in terms of new children and families served?
- What are the results of our efforts in terms of programs and policies expanded?
- What are the results of our efforts in terms of or underlying infrastructure and systems changed? How do we know we have made progress?
This paper offers a framework that clarifies ideas, approaches, and language about evaluating systems initiatives to facilitate reflections about past evaluations and to guide decisions about future evaluations.
The statewide Early Childhood Integrated Data System has begun implementation to facilitate data sharing and coordination across Utah's early childhood programs to evaluate long-term outcomes and improve the quality of programs. Learn more about their efforts in this case study.