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Create a big picture, goal-oriented action plan

- that establishes action strategies, stakeholder commitments and ongoing accountability mechanisms.
July 1, 2011

You’ve come a long way: Leaders in your community understand each other’s language, agree on goals for young people and have defined the supports that youth need to reach those goals. Now, what does everyone actually do?


Create a formal action plan, or improve the one you have, to outline a path for improving child and youth outcomes. We talked earlier, under “Define common terms and communicate core messages,” about the value of giving people “a framework for action.” Now is the time.

A well-done action plan is more than a blueprint for workers. Leaders use these plans as calls to action, generating community excitement and rallying key players – from youth and families to business and philanthropic leaders – around the cause.

The plan tells the community that:

  • Community leaders have come together around a common cause – young people.
  • They have a plan based on the best thinking and evidence available.
  • Stakeholders will break out of silos to work across systems and sectors.
  • The outcomes you achieve (e.g., healthy births, social skills, reading competence) will depend on the supports you provide (e.g., health services, supportive relationships, employment opportunities).
  • People and organizations will have tasks and will be held accountable.

Here are resources that address common questions:

What are the key elements of a good action plan?

We’re not going to tell you what to write in your plan; that’s for your leaders to decide. But we can show you the Ready by 21 guidelines for such plans, and guide you toward making sure your plan is goal-oriented and takes a big picture approach. The Forum for Youth Investment offers this one-page guide, What Makes an Action Plan a Ready by 21 Action Plan?

How should the planning process work?

You might want to compare your planning process to an existing one. The Forum developed a worksheet-What Makes an Action Planning Process a Ready by 21 Action Planning Process? – so that you can compare your process to the Ready by 21 process. See where you match up and where you might improve.

What are some examples of good action plans?

Here are two from cities and one from a state:

Nashville Child and Youth Master Plan: Developed in 2010 with assistance from the Ready by 21 National Partnership, this citywide plan is in line with the Ready by 21 Leadership Capacity Standards.

Youth Ready by 21: A Five-Year Action Agenda for Maryland: Developed with technical assistance from the Forum for Youth Investment, this plan provides an overview of the state’s process, outlines goals and the strategies to achieve them, and provides an example of how the state has tracked results and indicators.

San Marcos Youth Master Plan


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