How to Use a Strategic Planning Process

Once your coalition has carefully looked at community suicide-related data, you are ready to start planning. Based on your data and together with community partners, identify the most important suicide prevention priorities and come to consensus on how to address them. Identifying and assessing programming gaps plays a part in this, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. In your planning process, be sure to include partners and individuals that represent the diversity of settings and populations in your community, including those most impacted by suicide and suicide attempts.

Using your data, choose specific goals and objectives for suicide prevention and create an action plan to achieve them—a process called strategic planning. Using data as the basis for strategic planning will help you focus limited resources, including money, time, and volunteers. This process will also help your group of partners develop a shared vision and feel a sense of ownership so that you can work collaboratively toward your goals. Without a strategic plan based on data, activities may fall short and not have the impact you want.

A strong strategic planning process will incorporate local culture, context, and community engagement, as described in both the Fit and Integration elements. There are several places, noted in the text, where you will go back and forth between sections of this Planning element and the considerations in the Integration and Fit elements.

There are three key areas for achieving the Planning element:

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The Dover Mental Health Coalition in New Hampshire brought together community members representing a wide variety of settings and populations to engage in an in-depth strategic planning process. Strengthened by the variety of voices at the table, this strategic plan led to the implementation of comprehensive suicide prevention and postvention initiatives in the community.

– Elaine de Mello, LCSW, Director of Suicide Prevention Services, NAMI New Hampshire