Planning Key Area 1:


Laying Out a Strategic Planning Process

If you are interested in more in-depth information, click on the links provided throughout this key area.

Before you begin strategic planning, make sure you have the best data sources and partners to inform your efforts. Morbidity (nonfatal attempts, risk behaviors) and mortality (death) data from community data systems and community needs assessments (CNAs) as well as state and national sources should guide the outcomes, goals, objectives, and activities you choose throughout your strategic planning process. (If you do not have this data yet, visit Data Key Area1: Accessing Systems Data for Planning and Data Key Area 2: Gathering Information on Community Context to learn more.) To access and use this data, engage partners from your data subcommittee in your strategic planning activities. Partners and individuals that represent the diverse groups most impacted by suicide should also be central to the planning process. Strong community engagement in creating the strategic plan will ensure you create solid plans and effectively monitor and improve them over time.

Key Steps

Form a strategic planning work group or subcommittee

Depending on the size of your existing coalition, your whole group may play a role in developing your strategic plan. However, if you have a large coalition, consider seeking volunteers to serve on a strategic planning subcommittee. This subcommittee should involve the data subcommittee partners and/or CNA work group members, as appropriate. Make sure your planning subcommittee includes people from groups that the data show have an increased risk for suicide and that represent the diversity of your community. Invite new members from any groups that may be underrepresented. See the Unity element for guidance.

If you do not yet have a suicide prevention coalition in place, see the Unity element and begin by developing community partnerships key to suicide prevention. You will need these partnerships in place before engaging in strategic planning.

Identify a strategic planning model

There are many strategic planning models available, including SPRC’s Strategic Planning Approach and SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework. There is no right or wrong model. But it is important to choose a model that is understandable to your strategic planning work group.

Strategic planning models are useful because they provide frameworks, theories, and tested strategies for effectively translating identified community needs into real-world practice. These models can help keep your strategic planning work group on track by providing clear road maps for what to include versus what not to include in strategic plans. They also provide essential guidance for how to incorporate the key considerations of equity, cultural humility, pros and cons, and strengths and weaknesses. When you use a formal model, you will strengthen the overall content and usability of your strategic plan. Check out the following list of formal strategic planning models available for community members to use free of charge.

Strategic Planning Models

Analyze community data and prioritize

Your work group’s next key task is to review and analyze the available state and national morbidity and mortality data and CNA results to inform your strategic planning efforts. Ideally, you will be able to use both types of data. See Data Key Area 1: Accessing Systems Data for Planning and Data Key Area 2: Gathering Information on Community Context for more information on how to do this. Use your chosen strategic planning model from Step 2: Identify a strategic planning model just above to prioritize which groups you will focus on reaching.

Based on the groups you prioritized, if possible, consider what circumstances of suicide are most common. For example, if middle-aged men have the highest suicide rate in your community, are there people within that group with particular circumstances, such as construction workers or those with a substance use disorder, who are at especially high risk?

Using the Strategic Planning Worksheet

All worksheet instructions are for one population or group. You may have prioritized three or four populations. Use a new worksheet (with all three sections) for each group and repeat the following actions:

  • Enter the group you have prioritized into the Strategic Planning Worksheet, Section 1, Row 1. If you have already entered data into this column, revisit it now. Include key characteristics that your data show are common to the group (such as demographics, type of work, residential area, circumstance).
  • Enter any subgroups into the worksheet in Section 1, Row 2, or revisit and revise what you have already entered, as needed.
  • In Section 1, Row 4, check off a box that explains why the data show this group is a focus.