Planning Key Area 3:


Putting Your Plan into Action

There are links provided throughout this key area. Some direct you to important steps or areas elsewhere on the site, and are indicated by telling you to “go to” those places. Others are for additional information only.

After you choose your goals and objectives, ask yourself how you are going to achieve them. To reach your goals and objectives, your strategic planning group will need to do the following:

  • Identify specific, relevant activities for each objective
  • Monitor the activities’ progress and adjust the strategic plan goals, objectives, and activities over time as needed

This key area in Planning intersects with Integration Key Area 1: Combining Multiple, Evidence-Informed Approaches, so you will need to go back and forth between the two.

Key Steps

List suicide prevention approaches and activities

Your goals and objectives should guide which evidence-informed approaches and specific activities to include in your strategic plan. While goals and objectives describe what will be achieved in a measurable way, they do not always include the specific activities for how to do it. Linking activities to specific goals and objectives will help make the activities’ purpose clear.

If you have not already, go to Integration 1, Steps 2-7 to choose your approaches, programs, policies, and practices, and create action steps. Then come back to the Planning element to continue with the steps below.

Gather feedback on your plan

Before finalizing your strategic plan, make sure to get feedback from the community needs assessment (CNA) work group, suicide prevention coalition, and other relevant partners. Focus on the value, purpose, and practicality of goals, objectives, approaches, and activities. For example, partners may have key insights into which approaches and activities would most help achieve your objectives, as well as other input that will help your plan succeed.

  • For example, you may draft an objective to decrease the number of youth identified as being at risk for suicide by conducting gatekeeper trainings. But community partners may point out that a big increase in community suicide prevention trainings may identify more youth as being at risk who were formerly falling through the cracks. So, you may actually increase, not decrease the number of youth identified as being at risk for suicide, at least in the short-term. You might reframe the objective to increase the percent of youth identified as at risk for suicide who are successfully connected with mental health services. This would help you create a stronger objective that is better aligned with the community.
Finalizing the plan takes time. Give partners enough time to review the draft plan before it is released. Coming to agreement on what goals, objectives, and activities to include can take time. It is important not to rush this process or ignore partners’ feedback. Expect to go through multiple rounds of drafts, recommendations, and edits. The final product will have the greatest partner buy-in when partners’ feedback is incorporated.
Formally adopt your plan

If possible, set aside time as a coalition for all the partners to give their final vote or sign-off on the plan. This step will ensure that partners are on the same page and will also help your community develop a shared vision for suicide prevention (see Unity Key Area 3: Creating a Shared Vision for more information). Having a shared vision will be particularly useful as you put your strategic plan into action and track its progress.

Implement your plan

Once you have formally adopted your strategic plan, use it as a guide to implement your community suicide prevention efforts. Having a diverse group of partners engaged in carrying out your strategic plan will help you achieve your goals and objectives.

Write the partners you will work with in the Strategic Planning Worksheet, Section 3, Column 3. If you have already listed partners here, revisit them and revise if needed.

It is important to keep notes on the implementation of the plan and what is working and what is not working. These records will help you track and report on your progress.

For more information on implementing your strategic plan activities, visit the Integration element.

Have partners provide progress updates

Set up regular times (such as quarterly or bi-monthly meetings) for your suicide prevention coalition and/or strategic plan subcommittee(s) to share progress and discuss challenges. Ensure the check-ins allow enough time for partners to provide updates on key activities and discuss whether and how these activities are meeting the needs of the different populations you are trying to reach. These check-ins will help your group identify issues as they arise and adjust your strategic plan when needed. You can also use these meetings to ask for:

  • Advice or suggestions
  • References (e.g., names of individuals who can work on specific items)
  • Collaboration and support
Monitor progress and outcomes over time

Use the evaluation plan you developed in Data 3, Step 5: Create evaluation plans to monitor the progress and outcomes of your strategic plan. If you haven’t already created an evaluation plan, do that now. It does not have to be complex. To carry out your evaluation, you will need both your data partners and the organizations carrying out strategic plan activities (programmatic partners) to be committed to monitoring the strategic plan.

If you have a data subcommittee on your coalition, make sure it consistently connects with your program partners. The data subcommittee can help the program partners identify what information to gather about each suicide prevention activity to track its success. The program partners can share information they gather back with the data subcommittee so it can track progress in reaching your objectives (e.g., number of participants, number of events held), as well as any statistical data outcomes over time. One of the easiest ways to build this connection is to regularly bring the members together for strategic plan monitoring meetings.

Be sure to build in opportunities for your data and programmatic partners to discuss any differences in what populations are being effectively reached or not reached through your strategic plan activities, as well as ways to improve activity implementation across different groups. For example, you may have a goal to engage the faith community in Black youth suicide prevention but find few area churches or mosques are signing up for faith leader suicide prevention trainings. Your data subcommittee may note that evaluation data are showing the trainings are too long or expensive for them to use. The program partners could then use this information to find a shorter and more affordable training. Noting this dilemma early lets you adjust the ways you are trying to reach faith leaders before significant time and money has been wasted.

Visit Data Key Area 3: Using Data to Assess Progress and Make Changes to learn more.

Make changes to your plan over time

Sometimes unexpected events and/or delays occur during implementation that require changes to be made in planned objectives or key activities. The strategic planning work group can identify which goals, objectives, or activities need to be adjusted, removed, or added. Most strategic plans set a timeline for activities, objectives, and goals to be carried out over three or five years, but you can adjust their contents along the way.

These changes are especially important as community needs and populations change. However, changes should not be made too quickly in response to changes in data, for example, over just one month. It is important to monitor data trends over time. Reflecting on the progress that has been made from one year to another will help you identify any unique, one-time changes as well as ongoing trends, progress, or barriers over the years.

When a community’s strategic plan needs adjusting, aim to keep the goals the same and just modify the objectives and activities when possible. For example, you may realize that the plans to launch a bullying prevention campaign will not happen by your strategic plan’s deadline. You can adjust the planned timeline, change who will be reached by the campaign, or if necessary, you may need to change the activity or even remove the objective altogether.

Be creative and strategic about how you maintain progress and make changes to your plan over time. Your strategic plan should be a living document and not a set of static, unchangeable outcomes to reach or activities to carry out. But it is important to keep in mind that you will only know what adjustments to your efforts actually need to be made if you are engaging in consistent monitoring of your strategic plan.