Gord Fuller: February 3, 2012
Council has recently set up a strategic planning steering committee to look at the direction Nanaimowill be going over the next few years. This in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce ‘Successful Cities’ initiative as well as a group ‘Vision Nanaimo’; the latter of which held a community meeting prior to the election that drew almost 300 people. It should be noted that this meeting was not broadly advertized and that the majority of those attending were members of the Chamber, Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association (DNBIA), as well as those individuals, like me, already linked in to city happenings.
A couple of questions; does the City need to do a strategic plan, spending approx. $160,000.00; and could the same not be accomplished through the other two groups at no cost to the City? Will these three plans somehow be integrated? These questions aside, as this process is moving forward; how much real involvement and input will the broad community have?
As those that paid attention to the election should recall almost every candidate running spoke of broader Community input and consultation. The basic process for the strategic plan will involve the following components:
- an environmental scan;
- an identification of current commitments from existing plans, reports and
- Council decisions;
- interviews with Council and the management team;
- a staff workshop;
- a survey of members of committees, commissions and boards;
- a Council/senior staff workshop;
- development of a draft strategic plan; and
- an opportunity for the community to respond to the plan draft;
with a follow up, or enhanced component of these components:
- a significant community engagement process to renew the community vision
(including neighbourhood meetings, a youth process, a business symposium
and a survey of community leaders);
- an ongoing Strategic Plan Blog that would seek directed input at key points
and facilitate non-directed discussion;
- interviews with community leaders prior to the Council/senior staff workshop;
- Task Teams consisting of staff and related external experts and community
representatives to develop strategies and actions for each identified priority.
On the face of it this all sounds good though from the past ‘community involvement’ simply consisted of Public Open Houses, advertised once or twice in local newspapers and on the city website, where the community would see a number of information boards and be able to give feedback aka. “an opportunity for the community to respond to the plan draft”. These meetings were generally held once in 3 or 4 locations and tend to have an extremely small turnout from the broad community.
These processes have tended to rely more on specific interest groups, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, DNP etc., for feedback and less on the broad community. It has always been my opinion that rather than ‘Stakeholders’ setting the agenda with community giving feedback on developed plan last it should be the community that sets the agenda first. Approach the broad community and once we know what the community wants then narrow down the focus and bring in the special interest groups. As drafts are developed then bring back to the broad community.
Will this one be different, seeking more input from the general community, and if so how does the City plan to make it so?
Agenda (Strategic Planning pgs 26/27)
Gord I totally disagree with you. This is why we have city hall and the people that we vote in and who are hired to work there. They are the ones that are supposed to develop the Strategic Plan. Despite what people want to think it is groups like the Chamber that I hope will have major impacts in making sure that the Strategic Plans are implemented. To me a Strategic Plan means how are we going to align our programs, infrastructure,process, organizational structure and budget with the identified mission, priorites and ojectives.
Our City Managers and City council are responsible for this process. We members of the community can have our say but these people are supposed to be the professional and understand the environment we are living.
I believe what you outlined above is the proper way of getting a Strategic Plan in place. And remember that the ‘Stakeholders” are not just the city employees but the community.
You said that the community does not attend meetings the meetings to the draft plan. Why would they come to a meeting where there total involvment would be required. The City MUST prepare something for the community/stackeholder can read then amke their comments on. The city must followup witht these commnity, as this is their responsiblity in this process.
Organizations like the Chamber and Economic Development. Volunteer Organizations, etc have a major stake in the Strategic Plan of the city, BUT they are not the City and do have a different agenda than the City. They are not responsible to represent the community as a whole whereas the City is is. These groups are there to represent their members and as such the Strategic Plan would and should then reflect, only their needs. It is the same as asking the Union to develop a Strategic Plan for the company. They would be looking at their interests and not the company as a whole.
The process you suggest will also be very expensive perhaps even more than the $160,000.00 you have mentioned. To hit all the community there would have to be dozens of meetings within the community, posting numerous copies of a plan, redoing the plan, numerous times. The people would have to attend those meetings and if you have 300 people at a meeting you are going to get 300 different ideas. You need to be able to keep strack of all these comments, respond to them all. I could go on and on.
You must provide to the community a footprint for them to look at and then you get the feedback. The very highly paid people at City Hall are supposed to know how to write a Strategic Plan. As a person that has been involved in Strategic Plans, I would not want to be involved with the process you are suggesting.
Now having said all this I am concerned about the quaility of the pwople at City Hall and whether they are capable of doing up any plan, let alone a plan that should take us out 20 years or so into the future.
“Now having said all this I am concerned about the quaility of the pwople at City Hall and whether they are capable of doing up any plan, let alone a plan that should take us out 20 years or so into the future.”