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Publication #FCS9228

IFAS Community Development: Stage 3 of Empowering Your Community–Goal Setting and Strategy Formulation1

Mark Brennan, Muthusami Kumaran, Randall Cantrell, and Michael Spranger 2

This paper is part of a series of discussions on community development. This series includes specialized papers on civic engagement, community action, and other topics important to the development of community.


Based on the previous stages of community action (Initiation and Organization of Sponsorship), organized local residents are then ready to move forward in the formulation of action plans (Wilkinson, 1991; Theodori, 2004; Marcus, et al., 2014; Brennan, et al. 2014). In this stage, Goal Setting and Strategy Formulation, the group develops a common vision and establishes measurable means for achieving this vision. Such plans and action transcend the individual self-interest of participants, as well as those of the groups or organizations that they represent. The goal setting and strategy formulation process reflects the tangible and measurable general needs of the entire locality.

The Goal Setting and Strategy Formulation Process

The formulation of goals and strategies is vital to the development of effective action and community development efforts (Wilkinson, 1970; Wilkinson, 1991; Luloff and Bridger, 2003). To begin this process, the forces shaping the community must be identified. Relevant issues can be the deficiencies and needs of the community, such as the need for improved infrastructure, service opportunities, housing, or jobs (needs assessments). While issues that affect the community are often not always the focus of attention. Good plans for action often emerge after assessing the community’s human capital, social capital, physical capital, financial capital, environmental capital, political capital, and cultural capital (Green and Haines, 2012). A combination of goals/objectives that includes both needs and assets is often effective because they show the obstacles facing localities, but also the unique capacity that local people have for overcoming these obstacles. By assessing the relevant issues and assets and then ranking them in relation to importance and potential for achieving change, local groups can develop a vision and action agenda. This vision will serve as the general focus for action and community development efforts.

Building Goal Setting and Strategy Formulation into Extension

Extension professionals and/or any other agents of change can help community residents identify key issues, evaluate local assets, and aid in the development of action agendas by local residents. Useful steps can include:

1. Identification of Issues, Needs, and Assets

By bringing together the residents identified in Step 1 (Initiation) and Step 2 (Organization of Sponsorship), a broad-based representation of the community is in place. This group should be able to speak to the wide range of needs, issues, and assets present in the locality. Participants can be asked to list the present needs, and then the overall group can discuss and rank the list in terms of importance, as well as the feasibility of successfully achieving change. This process of assessing local conditions can take place in individual meetings or throughout the course of several sessions, depending on the complexity or scope of conditions facing the locality. The end result of these sessions should be an agreed-upon vision of what participants think the community should look like in the foreseeable future.

2. Establishing Priorities and Organizing Participants

Based on the issues and assets identified, local residents can begin to develop plans to achieve community change. Once the issues and assets have been rated and prioritized, specific measurable and achievable goals should be established. In practice, most action efforts will contain more than one area of focus. To adequately address these multiple areas and to establish goals for achieving change for each, it is useful to form subgroups or subcommittees. Membership on these groups can be on a volunteer basis or members can be appointed based on their specific skills, experiences, or other characteristics; these can be documented through asset mapping and other activities.

While these subgroups are operating individually, it is essential they are directly linked to the group’s overall mission and the goal of community development. Included in the actions of this group can be the collectors of local data on a particular issue, such as scope of problems, population changes, number of people impacted, and local resources available to meet needs. The goal of these subgroups should be to compile usable and manageable data that can give insight into areas for local grassroots action.

3. Review of Data and Other Relevant Resources

Using the data compiled by the subgroups, a detailed overview of the factors shaping a particular local issue can be developed. This data and findings can be presented to the overall group, and potential scenarios to achieve change should be discussed. A diverse group of local residents can bring unique and nontraditional options for development to the table, which in might not be heard in other settings. Included in this process can be the introduction of Extension and other subject matter experts to present programs and curriculum that have been useful in similar situations in other communities.

4. Visioning, Goals, Objectives, and Strategy Formulation

With solid data in hand and a clear understanding of the issues, each subgroup can then develop their own vision statements, goals, and clearly defined strategies for addressing their goals. These are defined as:

  • Vision statements: long-range descriptions of the community and what local people want it to be

  • Goals: broad statements of desirable and attainable changes

  • Objectives: clearly defined and measurable, including milestones and logically attainable achievements

  • Strategies: special projects, step-by-step methods for achieving goals, plans for mobilizing resources, and plans for drawing cross-community support

5. Presentation of Goals and Strategies to Organizing Groups

Following the formulation of ideas for subgroup visions, goals, and strategies, a need exists for these to be presented to the larger group for feedback and constructive contributions from all group members. This allows the original plans to be adjusted and improved. Obviously, depending on the group, this can take considerable time. At times, it may be effective to distribute goal and objective discussions throughout several meetings. It may also be useful to elicit comments and responses through the internet and other flexible means. The more feedback that is provided will better the plans for action.


The organization of goals, visions, and strategies for change are vital to the long-term success of local community development and action efforts (Wilkinson, 1970; Luloff and Bridger, 2003; Theodori, 2004). While plans for action can change over time, it is essential that they are reflective of local needs and capacities from the beginning. This allows more holistic plans of action to be developed and implemented. The goal setting and strategy formulation stage is essential because it provides a clearly defined strategy for enhancing local well-being. This vision and strategy is a solid basis for the next stage, Recruitment, which provides active, local citizens with a framework for involvement in efforts to improve local well-being.

References and Useful Reading

Brennan, M. A., M. Kumaran, M. Spranger and R. Cantrell. 2014. The Importance of Local Community Action in Shaping Development. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Brennan, M. A., C. Regan, M. Kumaran, M. Spranger and R. Cantrell. 2014 Empowering Your Community: Stage 2, Organization of Sponsorship. EDIS. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Green, G. P., and A. Hines. 2012. Asset Building and Community Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Luloff, A.E., and J. Bridger. 2003. Community Agency and Local Development. Pp. 203-213 in, Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century, edited by D. Brown and L. Swanson. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Marcus, J., M.A. Brennan, M. Kumaran, R. Cantrell, and M. Spranger. 2014. Empowering Your Community: Stage 1, Initiation. EDIS. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Theodori. G. 2004. Preparing for the Future: A Guide to Community Based Planning. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension Service.

Wilkinson, K. 1970. “Phases and roles in community action.” Rural Sociology. 35 (1): 54-68.

Wilkinson, K.P. 1991. The community in rural America. New York, NY: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Suggested Websites

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute

The Community Development Society

Community Resource Group

Civic Practices Network

International Association for Community Development.

Southern Rural Development Center



This document is FCS9228, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 2005. Revised January 2014. Reviewed January 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Mark A. Brennan, PhD, former faculty member, assistant professor; Muthusami Kumaran, PhD, assistant professor, Randall Cantrell, PhD, assistant professor; and Michael Spranger, PhD, professor; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.