To obtain long-term results in sustainable community development (SCD) projects, we need to know, specifically, what objectives will take us there. If a child wants to finish high school (his long-term goal), in the meantime she will need to successfully complete the second, third, fourth (and so on) grades.
The way to meet the community’s defined goals will be through the setting of objectives. And each objective is related to a problem that has been characterized through community dialogue. One can imagine a ladder with its rungs as the path to a goal that is at the very top of the ladder. Each rung of the ladder represents one of possibly several objectives that must be achieved in order to come closer to attaining the overarching goal. You may never reach the top of the ladder (fully achieve the goal) but as long as the community keeps trying to climb the rungs of the ladder – achieving the objectives – they will continue their task of trying to reach the goal.
The vision sets the “big picture” that the goals and objectives fit into. Developing objectives is a critical step in the community’s planning process. An objective will state exactly how the community will solve a major problem in the community. It can also be very exciting phase, because this is the time when the community really starts to say what, exactly, they are going to get done in order to realize their dream.
Completed objectives can serve as markers to show members of the community and others what the SCD initiative has accomplished. Creating objectives helps the target community set priorities for its goals. It helps individuals and community work groups set guidelines and develop the task list of things that need to be done. It re-emphasizes the community’s vision throughout the process of change, which helps keep members of the community on target and working toward the same long-term goals. Developing the list of objectives can also serve as a completeness check, to make sure the community and its partners are attacking the issues on all appropriate fronts. The process of setting objectives will reveal and determine the clear strategic direction stakeholders want to take in their plan for community improvement.
Objectives are the specific measurable results of the SCD initiative. A community’s objectives offer specifics of how much of what will be accomplished by when. They should be quantitative, fit within a definite time frame, and be stated in clearly defined terms. The best objectives have several characteristics in common that fit the S.M.A.R.T. + C analogy:
- Specific. That is, they tell how much (e.g., 40%) of what is to be achieved (e.g., what behavior of whom or what outcome) by when (e.g., by 2010)? To set a specific objective you must answer the six “W” questions:
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Where: Identify a location.
- When: Establish a time frame.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the objective.
- Example: A goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific objective would say, “Join a health club and workout 3 days a week.”
- Measurable. Information concerning the objective can be collected, detected, or obtained from records (at least potentially). Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each objective you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your objective. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?
- Achievable. Not only are the objectives themselves possible, it is likely that your community will be able to pull them off. When you identify objectives that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your objectives. You can attain most any objective you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Objectives that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your objectives shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your objectives you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these objectives, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.
- Relevant to the vision. Your community has a clear understanding of how these objectives fit in with the overall vision of the groupR can also stand for Realistic – To be realistic, an objective must represent an end point toward which you are both willing and able to work. An objective can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your objective should be. But be sure that every objective represents substantial progress. A high objective is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low objective exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love. Your objective is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your objective is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this objective.
- Timed. Your community has developed a timeline (a portion of which is made clear in the objectives) by which they will complete the tasks. An objective should be grounded within a time frame. With no timeline tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the objective. T can also stand for Tangible – An objective is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses, that is, taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing. When your objective is tangible you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable.
- Challenging. They stretch the group to set its aims on significant improvements that are important to members of the community. There are reasons to continue climbing the ladder toward the ultimate goal.
Some good examples of SMART objectives are among those that the city of Calgary (Canada) established to meet their goals for Economic Security:
- Increase research and development intensity (gross public & private expenditures) to 3% of GDP by 2036
- By 2036, increase the number of environmentally sustainable and commercially viable value-added products produced in Calgary by 40%
- By 2036 Calgary’s economy will be diversified and balanced such that no sector will exceed 10% of GDP (Calgary will not be known as just an oil & gas town)
- By 2036, tourist visitations and expenditures will grow by 30%.
The crux of writing realistic objectives is learning what the characteristics (trends, patterns) of the problems are and deciding on the changes needed in order to fulfill the goals of the community vision. It helps to pull together a summary of the information the community discussion groups have uncovered in their community-based participatory problem analysis, along with a sense of the possibilities for new directions. Objective selection will be shaped by a realistic assessment of the capacity the community has to change the system the goal fits within, and the resources available for working toward it.
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Flying Great Blue Heron
Flying Great Blue Heron