An action plan builds on:
- Pro-active advocacy principles designed to help create an atmosphere conducive to change (like building awareness and finding allies);
- Principles for moving from a broad concern to a more defined issue (like staying on point and identifying long term and short term goals);
- Principles for targeting your approach (like discovering who’s in charge and identifying tactics).
Why do I need a plan? An action plan helps us:
- Move beyond a “just-tactics” mentality;
- See advocacy as a process and not a one-shot moment;
- See advocacy as a cycle of anticipating, recalculating, and evaluating.
How to begin
In order to create a plan, you should have certain components in place:
- an issue you’ve identified and framed;
- a message that is honed and tightened;
- an understanding of your audience and in particular the decision makers;
- some thoughts on short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals;
- tactics that are appropriate to your message, your audience, and your goals.
What should an action plan entail?
Action plan = strategy + tactics.
Strategy: how you will tell your particular message to your particular audiences in order to achieve your desired result.
- Message: what it is you want others to know, how you can cut it to reach the people you need to reach, and its context;
- Audience: who you want to reach (decision-makers; allies; opponents and undecideds) and how you’ll shape the message for each of them;
- Results: the goals you hope to achieve in the short, intermediate, and long term future; the timeline for your plan.
Tactics: specific actions you take to successfully advocate for the changes you seek.
You will probably have multiple tactics, that may be designed to reach different audiences. What’s most important is devising tactics that you feel comfortable enacting and that you can imagine as part of a journey toward change.
Which tactics should I use?
Think first about what you want those tactics to achieve: some tactics may be designed to educate others, while some might be designed to encourage action steps on the part of others. Think as well about our earlier discussion about how everyday advocates need to be smart, savvy, and safe. Make sure you are well-versed and confident in the research underlying your issue (being smart); think hard about the actions that will work for your particular audience and context (being savvy); and be aware of how to do all this in ways that will preserve your job and your relationships with others (being safe).
Check out these examples of teachers’ strategies + tactics.
As you read through these examples from teachers, think about how their work harkens back to the idea of being smart,safe, and savvy. Think as well about how their tactics connect to specific audiences and are the beginning to a well-thought out plan to create change.
Dave Kangas and Kevin English start a new conversation around data.
Strategy: In order to reframe what counts as data in our school, we need to engage our colleagues in discussion about reading, reading instruction, and reading assessment.
- Forming a teacher/administrator book club (being smart by selecting a book that reflects research-based best practices)
- Getting appointed to the Literacy Committee (being savvy about moving into a decision-maker role)
- Participating in district wide PD (being savvy about sharing practices in order to develop allies)
- Working within the system to critically examine reading practices in order to design a more meaningful and relevant reading curriculum (being safe by working within the system.
Jeffrey Taylor pushes for a return to team teaching.
Strategy: Because middle school students are more likely to succeed when they feel they belong, I need to help administrators and teachers in my school re-think our current middle school structure and reinstate team teaching.
- Survey students and teachers (being savvy by “sowing the seeds” through a well-designed survey)
- Read deeply into school structuring (being smart by learning more about the topic)
- Present elevator speech to administrator (being smart and savvy by distilling what he learned into a short, focused presentation)
- A discussion at a staff meeting (being savvy by developing allies)
* A footnote to this plan: Jeffrey recently reported to me that he is beginning this year’s teaching as part of a 6th grade team! His plan to shift his middle school back to team teaching became part of a larger discussion at the school and has been enacted for the 6th grade class.
Developing a Full-fledged Action Plan
A full-fledged action plan takes your work even further: from narrowing down a large concern to an issue and then to a message; naming the results you hope for as well as the short term, intermediate, and long term goals that will get you there; identifying the audiences you hope to reach and targeting tactics for each group. One way to organize and visualize this process as a whole is to chart your steps.