2. Planning and Decision Making

Strategic PlaningWithin this guide Planning and Decision Making is referred as all organisational processes that

  • identify medium and long-term goals, based on context and needs assessments
  • formulate written principles, rules, and guidelines to reach its long-term goals
  • formulate strategies and create the means to achieve them
  • make collective strategic decisions

Following this definition three main criteria were identified as essential for good practices of youth peacebuilding organisations. Those are:

  1. Strategic planning
  2. Decision making
  3. Support measures (for planning and decision making)

Below you can find advice and resources for improving your planning and decision making in your organisation.

If you first want to assess your planning and decision-making processes  or refresh your memory about the specific indicators per criteria click here.

Strategic Planning

In simple words, strategic planning is a planned process in which an organisation defines what it aims to achieve and how it is going to achieve it.

For an organisation a strategic plan is the fundamental starting point for all its operations. A strategic plan guides the direction of the organisation by defining explicitly its purpose of existence and by providing mid-term goals and measurable success indicators. Having clear indicators or markers  allows the organisation to assess whether goals are being reached.

With a strategic planning process, any organisation will be able to know:

  • what it wants to achieve in the long-term – Vision
  • which principles guide its work – Values
  • how it wants to bring about change, what is it doing – Mission
  • what specifically the organisation wants to see changed based on the identified problems – Overall goal
  • what the organisation wants to achieve in short to mid-term – Immediate objective
  • which results the organisation aims to reach – Key results areas

Once these aspects of a strategic framework are defined, the organisation can start to engage into a process of action planning. This process consists of identifying concrete activities that will lead to the achievement of the overall goal of the organisation’s operations.

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A successful with any strategic planning is based on a few components:

  1. an in-depth context and conflict analysis which is accompanied by an assessment of the organisation’s capacity to work in the given context.
  1. includes a clear formulation of goals and immediate objective.
  1.  includes a theory of change outlining the assumptions that underpinned the logic of how the envisioned change is to be reached, by which intervention and why these interventions are expected to have the intended effect.
  1. includes indicators for success and the corresponding means of verification that provide the data source for assessing if the indicators were matched.
  2. is explicitly formulated and written down in a coherent strategic planning document (see examples below in the read more about section) accessible internally for the members, staff and volunteers of the organisation and externally for all relevant stakeholders working in the same field as the organisation.

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Decision Making

Decision making refers here to all organisational processes that allow the organisation to make a qualified choice between different options regarding operational and organisational decisions. These decisions can be concerning:

Planning and decison making

  • strategic planning
  • local or international partnerships
  • funding decisions
  • project and programme development
  • internal structures
  • management procedures
  • communication strategies and policies

For Decision Making to be effective and contributing to the organisation’s vision, the following features are helpful:

  • transparent
  • inclusive
  • accessible
  • applicable

Legally registered organisations have a legally binding statute which usually details and regulates the relations and decision making powers for an association between its different bodies for example, the general assembly and the board. Although, organisations often do not have established guidelines or procedures addressing operational and organisational decision making processes that go beyond those legally required procedures in the country of the seat of the organisations.

Thus, we recommend a few simple steps that help you to detail and norm those decision making processes in your organisation.

Steps for Designing Decision Making Processes

1. Set-up an office meeting with all colleagues and board members to discuss the procedure of creating guidelines for the decision making processes in your organisation. Be aware that this might be a process that requires long term commitment. Do not overload your team and give sufficient time and structure for this process. Several meetings might be needed and review and feedback loops shall be included.

2. During the meeting, create a list of decision making processes that re-occur in the organisation for decisions on operational and organisational level, for example, planning processes for strategic planning or projects, internal communication processes, management procedures, funding decisions or partnerships on local or international level.

3. Create working groups that work on the identified decision making processes. Bear in mind that there might be many decision making processes so start by focussing on the most urgent or most important ones. Set a time frame for each working group to deliver a draft guidelines for the decision making procedures they work on.

4. Provide each working group with a set of guiding questions for setting up draft guidelines (download the guiding questions here) for the respective decision making process.

5. Ask every colleague and board member to review the draft decision making guidelines.

6. Set a meeting to agree on the final version of the respective guidelines during which you review all comments and concerns and finalise the guidelines.

7. Publish the decision making guidelines for the respective decision making process internally in your knowledge management system (if existing) or ensure accessible for all your colleagues by other means, and on your webpage to make it transparent and accessible for your partners, donors and beneficiaries.

Once you have agreed on your decision making processes, make sure the respective guidelines are used by your team, regularly reviewed and if needed adapted to your changing work environment and developing internal practices. Therefore, we recommend you to review the guidelines and evaluate your corresponding practice and the use and usefulness of the guidelines at least once per year during an office meeting.

Support Measures

This includes any policy, structure and procedures that supports the planning and decision making processes in an organisation by making these processes more inclusive and effective.

Inclusiveness refers here to the extent to which the organisation manages to ensure a high involvement of all relevant stakeholders in their planning and decision making processes.  Effectiveness means that the planned goals are achieved, resulting in the expected effects or changes.

A wide range of support measures contribute to inclusiveness and effectiveness of the organisation’s planning and decision making processes and some of those are listed below:

Policies

  • Organisational statute that is binding by law and provides organisational bodies with clear rights and responsibilities
  • Organisational guidelines for planning and decision making processes which detail for example who is involved in the decision making, the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid, the method of decision making (consensus vs. majority), the frequency of decision making etc.
  • A code of conduct or ethical guidelines detailing how conflicts are handled within the organisation and which principles and values underpin the operations of the organisation (see Culture and Norms)

Structures

  • A knowledge management system granting access internally to all relevant organisational documents including lessons identified, reports, organisational guidelines, statutes and ethical guideline
  • Travel funds or/ and  funds to cover Internet/ telephone costs for stakeholders or beneficiaries to join planning and decision-making processes.

Procedures

  • Obligatory translation of key organisational documents in relevant languages if working in multilingual settings
  • External facilitation of internal planning and decision making meetings or workshops to ensure unbiased facilitation of crucial planning and decision making processes
  • Obligatory involvement of a diverse group of stakeholders and beneficiaries in planning workshops
  • Annual dedicated financial resources for monitoring, evaluation and learning (see Financial Management)

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