Strategic planning can help an organization hone its direction, target programming, and identify gaps to address. But the process can be daunting, requiring—among other components—a defined vision, specific goals and strategies, timelines, and cost-benefit analyses. OJJDP's Tribal Youth Resource Center has designed a strategic plan training program that breaks the process into manageable steps.
The center offers the training program to recipients of two Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) awards: CTAS Purpose Area 8: Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts program and CTAS Purpose Area 9: Tribal Youth Program. OJJDP manages both solicitations, which require grantees to develop and submit a strategic plan within the first year of funding, with plan implementation to begin in year two.
Strategic planning is not a new concept in Indian country, according to Tribal Youth Resource Center Codirector Stephanie Autumn. "Generations ago, our people did not use the terminology 'strategic planning,'" she said. "Our ancestors knew that you have to plan for the next seven generations to flourish and thrive," she said.
In addition to being Codirector for the center, Ms. Autumn is Program Lead for Tribal Youth Program grantees; Codirector Anna Clough is Program Lead for Juvenile Healing to Wellness Court recipients. Because solicitation requirements for the two groups vary, the center offers two distinct strategic plan training programs. Trainers explain the process "through an indigenous lens," Ms. Autumn said, recognizing that Native people have their own cultures, languages, and social, cultural, and political systems.
For successful strategic planning, grantees must communicate program plans with Tribal leadership and the wider community, Ms. Autumn stressed, and they must always involve stakeholders—especially youth—in the process. Involving youth authentically will "plant the seeds of their program very deeply in the ground" and sustain their work. "Youth want to be involved," Ms. Autumn said. "They want to be seen. They want to be heard."
The training program involves two central components; the center’s strategic planning resource guide forms the core. Grantees also attend monthly virtual “learning labs” and biweekly virtual meetings led by a training and technical assistance specialist. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, grantees received a 2.5-day in-person training.
Trainings typically begin in March. Some Tribes complete strategic plans over a few months, while others experience challenges—such as personnel changes—and require more time. Ms. Autumn advises Tribes not to "rush the process." No matter how long a Tribe needs to complete a strategic plan, the Tribal Youth Resource Center works with them "until they're done," she said.
The program helped the Seminole Tribe of Florida develop a strategic plan for a program to increase on-time high school graduation and decrease truancy. "Our approach to strategic planning was to obtain as much assistance as we could from those with a high level of experience in the process—individuals who have ultimately seen what worked and what did not," said Michael Giacchino, who directs the Tribe's Education Department. "The [Tribal Youth Resource Center] team did a great job keeping us engaged throughout the trainings," he said. "Although [we were] missing out on the ability to be together in the same room, the communication was good and strong connections were made."
The Justice Department's CTAS allows federally recognized Tribes to submit a single application for multiple grant programs. The Department has released the fiscal year 2022 CTAS. OJJDP’s Tribal grant recipients have access to the Tribal Youth Resource Center grantee portal, which houses documents specific to strategic planning, grant-specific information, and other resources.