1.2 Strategic planning

A resource centre needs a clear purpose and overall plan of activities for the longer term. This is known as a strategic plan. The strategic plan provides a framework for making shorter-term plans and decisions. It describes:

  • the overall aim or aims of the resource centre during a particular period, such as the next five years (usually one or two broad statements)
  • objectives (usually about four to six statements describing different ways in which the resource centre will fulfil its overall aim)
  • plans for specific activities (action plans) that will enable the resource centre to meet its objectives.

The strategic plan needs to reflect the resource centre's mission. The mission is usually expressed as a broad statement describing the resource centre’s values and what it is setting out to achieve in the long term.

It is important that staff and users are involved in developing the strategic plan, to ensure that their knowledge feeds into it. It is also important for staff to be aware of the strategic plan, so that they understand what the resource centre is aiming to do, whom it is for, what services are available, and why some services are given higher priority than others.

A strategic plan needs to be reviewed and revised regularly. It needs to allow some flexibility for the resource centre to change over time, in response to new needs and circumstances. An annual review helps to incorporate changing needs and circumstances into the plan.

1.2.1 How to develop a strategic plan

The strategic plan should be developed by the resource centre officer, members of the resource centre advisory committee and/or other users, and management staff of the organisation that the resource centre is part of. Overall responsibility for the strategic plan lies with management.

It is best to set aside a day for a strategic planning meeting. Decide whom to ask to the meeting (preferably between five and ten people) and explain the purpose of the meeting to them in advance.

Decide who will facilitate the meeting and who will take notes. Try to hold the meeting in a room where you will not be disturbed. It is useful to have a flipchart and marker pens, and adhesive material or pins for putting up large sheets of paper. It is worth providing refreshments.

Section 1.2.2 lists key questions to consider when planning a resource centre. You can use these to guide your discussions. Allow as open a discussion as possible. Write up all the ideas, and note those where there is agreement. You may find that you come up with 'ideal' objectives that then have to be modified to make them possible to achieve. Objectives should be ‘SMART’: Specific, Measurable (so you can tell whether they have been achieved), Achievable, Relevant and Time-limited (to be achieved by an agreed time).

You may not be able to finalise the strategic plan at the meeting. You may need to take away the notes and use them to draft a strategic plan, which you can then circulate for approval or comments.

1.2.2 Key questions for planning a resource centre

1. Vision
What do you want the resource centre to be in five years?
What do you need to enable this to be achieved (in terms of human resources, equipment and financial resources)?

2. External environment
What trends in the health sector or other sectors are likely to influence the resource centre?
Who are the key information providers working in the health sector and related sectors?
What links with other organisations might be important?
What impact might other organisations have on your resource centre?
What impact might technological developments have?
What will be the effect of people knowing about the resource centre?

3. Mission
What are the resource centre’s values?
Who will the resource centre serve?
What are their needs?
How will the resource centre meet the needs of these people?

4. Aim
What should the broad, long-term aim be?
How will it support the mission?

5. Objectives
What should the objectives be for the next few years?
How will they support the overall aim?
Are they specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited?

6. Action plan
What activities need to be carried out to achieve the objectives?
How will these activities be carried out?
Who will carry them out?
When will the activities be started and completed?
Will the activities have measurable ‘milestones’ and results?
How will you know when they are finished?
What resources (such as staff, funds and equipment) are necessary, and are they available?

What are the different audiences that need to be communicated with?
What messages need to be communicated to them?
How can these messages be communicated?
How will plans for communication fit into the overall strategic plan?

8. Contingencies
Have ‘what if’ situations been worked out and alternative plans been considered?
Are they realistic?

9. Policies and procedures
Have written operating policies been produced for the resource centre?
Will existing policies and procedures support the action plan?
Will new policies be needed?

10. Resources
Are resources (funds, equipment and staff) available to implement planned activities?
If not, can they be acquired?
Are estimates of resources needed realistic?
Can the action plan be used to develop budgets?

11. Monitoring and evaluation
How will the strategic plan be monitored and evaluated?
Who will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation?