The core elements of a comprehensive community plan combine the Community Decision Making and Results Based Accountability components listed below. Attention to these elements is important whether a community plan is being developed, enhanced or implemented.
A population result reflects conditions of well-being for children birth to age eight in terms that residents and families can understand. The population result is not about programs or agencies and may include several domains such as health, ready for school, succeeding in school, and strong families. A population result is about the quality of life the community desires for all of its children.
Indicators are measures that help quantify the achievement of a population result. They answer the question, "How would we recognize these results in measurable terms if we fell over them?" So, for example, the rate of low-birth weight babies helps quantify whether we're achieving healthy births. Third grade reading scores help quantify whether children are succeeding in school today, and may reflect how ready they were for Kindergarten and how well the school system is contributing toward their learning.
The needs assessment is an analysis of baseline data or the trend line of an indicator. It identifies the causes or contributors to the current condition to help tell the story behind the baseline. The story draws from a variety of sources, including parent perception as well as data gathered by providers, school systems, child health and other institutions.
Strategies are coherent sets of actions that have a reasonable chance of improving results by turning the curve on one or more key indicators. Strategies are made up of our best thinking about what works, and they include the contributions of many partners. No single action by any one agency can create the improved results we want and need. Programs are not themselves strategies; they are specific ways of implementing strategies. For example, a strategy of family support may engage the Nurturing Families Network program, which targets new parents at risk of abusing or neglecting their newborn child.
Performance measures can tell how well public and private programs and agencies are working and if clients or customers of the service are better off. Performance measures are the means by which a community collaborative holds systems and organizations accountable for progress and results. There should be measures in each domain including health, family support, and early care and education.
A transparent financing plan promotes collective accountability for results among community partners and institutions, and projects the full cost of implementing the plan over time. The financing strategy aligns existing state and local resources to the plan strategies, identifies funds for potential reallocation, and specifies the level of new investments needed to “turn the curve” on the indicators specified in the community plan.