An Envisioning Process
Successful AIVRS Programs have developed the practice of strategic grant planning to assist in identifying the goals, objectives and activities identified in the AIVRS grant award. This toolkit aims to provide the necessary tools for directors and staff to develop a roadmap which will guide:
Identify and assign tasks and responsibilities
Ensure resources are available and accessible
Identify how the activities will be evaluated
Identify outcome measures for activities to assist with RSA reporting
Who & Where
The AIVRS geographic service area is an important element in the strategic planning process. The designated service area defines the area to be served by the AIVRS Program and who is eligible to receive services.
How & When
How and when services will be developed and implemented is the key question in Strategic Grant Planning. Remember the purpose of AIVRS: To serve American Indians and Alaska Native with disabilities living on or near reservations to achieve a successful employment outcome.
Each community is unique with its own customs, traditional gatherings, and cultural practices. This information is critical when developing the Strategic Grant Plan. In order for an AIVRS program to provide holistic VR Services outreach activities and engagement of tribal members in the community must occur. Through active community involvement, AIVRS staff can become familiar with other service providers to access comparable benefits, interact with consumers while respectfully maintaining confidentiality, foster opportunities to develop business relationships, and potentially develop on-the-job training agreements and access employment opportunities.
Has the Approved Grant Application Been Reviewed?
Design: The structure for designing the AIVRS Strategic Grant Plan has already been developed. The Director and AIVRS staff must review the grant in its entirety. Specifically, the Quality of Project Design, Quality of Project Services, Quality of Project Evaluation and the AIVRS budget and budget justification will provide rich information regarding the goals, objectives and program activities. The grants goals and objectives are clearly defined and multiple activities have been identified for each fiscal year.
Strategizing: BE S.M.A.R.T.
The objectives break down the goals into SPECIFIC action steps (brief statement not a paragraph). It is MEASURABLE (numbers associated with it), ATTAINABLE (can be accomplished in the fiscal year, RESULTS-DRIVEN (consumer focused, employment focused) and TIME ORIENTED (amount of time associated with the activity with a beginning and end date.
Now it’s time to get to work! Staff participation for the grant planning workshop is essential so schedule ahead to avoid double scheduling work assignments. A 2-3 day agenda is reasonable to complete the Strategic Planning Workshop.
Step 1: Identification of activities:
While reviewing the grant application, highlight any activity stated in the grant and list the activity as a goal. This can be accomplished by using a flip chart or use the AIVRS Strategic Grant Planning Activity Form.
Example 1: Year 1, Provide 80 AI/AN with disabilities under a new IPE with 20 successful employment outcomes.
Example 2: develop MOU with the State VR Agency.
Example 3: Conduct resume building group workshop monthly.
Read carefully! It is easy to assume the only goals and objectives identified in the grant are listed in the abstract. A grant application can have 20-50 activities identified annually throughout the 5-year grant award especially if the grant is in the first year of a newly awarded grant. It will take time to identify and create a list of all of the goals, objectives and activities.
Key items: Flip charts, dry erase boards, markers, lap/tops computers, AIVRS Strategic Grant Planning Activity Form.
Step 2: Prioritize the List.
The AIVRS staff have completed the review of the grant, identified all activities for the current fiscal year and are ready rank the activities in order of most importance to least importance. This process should include the staffs’ views about the activities. It is important to consider which staff member is expressing strong sentiments about particular activities. (Hint: this becomes important for task assignments and responsiubilities.)
Step 3: Complete the AIVRS Strategic Grant Planning Activity Form.
A long Priority List of activities has been prioritized. It is now time to complete the rest of the form which includes the following:
Goal should be the activity stated in the grant.
Objective will be the associated task(s) to achieve the goal. There may be multiple objectives associated with one goal.
Start Date and End Date will be when the objectives will begin and when the task will be completed. A common end date could be the end of the Fiscal Year (September 30th) unless a specific one time event has been identified and ends prior to the end of the Fiscal Year.
Person Responsible will be the AIVR staff member(s) assigned to the task. Be specific and designate a staff member if no one volunteers for the assignment.
Evaluation refers to how the goal/objectives will be measured. More on this to come….
See the side image for an example of a completed Strategic Grant Planning Activity Form for a single activity.
Repeat this process for each and every activity on the Priority List until the list is finished. The AIVRS staff now has an idea of all the task and activities to be carried out to meet the goals of the grant. Take time to debrief before moving on to the next stage and discuss the activities with staff.
Questions to consider: Is it feasible to complete all the goals/objectives? Are there sufficient resources to achieve the goals? Does the staff have the necessary skills and training to complete the assigned tasks? Is there sufficient time to complete the tasks? What special accommodations may be required to complete the tasks?
Be mindful and strategic about time lines to ensure sufficient time is allocated to each activity without being overwhelmed at any one given time. Planning ahead will help prevent this.
The Final Step:
Summarize and consolidate each goal so a document can be formatted to include each activity in order of importance in any easy to read document. The AIVRS Strategic Grant Planning Work Plan is now ready to be implemented.
Implementation & Monitoring
The AIVRS Strategic Grant Work plan is a living document that should be reviewed at least monthly. The document will assist in ensuring staff complete daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly work assignment. The document will also provide important information to include on the RSA Annual Performance Report.
More on Evaluation
Evaluation and measuring progress to demonstrate program impact is no easy task. Using various methods and types of evaluation will allow the AIVRS program to prove it is performing adequately but also helps to improve the programs performance as well. Identifying and/or developing measurements will take some thought. A survey is one example of a measurement.
A Consumer Satisfactions Survey (hyperlink) is one measurement to obtain input and identify areas the program is doing well and areas of need from the consumer’s perspective. The can be a substantial amount of work in developing the measurement tool, disseminating the survey, collecting the data, and analyzing the information. This can help direct the program and AIVRS staff practices and procedures in working with consumers. The key is element of evaluation is performance feedback. Another example is the Monthly Resume Building workshops help monthly. Monitoring the sign-in sheets to obtain a combined headcount after 6 months can provide valuable information. If the head count is low indicates this activity not be a viable activity towards an employment outcome and other activities may need to be explored.
Please visit www.aivrttac.org and take the E-learning module What is Program Evaluation Good For Anyways for an in-depth look to learn more about program evaluation.