Once collaborators have a full understanding of the target problem (assessment) and have worked towards evaluating and strengthening their collective resources (capacity building), the next step in the SPF process calls for systematic and deliberate planning. While it is tempting to jump quickly into problem solutions, to do so without careful planning is unwise.
Planning is essential—it focuses the energy of staff and stakeholders, ensures that they are working toward the same goals, and provides the means for assessing, evaluating, and adjusting programmatic direction.
Planning typically involves the following tasks:
- Prioritizing risk and protective factors: It is often simply not practical for communities to address all of the factors related to their target problem. It is, therefore, important to identify and discuss the various risk and protective factors that are associated with the problem. Communities can then prioritize which of these factors are most important (importance) and/or are the best targets for leveraging potential change (changeability). Successful interventions target risk and protective factors which are both changeable and important.
- Risk factors are individual, family, or community factors that are associated with increases in problem behaviors. For example, easy access to alcohol in a community could be considered a risk factor for underage drinking because it likely increases the rates of teen drinking.
- Protective factors are individual, family, or community characteristics that seem to protect from or are associated with decreases in problem behavior. For example, community norms discouraging alcohol consumption at public gatherings could be a protective factor if it prevents underage drinking.
- Changeability refers to how easy it is to create change in a particular risk or protective factor. For example, changing community attitudes towards underage drinking may be more difficult than changing policies that restrict access to alcohol.
- Importance refers to how much impact a particular risk or protective factor is likely to have on the overall target outcome. Factors can also be important if they impact more than one outcome. For example, peer influence is often a very important factor for underage drinking and can be considered even more important if it impacts not only underage drinking, but also delinquency, and other drug abuse.
- Selecting prevention interventions: Many programs and interventions already exist to address substance abuse issues at multiple different levels (e.g., at the individual, family, and community levels). With so many to choose from, communities should plan carefully and select interventions that are 1) evidence-based, 2) most likely to influence the target risk and protective factors (conceptual fit) and 3) a good fit with community values and cultural norms. In other words, interventions should also be feasible and relevant to the population the intervention will serve (practical fit). Consider the following when selecting a program:
- Objectives: What tasks will assist in goal accomplishment?
- Instructions: How do you implement the program (including what to do when something goes wrong)?
- Goals: What is the program trying to accomplish?
- Conceptual foundation: What theoretical assumptions does the program rely on?
- Feasibility: Do you have the necessary resources, time, and capacity to implement the program?
- Developing a comprehensive, logical, and data-driven plan: A good intervention plan includes a logic model. A logic model is basically a map of the intervention plan. It presents a picture of how your effort or initiative is supposed to work. It explains why your strategy is a good solution to the problem at hand, and includes the following:
- Inputs: What kinds of resources and manpower are you devoting to your intervention? Inputs can include things like funding streams, program manuals, staff, supplies, the buildings which house your programs, and volunteer efforts.
- Outputs: What are you doing in your prevention program? Outcomes can include the program activities you plan to carry out, the services you provide, and the events and products that reach people who participate or who are targeted.
- Outcomes: What changes do you hope to see as a result of your program? Outcomes can include results or changes which are targeted to individuals, groups, communities, organizations, or systems, but should be specific, measurable, and realistic in scale and scope.
- Assumptions: What kinds of beliefs do you have about your plan and program? It is important to explicitly list your assumptions about the program you chose and the plan you have designed. The beliefs we have about the program, the people involved, the context, and the way we think the program will work are important assumptions to examine prior to beginning prevention work.
SPF in Hawai'i: Planning
During the SPF-SIG project the state and each county completed a strategic plan to guide their efforts to address the target problem of underage drinking. These plans built upon the insights gained during the assessment and capacity building steps and were data-driven and evidence-based. Each organization that partnered with the SPF-SIG project to receive funds for prevention programs developed a logic model and selected evidence-based programs (EBPs) to implement in their respective counties. Additionally, and Evidence-Based Program Workgroup was established to help service providers with this process of program planning and to answer any questions that they had related to EBPs.