Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Business Retention & Expansion (BR+E) Program, this blog will outline the and discuss stages 3 & 4 of the BR+E process.
The four stages of the BR+E process are:
- Collect and Analyze
- Develop Goals and Action Plans
- Implement and Monitor
Check out our previous posts, 6 Reasons Why Your Community Should Undertake a BR+E to understand the advantages of a BR+E project and learn about stages 1 & 2 by reading Discover the Advantage of Thorough Preparation and Data Collection for a Successful BR+E
BR+E Stage III – Develop Goals and Action Plans
Step 8: BR+E Task Force Retreat
This step in the BR+E process focuses on strategic planning; the action plans that are developed will become the community’s blue-print for supporting existing businesses.
The BR+E Task Force Retreat should involve a diverse group of community members to help develop and implement the action plans. About 30 to 50 per cent of members should represent local businesses.
The purpose of the BR+E Task Force Retreat is to:
- Review survey data;
- Identify key findings and priorities;
- Develop and prioritize goals that address the key findings; and
- Identify the performance measures and actions to achieve the prioritized goals.
It is important to identify the performance measures that will be used to track the project’s progress. Your group will also need to decide on the actions (i.e. activities) it will take to help achieve its goals. The number of actions will depend on available resources.
Once the group is finished brainstorming action plan ideas, group members should work together to prioritize the ideas based on the questions below:
- Fit: which actions align with the goals?
- Impact: what is the relative value of the outcomes for the investment?
- Best Practices: what actions have proven to be effective?
- Achievable: how realistic are the actions taking into account resource availability and timelines?
- Risks: what are the risks associated with taking these steps/not taking these steps?
Using these questions as a guide, the group should develop a list of priority actions that they feel the community could undertake. Keep the full list as a reference for future action-planning.
Step 9: Prepare Final Report and Action Plans
After the BR+E Task Force Retreat, detailed action plans should be developed from the list of possible actions that was created during the retreat. The following list of items should be agreed upon for each goal and related actions that were identified during the retreat:
- Performance measures
- A timeframe
- Assigned responsibility
- Outlined resources
The Final BR+E Report and Action Plans should act as a full and complete record of the project. The final report should include:
- Introduction and Summary
- Purpose (objectives and scope of the BR+E project)
Community involvement (acknowledge contributions
- Project activities (methodology)
- Summary of results
- Recommended goals and actions plans
Step 10: Communicate Results
The BR+E Coordinator should prepare a plan to communicate the findings and actions to public. This can help when asking for volunteer support to implement the project.
It is a good idea to seek the support of your partner organizations for your action plans before a formal public release. A public meeting should be held to signal the beginning of the community taking action to help enable local economic growth.
In addition to communicating the results of the BR+E business visits, the public meeting can also be a celebration of the completing of a major portion of the BR+E project.
There should be three parts to the meeting:
- Explaining the BR+E process;
- Thanking businesses and volunteers who participated; and
- Sharing the results and opportunities for action.
Communication beyond the Public Meeting is vital to the successful implementation of the action plans. Without communication to the community, the chance of successful implementation will be greatly reduced.
BR+E Stage IV – Implement and Monitor
Step 11: Implement Actions & Step 12: Monitor and Track Progress
Once actions have been prioritized, teams must be assembled to lead each action plan. In addition a to-do list should be created to ensure each plan is implemented successfully.
Action plans will need to be monitored using previously identified performance measures. Performance measures are the process of monitoring, measuring, assessing and reporting in the progress of the plan to the intended outcome.
Monitoring the plan will:
- Indicate if the plan is effective;
- Identify if changes are needed (e.g. are the action plans helping to reach the goals?);
- Encourage new and existing partners to participate; and
- Help communicate progress to partners and external funding supporters.
Additional benefits of monitoring your plan include:
- Helping to secure additional resources;
- Generating enthusiasm and public interest; and
- Promoting and celebrating success.
Assessing the overall results of the BR+E project should take into account quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (people’s perceptions, opinions, experiences) data about the project.
Follow-up public meetings or reports should be communicated each year after the implementation of the BR+E project in order to report the results of the action plan. Be prepared to show concrete evidence why some results were achieved and why some were not, and changes that were made to the action plan. It is important to reinforce that the BR+E program is an ongoing process for community economic development, and discuss next steps if necessary .