The Planning Cycle - Planning Framework

Description:
The planning framework provides the structure that will facilitate decision-making in the organization. For fiscal planning, the planning framework will outline two major processes: one for matching revenues with expenditures; and the other for determining priorities between the program and service needs that almost always exceed available budgets.

You may not realize it, but you already have a planning framework of some kind in your organization-whether or not it is effective is another question. Many First Nations operate without an overall plan or goal. Decisions are more haphazard as decision-makers react to various issues as they come up. This is one type of Planning Framework but it is not an effective one.

The Planning Framework proposed in the Fiscal Planning Calendar is based upon the establishment of a broad mandate approved by the leadership and the identification of specific goals, objectives, and priorities within that mandate. Implicit in the Planning Framework is an information sharing process with the community where goals are developed to meet its needs.

Purpose:
The purpose of the planning framework is to help guide your organization through the fiscal planning process. It outlines the tools and steps that will assist in the development of effective and achievable plans. Strategic planning helps an organization achieve overall goals of its mandate. Strategic plans recognize interrelationships between parts (like education, social, and health) and the cooperation that is required to achieve the goals. This interrelationship means that a decision in one area, will have indirect impacts in another area. If these impacts are anticipated, the decisions are strategic. When leaders use only short-term, reactive planning there is usually no consideration of possible impacts on other programs. Decisions made under this reactive planning framework can lead to unanticipated outcomes, so that decisions may or may not benefit the community as a whole. Simply put, strategic planning is doing the right things.

A community-based planning framework builds on the principles of strategic planning in a community context. Community-based planning means that decision-makers develop a process to achieve goals and objectives that will create a better community. Often the community will have a vision of what it wants to be like in the future. In addition, the Band Council may develop a mission statement to help guide decision-making in that direction. Thus, the strategic plan begins with the community's vision and the Council's mission.

Vision:
The vision statement describes the community as the members and Council want it to be-not as it is-but how it will be in the future. The vision should be enduring; that is, the vision will be upheld even through a change in leadership. By referring to the vision statement, the Band Council can lay out a course that respects that vision and helps to pinpoint priorities. A commonly held community vision can also provide justification for tough decisions being made.

A common vision allows a community to:

  • plot directions and allocate scarce time and money to achieve that direction;
  • define a new future and focus energies on moving toward the desired future;
  • have a common foundation for working together for a common purpose;
  • give potential partners confidence in the community's abilities and direction;
  • maintain momentum even as people change roles.

The community vision is determined primarily by community members with the support of Chief and Council, and Band staff as desired. The community vision is not normally mandate-specific-in other words, it will survive changes in leadership with new Band Councils. Visioning is literally looking ahead to the future and imagining what the community will be like in 10 to 20 years. This vision should not be developed in monetary terms but in a holistic sense that considers the community's social, environmental, political, organizational, and economic future. Here is an example:

The Red Feather First Nation is a healthy, vibrant, self-governing community that meets the needs of its people through diverse economic development opportunities, adequate housing and infrastructure, a culturally-relevant educational system, a fair social program, and an adequate health system.

Roles:
Along with senior Band Administration, Chief and Council have the primary responsibility for establishing a vision for the First Nation. It is also appropriate to invite community members to participate, including those that represent the diversity between community members (i.e., elders, youth, men, and women).

Process:

  1. Chief, Councillors, and community participants work in small groups to develop components for the vision statement (see Vision Work Sheet).

  2. The small groups then come together to share their ideas on vision.

  3. A working group is established to prepare a draft vision statement based on the information shared by the groups.

  4. The draft vision statement is presented back to the working groups for comments.

  5. Any changes or recommendations are considered.

  6. The Vision Statement is circulated in the community for comments and suggestions.

  7. A final version is prepared and submitted for Council approval.

  8. The vision statement is posted in the Band office, printed in Annual Reports, and referred to by Chief and Council as appropriate.

Mission Statement:
The "mission" is a broad statement about the core reason for existing as an organization. The mission statement usually addresses four main questions:

  • who the organization is;
  • what it does;
  • who the clients are, and
  • how it meets the clients' needs.

In the case of a First Nation, the mission statement will identify the Band, touch on Band programs and services, and identify how they are provided to the community members. For example:

The Red Feather Band Council is a First Nation government committed to sharing, developing and enhancing the social, economic, health, housing, and educational opportunities of our community while respecting our traditions. Together, we will ensure that these opportunities contribute to a sustainable environment which our children and their children will inherit.

Roles and Responsibilities:
Once again, the primary responsibility for determining the mission statement rests with Chief and Council and the Band's senior administration. Invitations to the community members to participate in establishing the mission statement is also encouraged.

The primary responsibility for ensuring the First Nation lives up to its mission statement is jointly held by Band Council and staff.

Process:

  1. Chief, Councillors, Band Staff, and other community members, including elders, break off into small groups to discuss elements of a mission statement using the sample work sheet. (see Mission Statement Worksheet)

  2. Small groups come back together and present findings to the large group.

  3. A mission statement is then developed and presented for feedback.

  4. Recommendations and suggestions are incorporated.

  5. The mission statement is then presented to Chief and Council for final approval.

  6. The mission statement should be posted in the Band office and referred to by Chief and Council and staff on a regular basis.

Timing:
The strategic planning process can be undertaken at any point during the fiscal year. If the mission and vision are to be used to help determine priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, then they should be approved by Band Council by the end of the 3rd quarter (December).

Basic Data Collection:
Now that the community and its leaders have developed a vision and mission statement, the objectives and budgets for the year can be established.

But before Band Councils can do this, decision-makers need to be informed of the current status of life in the community. To become informed, Council requires updated information from its staff, the Band Manager and Program Directors (see Program Accountability).

First Nation decision-makers need this information for three reasons: first, to assess the overall results of the expenditures and effectiveness of the Band-run programs; second, to identify areas that need to be better addressed; and third, to then set priorities for the upcoming fiscal year based on this analysis. First Nations have a real stake in knowing whether funded programs and existing policies are having the desired effect. Collecting data to answer some of the sample questions above can help set a new direction in planning for the future.

Process:
Where do decision-makers find this information? Much of the base data exists within the various programs under the control of the Program Directors. What is often missing is a compilation of this data in a single report for the use of Band Council.

With the assistance of the Band Manager, a listing of available data should be prepared for Band Council. This list should include, but not be limited to:

  • Population (Total; On-Reserve; Projections)
  • Program Delivery Responsibilities (Programs delivered by Band-including past budgets and summary of clients served; Programs delivered by other Governments to Band Members)
  • Housing (Condition Report; Backlog)
  • Capital (Major project requirements; Major maintenance)

Excellent sources for base data are the Program Year-End Reports. These reports will help Band Council to identify trends that may need to be addressed through project funding because comparisons can be made from the last few years' reports. The benefit of using year-end reports is that the information in them has been collected in a relatively consistent manner over the years. (For more information regarding the types of data available in year-end program reports, see the DIAND National Reporting Guide.)

Other sources of data include a community census, needs assessments, and Statistics Canada profiles. Band staff need basic data with which to develop the preliminary program budgets. For the purpose of this fiscal planning calendar, the financial information required by Band Council for the planning cycle include the following reports generated in the Budgetary and Accountability Cycles.

  • Revenue Forecast
  • Mid-year and Year End-Reports
  • Previous three Fiscal Years Audit Reports
  • Previous three Fiscal Years Annual Reports
  • Funding Agreements
  • Current Monthly Statement
  • Updated Year-End Forecast

Roles:
The Band Manager or Executive Director should assign Band staff responsibility for collecting information as requested by Council. Much of this information will fall under the responsibility of the Financial Controller.

Timing:
Data collection can be done throughout the year as Council monitors program activities. If this data is to be used to begin the planning process for the upcoming year, information should be collected by the beginning of the 4th quarter (January).

When a First Nation first undertakes Fiscal Planning, all the data listed above may not be available. But, this should not stop the process from getting underway-fiscal planning, even without all the base data, can significantly improve your overall effectiveness as a Band Council and administration.