Community Service Project Planning

Healthy community initiatives exist throughout the United States and each community whether it is a big city or a small town is unique. Each community has its own set of local conditions, priority interests, and available resources that can guide your community service project planning. Most of you already have a good idea of the health-related needs of your community. The local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club can be excellent resources in identifying other organizations to partner with.

What Makes a Community Healthy?

Doctors, hospitals, skilled medical professionals, the right drugs and the right machines certainly help. But we all know that people live longer and healthier lives if they eat a good diet, are well housed, secure from crime and domestic violence, are not impaired by drugs or alcohol, have clean water, can breathe clean air, have access to basic vaccines and antibiotics, exercise and if they have family and friends to give life meaning. Community projects can promote and maintain the health of your community.

What Can You Do as a Chapter to Promote Community Health?

Through education and organization you can give people information to help them make the right choices for themselves. Research has found that people's need for health information is not so much for the traditional medical explanations, or for the "you should" or "you shouldn't" information, but for action-oriented information such as, "You have a choice to make," or "Here is something that you could do..."

Factors to Consider When Planning a Project

  • Identify a need for your community.
  • Define the target group.
  • Focus on a specific objective or goal that is appropriate for the community.
  • Involve members of the community in planning.
  • Tap into available community resources.
  • Decide how you will evaluate your plan or project. What worked and what did not?
  • Develop partnerships with other organizations in your community.
  • Partner with other area chapters.

Consider Advocacy-Oriented Activities

Advocacy means conducting public education in order to change public behavior. A community educational forum can influence the way members of the community understand an issue and how they respond to it. Advocacy-oriented activities can take many forms: Reflection or evaluation components can encourage discussion about the causes of problems; training components can suggest techniques or explain actions to take in a specific issue area. Advocacy can take the form of public service announcements, writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper to describe experiences or make suggestions or role-modeling activities such as devoting one day to pick up trash in the community.

Local Advocacy

Advocacy is primarily an educational activity. There are four basic phases to community advocacy: 1) Identifying an issue; 2) getting organized; 3) carrying out your plans and 4) follow-up planning.

The following outline can help you to plan your community service project:

  • Education
    • Identify an issue
    • Research the issues' past and present history
    • Frame the issue
    • Provide internal education
  • Getting Organized
    • Choose advocacy strategies available for the specific issue
    • Determine who else in the community will support or oppose the issue
    • Identify the target population
    • Develop a plan with alternative strategies
    • Assign tasks and target deadlines
  • Carrying Out Your Plans
    • Implement the plan
    • Track your progress
    • Adjust your strategies
    • Identify finish lines
    • Evaluate the plan
  • Follow-up Planning
    • Evaluate success and accomplishments
    • Evaluate weaknesses and strategies that didn't work

Advocacy Planning Strategies

Strategies that can aid in planning a successful community advocacy project include:

  1. Keep your project simple; stick to one specific issue that has meaning for your community or the target population.
  2. Document what you already know about the issue, research what you don't know.
  3. Use existing information, research articles, reports, books or publications.
  4. Document real life examples or experiences.
  5. Reach out to local settings for speaking opportunities in service groups, schools and other organizations.
  6. Use experts on the issue for public speaking and presentations.
  7. Utilize the local media for public service announcements, editorial and op-ed articles, highlighting a fact each week.
  8. Involve a public official.
  9. Work with others such as parent groups, business groups, church groups, senior groups, student groups, service clubs, local associations, neighborhood groups and professional associations.
  10. Set up regular meetings for planning, tracking progress and evaluating the project.

Using Coalitions for Community Projects

A coalition is a union of people and organizations working to influence outcomes on a specific issue. Coalitions are useful for accomplishing a broad range of goals that extend beyond the capacity of any individual organization. Goals are centered on community education, community improvement and or problem prevention.

Advantages of coalitions include the ability to conserve resources, attain more widespread reach within a community, achieve greater credibility, share information, provide a range of advice and perspectives and foster cooperation between organizations and community members.

When working with a coalition it is important to clearly define each organization's role and tasks, develop tools to measure progress and success and avoid duplication of efforts. New coalitions can be formed if related groups do not already exist in your community. In most cases, it is far more effective to participate in an already existing group with compatible goals than to form a new group.