Once you have created a community conversation around change, agreed upon a collective vision, and created a shared understanding of the systemic factors that are influencing your environment, it is time to look for opportunities for change. This part of the approach involves processes which generate ideas for innovative solutions, and create a plan to reach shared outcomes.

Community members develop a collaborative plan (e.g. a Community Action Plan) which outlines shared vision and outcomes, resources, governance mechanisms, projects that contribute to achieve the vision, targets and measurements, and evaluation approaches. This first plan could include some prototype or pilot projects that will enable the group to test out some of the ideas, and through their implementation, refine the collaboration and build trust within the group.


Building a plan for change - illustrated as a set of puzzles pieces. They are labelled across three stacks from top to bottom. Top - purpose of plan, themes for change. Middle row - partners and stakeholders, actions and projects, shared vision and outcomes. Bottom row - evaluation, governance, assets and resourcing.

Once you have your shared vision and created a theory of how you hope to ‘shift the needle’ in your community, it is time to move to action. Generating ideas for solutions is the place many people want to jump to. It is where the action and movement is! Sometimes the ideas that come out are not new ones, they could have been bouncing around in a community for some time, but sometimes these ideas need a little bit of structure and input from others to get off the ground. Other times, completely new and innovative ways of thinking may emerge.

Depending on what your shared vision and outcome is, activities in your place-based plan might include:

  • undertaking deeper mapping, data analysis and research activities to further build understanding
  • leveraging the cross-sectoral buy-in and influence of the place-based leadership group to take action around an agreed issue
  • creating opportunities and new structures for greater community engagement and involvement in decision-making processes, service and system design
  • developing a new collaborative program or initiative
  • establishing networks and regular relationship-building opportunities, and creating mechanisms to share skills and information (such as a community of practice)
  • creating opportunities for business-community partnerships and programs
  • collectively advocating to others with influence around agreed issues
  • re-designing systems, services, client pathways and referral pathways or other ways of working
  • re-thinking ways of managing resources, sharing or pooling resources, changing distribution of resources or changing commissioning and investment patterns and processes
  • mapping resources and funding and thinking about novel ways of resourcing services and systems
  • brokering formal partnerships between key stakeholders
  • sharing data and information on outcomes or even establishing shared data measurement systems
  • hosting community building and awareness raising campaigns and events
  • fundraising and seeking philanthropic support for an activity
  • creating workshops and trainings, improving practices, or looking at other workforce development needs
  • developing shared understandings and communicating to the broader community in a shared way
  • communicating around the initiative
  • evaluating the initiative and sharing learnings along the way

…and many more.

The process we have used time and again for the generation of ideas and solutions is Open Space Technology.


Open Space Technology

Open Space is a group process medium suitable to large groups, requiring very few resources but providing a good structure for community members’ ideas to emerge, refine them a little, and find out what energy there is from others to progress it. While it is a simple process it does require some preparation and thought, and we recommend reading Michael Herman’s guide to Open Space Technology.

There is a lot of information out there on Open Space, but don’t get put off. It is, in its heart, a simple process in which the agenda is set by the people in the room; in which space is given for deep thinking about issues and ideas; and in which the strengths of the people in the room are harnessed to address complex issues.

In short, Open Space Technology creates a ‘marketplace’ for ideas to emerge from the group. Anyone putting forward an idea is asked to write it on a piece of paper and put it up in marketplace (which is usually a dedicated wall in the room). As with many powerful processes, participants are encouraged to position their idea as a question – inviting others to come and help explore the question. Those putting forward an idea take responsibility for hosting that conversation in which the question is explored and plan of action formulated.  Templates are often provided to support the conversation.

Sometimes similar ideas will emerge, and the hosts of those ideas may decide to merge. After all the ideas are up in the marketplace you may give the whole group some time to look at all the ideas and decide which one they would like to put their energy into. Each host with their idea should move to a designated spot to host their idea conversation.

There are further steps you may take to structure the refinement of ideas, and you can find out more about the process through Michael Herman’s guide, or by looking at the sample group process provided below. Once all groups have had adequate time to talk through their ideas, there should be an opportunity for providing a summary back to the larger group, and plan made for what will happen next across all ideas.


There are some conditions that will encourage new ways of thinking, generate new ideas and mature existing ideas:

  • Diverse group!
    We all come with different perspectives and ways of thinking through problems. If the group participating is diverse, the ideas that come out are often diverse. Someone’s business expertise, lived experience or community knowledge might be exactly what is needed to give an idea the push needed to get it off the ground and happening. Different members of the community will hold different pieces of the puzzle.
  • Trust
    It can be difficult to trust the process, as you never know what will come out! If you have spent a good amount of time visioning and creating connection within the group, trust that good ideas will emerge. We have experienced slow starts with groups, where there is nervous silence at first, but we have never experienced facilitating a process like this where nothing good comes out of it. The people hold the solutions, and they will come out eventually.
  • Put aside limitations
    Think bold and think big. Do not be limited by what you think you know.  In particular, put aside concerns about how you will resource the ideas for now, and see what can come out of the conversation. At this stage, the aim is to create as many opportunities and ideas as possible. If an idea is really well thought out, it is likely to find resourcing along the way.
  • Participate with passion
    As with many participatory processes, the strength of Open Space is in the strength of the people participating. All participants have a part to play and have resources and skills and knowledge that can support ideas and projects to come to life.

Now you have a number of ideas for possible actions and solutions, you will need to create a plan for how these ideas will come into being

Planning involves several key steps which may include:

  • prioritise ideas for action, based on the ideas you have generated above
  • agree on actions to take
  • commit, align resources, and establish roles
  • develop a plan of action

A good plan should cover all of the ‘W’s – starting with why, then what, when, where, who as well as the how. Elements of a good plan might include:

  • Purpose of plan
  • Themes for change
  • Shared vision and outcomes
  • Actions and projects
  • Assets and resourcing
  • Partners and stakeholders
  • Governance mechanisms
  • Evaluation processes, including indicator measurements and targets

It can be very challenging and time-consuming to draw together diverse threads into a comprehensive plan with clear priorities and agreed-upon actions. It is good to be aspirational, but it is also importance to stick to realistic, manageable actions. It can be helpful to focus on the highest impact opportunities to work together (known in collective impact as mutually reinforcing, high leverage activities), rather than trying to capture everything happening in the community in the plan. It can also be helpful to think about how to capture efforts to work towards the collective vision without necessarily imposing strict standardised structures on how people choose to work towards the shared goal.

Careful facilitation is required throughout a planning process or minority voices may still go unheard. In this respect, dedicate time to planning how you will facilitate your planning session. Refer back to Facilitate conversations in 2) Finding shared vision for resources.

Some additional tools that can be used to help a group prioritise and identify a course of action include Dotmocracy, the ORID discussion method, and generative decision-making. Our sample community action planning document draws on some of these processes in a one-day workshop to help groups design local solutions to a shared vision. The project-planning template provides an example of a template that can be used to start unpacking what it would take to reach a particular goal.




Once you have a plan, a great format for sharing it more widely is through a roadmap, or another visual representation. It can also be helpful to create a one-page version of your plan to better communicate it with the broader community.

It is helpful to embed a cycle of integrated learning into place-based approaches right from the planning phase. Developmental evaluation supports ongoing monitoring, learning and research to ensure a place-based approach is fully effective.

Part of developmental evaluation is creating a culture of sharing and learning. Some things to remember in a culture of learning:

  • It is okay to be vulnerable – remember that honesty feeds trust, and you need trust for the process to work. If something hasn’t worked, name it, ask some good questions about why, and then ask how it could be done differently
  • Involve everyone in your learning. If you learn something but you don’t communicate it with others, it is lost learning.

It is important to stop and reflect at every key step of an initiative and build key reflection points into your plan.  Use the feedback gathered along the way to adapt and change direction where needed.

Embedding monitoring and evaluation processes into your initiative from the start is vital to measuring progress towards your shared vision and shared outcome. This includes taking baseline measurements for indicators you are trying to make progress on; and building in the process of gathering data and stories, recording activities and examining learnings throughout the life of your initiative.

See also Digging into data.