2.3.2 Strategic and operational planning

By strategic planning we mean establishing a plan for implementing the broad policy decisions of the constitution-making body. The strategic plan should set out where the process is going and how to get there, including detailed operational plans about how every task will be carried out, by whom, and what resources will be needed to carry it out. This helps with the next step in the planning phase: creating the budget. The more detailed plans are critical, because indifficult circumstances—perhaps with inexperienced staff members, changing deadlines, and political crises looming—even basic tasks can be overlooked. For example, in past processes administrators and managers have failed to:

  • secure, in plenty of time, a meeting place for the constitution-making body, which led to the need to pay for an expensive hotel for months on end so meetings could be held;
  • order enough paper or toner cartridges for the printer, which prevented members from receiving drafts of the constitution to review and led to lengthy delays until more paper and cartridges arrived;
  • realize that the members would be speaking different languages, and that translators and interpreters would be needed for several languages on a daily basis, which slowed down the process considerably and left many constitution-makers feeling excluded from participating;
  • train note takers or establish a system to record decisions, which led to confusion about what had been decided and charges of manipulation against the leaders of the constitution-making body because certain constitutional provisions had been changed and members could not recall if this had been agreed to;
  • realize the need for analyzing submissions, which has led to various difficulties including delays in the process, use of ineffective methods of analysis, or the abandonment of any serious attempt to analyze the views received, and pressures to obtain funds and specialist staff members at short notice; and
  • deliver copies of the draft constitution to a minority community before the public consultation process began, which led the community to accuse the constitution-makers of manipulation and secrecy.

The strategic plan is developed by the managers or leaders of the process and includes some or all of the following components:

  • the overall goals and objectives (which may be defined in a legal mandate for the process or may need to be developed further for the strategic plan) for the administration and management of the process;
  • the core tasks that will achieve the objectives of the process;
  • an overall timetable for the main tasks that need to be completed and coordinated mapping of what will be needed to implement the tasks in the time frame provided, including personnel, materials, and financial resources as well as external partnerships;
  • identification of who or which department or body needs to do what and by when; and • how the tasks will be monitored and evaluated.

The plan should be realistic both in terms of what can be achieved in the time frame given and the resources available for the process, including funds. Ideally, the key personnel or managers implementing the strategic plan will help develop the detailed operational plans. These plans describe specifically how each task will be carried out and how success will be monitored. This handbook, in part, has been prepared as a planning tool to identify the tasks, personnel, institutions, procedures, resources, and external relationships that may be needed. A quick perusal of the detailed table of contents of this handbook can assist with the planning process.

Box 23. Example of a strategic planning process

To provide an example of strategic planning, let us assume there has been a decision to have a constitutional commission that will prepare a final report and a draft constitution that will go to the parliament. The overall road map for the process might include the following stages:

  • preliminary civic education;
  • public consultation;
  • analysis of views collected;
  • first draft;
  • consultation on the draft;
  • final decisions;
  • legal drafting; and
  • debate in parliament.

The commission is appointed and it has several months to prepare its strategic plan. It has one chief administrator and three other administrative staff, one of whom is an accountant. It has access to the ministry of finance and other ministries for guidance.

For each stage, the commission must decide whether, and to what extent, the various tasks involve it. For example, by the time the final stage (debate in parliament) takes place, the commission may be winding up.

The strategic plan involves broad activities and time frames. After the plan has been created, the commission will have to break down those activities into more detailed tasks, then identify the resources that are needed to perform the tasks, and finally prepare the budget. There is a feedback loop covering the various stages; the commission can’t simply plan to do things with no idea of whether it will have the money.

The framework for the strategic plan must be the legal or policy document (here we call it the law) that enshrines the thinking to that point. Also crucial are the realities of the situation—and for this the commission should not hesitate to ask for information from all relevant sources, including ministries, research bodies, and international agencies.

In planning the first stage—on civic education—the commission would ask itself the following questions:

  • What does the law say? Is the commission required to carry out civic education? If not, is it able to do so, or is it expected to encourage others to do so? Or would it and other organizations all carry out civic education? Would it have—or should it seek—funding to pass on to others, or is it expected to remain entirely outside the education process? If the commission is to play no part, the planning process might stop there and move on to “receiving views.”
  • If the commission has a choice of what to do, what structure for civic education will make the best use of the available resources—of the commission and others? This will require assessment of the capacities of the commission and of other bodies.
  • What is needed—how much do people already know about the constitutional issues?
  • If the people have had some civic education already, who has done it? Was it well done? Are those bodies able to continue?If the commission is to be a funding body only, it will depend on other bodies to help it decide how much funding will be needed. If the commission is to do more, it should proceed to the following questions.
  • How much time is available?
  • How can marginalized or hard-to-reach groups be educated?
  • What methods should be used to communicate—radio, television, theater, books and pamphlets, comic books, meetings, art and writing competitions, and the like (see part 2.2.2). At this stage, much help will be needed from others—does someone have figures on newspaper readership, listeners to radio, literacy? Experts on civic education will be needed (the commission is unlikely to have any, or not more than one, among its members). What language or languages will be used? Eventually the commission will need to know how much these things cost. Do newspapers publish this sort of thing without payment? How will marginalized groups be reached, and who are they?
  • If the commission is to be involved in delivering, coordinating, or funding civic education, it should develop an overall plan to cover issues such as:
    • How are most people to be reached—by newspapers, face-to-face meetings, radio, television? And what type of electronic media programming: discussions, drama, phone- in programs?
    • At what level should meetings take place (every town, major headquarters)?
    • What sorts of publications will be needed?
    • Will the commission have a website, and will it use other online platforms such as Facebook?
  • Its strategic plan will need time frames—within those probably set by the law. Benchmarks will be mainly for internal purposes: by a certain date staff must be hired; by a certain date partner organizations, if any, must be identified; during a certain period public meetings must be held, and so on.

This may seem daunting—but in reality much of the work will be done by others. Some tasks can be postponed until more staff members are appointed (but not for long). Government agencies, consultants, and others can help.

This is not the end of the process. Next comes budgeting: how much will all this cost? Roughly, how many pamphlets at how much per copy? How many meetings at how much per average meeting? How much does a website cost? How many staff members will be needed, and how much will they cost? How much does it cost to translate a thousand words into another local language, and how many thousands of words will need to be translated?

And the art of budgeting is not a precise one: there must be contingency plans, chances to ask for more (within reason), and rough estimates.

This sort of planning has to be carried out for each step in the process.

A common management tool used for making strategic and operational plans is the analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to each component of the process. This is really just applied common sense. The idea is to assess the tasks to be accomplished, the resources and opportunities available, and the difficulties that lie ahead. The mention of strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses is designed to encourage organizations not to ignore what they do have in the way of resources and circumstances—and not to focus only on the problems and the needs, which may lead to unnecessary pessimism and overspending on new people and resources. The analysis of potential threats or challenges will help managers when they are devising alternative plans for problems that may arise.

If managers have little or no experience with strategic planning, an external facilitator could help. However, it is not true that the same techniques necessarily work for producing a constitution as for producing paper clips, or even that public consultation on constitutional issues requires the same strategies as a participatory poverty assessment. Someone with planning experience may be useful for facilitating the development of a strategic plan. But to be useful, that person should be conscious of the particular features of a constitution-making process, including its technical nature and political sensitivity.

The overall strategic plan or parts of it could be a public document to inspire trust in the process and explain the road map of how the process will proceed. It could be placed on the official website or shared with key stakeholders, such as donors, the media, and civil society. This has been done to varying degrees in several places, including Afghanistan [2004] and Kenya [2005].