Thoughts on Chapter planning and implementation
[TLDR: We need a plan that is not just a static document but rather incorporates a framework for implementation, links to the relevant processes (and who is responsible for them) and reports. See "Suggestions" section below.]
Chapter planning is going well but the difficulty is in implementation. Implementation is important both for the satisfaction that success and productivity bring to members as much as for accounting to donors. Since it is critical to be able to implement, monitor and report (as well as succeed), we need to make it easy to do. Also, since our entire "workforce" is volunteers busy with real life, our plans and documentation need to incorporate aspects that help us with implementation.
Here are some thoughts about how to relate our goals to our programs and our programs to our projects so that we can both plan in advance as well as adapt to opportunities and also document our results.
A major focus for the Foundation in the near future is "to build appropriate parameters for different levels of organizational lifecycles and growth in the movement, and share research and learning about appropriate and innovative models of organizational growth, including different ways to move from volunteer-based groups to those with staffing or other support."  In finding our way, Wikimedia Australia is part of this.
Programs and Projects
The Chapter is involved in both programs and projects. The former are ongoing while the latter are sometimes planned in advance and sometimes emerge (as opportunities) as the year progresses. Thus, a key difference between the program and the project is that programs tend to continue during the life of the plan, whereas projects definitely finish. The main purpose of the planning process (of which a call for input is a component) and of the plan itself, is to maximise the likelihood that both programs and projects will deliver the outcomes and the benefits that we seek. Its other purposes are to make everything easier for us to contribute to, monitor and report on. The Committee is responsible for the direction and support of the programs; individual members are responsible for the projects they sponsor or propose. Both programs and projects need to consider in advance what resources/inputs will be required and whether or not we have them. No organisation can do everything it wants to do all at once.
Chapter Programs need to be aligned with principles and strategic goals - both their own and the Foundation's. The programs are overarching things that focus on benefits and outcomes - achieving one of our goals, for instance. They are made up of a range of activities or projects. Programs represent a path, which is sometimes known but is to some extent unknown (that is, emergent).
1) For a known and clear goal, such as to "create the capacity and credibility needed for a successful FDC application” (to make up one example), then a range of projects/activities would have to be undertaken to achieve it. Some of them would be known and eminently plannable, like perhaps, the project to achieve charitable status, which we have just done. Others, such as to "demonstrate a range of successful projects" (to make another one up), would require that we were able to assess and support appropriate, as-yet-unknown projects when they appear, without causing damage to the overall plan.
2) If a goal is to "Develop relationships with Australian GLAMs", the Program will consist of all the projects and activities that contribute to reaching that goal, some of which would be clear and built on previous achievements, such as those we already have with the State Library of Queensland and the State Library of New South Wales. It would make sense to give them priority. However, it is likely that many of the projects that help to achieve the GLAM relationship goal will emerge as opportunities arise.
The Committee is responsible for setting, monitoring and reporting on our programs insofar as they show the general direction, efforts and expenditure of the Chapter.
Chapter projects, on the other hand, are activities by which the program achieves the goal. They need to be very specific, easily manageable things that contribute to the success of the programs. Individual members need to be able both to propose and carry out a small project with little or no funding, or seek support from other members for a bigger one. Opportunities for such things emerge so any planning we do needs to accommodate this unpredictability. Also, as we are a group of volunteers, our enthusiasms wax and wane and our time is limited, so projects need to be small in scope so as to be manageable by the proposers and have clear finishing points. The Committee can assist the members with how their project relates.
1) Editathons at a GLAM, for example, are projects that would support the goal of developing relationships with GLAMs. As such, they would become part of a program.
2) If, say, a Wiki Loves Monuments project is proposed by a member, such a project's scope could be reduced to something achievable that would also function as a pilot (that is, a training ground and opportunity for learning). The pilot would be part of the program in support of the goal.
In order to be able to implement Chapter programs, explain, justify and improve Chapter processes and use resources in the most effective way possible, we need a clear and repeatable planning process that documents the series of activities and decisions which when followed each year will result in the Chapter plan. The Plan (a routine outcome of the planning process) should have a timeframe (probably annual) so that people will know when it is closed off and a new cycle begins. A list is not a plan. However, a list of members' proposals is a valuable input to the planning process. The plan should say what programs are supported with what resources, along with what projects to achieve them will be done, for what purpose, by whom and if possible, when. In order to be manageable as well as flexible, projects both planned and emergent, need to be accommodated and defined for maximise effectiveness. Hence we should:
1) Reconstitute the plan as a framework that documents:
- the main goals for the plan's duration (along with the mission, values and principles);
- only a small number of programs (a collection of projects or activities designed to achieve one or more goals);
- various planned and emergent projects grouped under their natural program.
Such a structure would mean that if one project is not doing well, the program as a whole is not compromised. Flexibility and control can be more easily achieved by adjusting, terminating or continuing a small project rather than a whole program.
2) Show in the plan who is responsible for what processes. For example, the Committee might be responsible for:
- the planning process (consultation, facilitation, publication);
- the prioritised programs that come out of the planning process (ensuring that projects proposed are aligned);
- the communication with WMF on behalf of the Chapter;
- the disbursement of funds to successful project proposals by members;
- the reporting to WMF for the use of funds the Chapter receives.
The members might be responsible for:
- implementing and reporting on the projects in which they are involved;
- conscientiously using any funds applied for and allocated to their projects.
Of course, any distribution of responsibility needs to be agreed by the members, but it is most important that everyone knows who is responsible for any ongoing process or any specific project. Otherwise, success is unlikely and communication, especially with the outside world, is unreliable.
3) Annual plans as well as program and project reports should be recorded in findable lists so that it is easy to know where to put them and in what form. Also, of course, so that we can identify lessons learned and accumulate a record of success.