Action Agenda

An action agenda guides the group to get things done and realize its vision and goals. The more concise, targeted, and thorough the action agenda is, the more likely people will enthusiastically connect and volunteer to get the work accomplished. Avoid the temptation to belabour its production or make the scope too large. An action agenda is a snapshot-in-time, a summary document that depicts what needs to be done and urges it get done.


The Action Agenda is an annotated list that schedules proposed actions, reminds participants of past decisions and agreed-upon goals, and to provides a means for viewing the entire range of recommended work. It can be organized in various ways: topics, dates, sequence, priorities, responsibility, geography, or level of interest. Each step within the plan clearly defines the components of what, who, when and how.



  1. 'What' is the name or short description given to a task or action. 'Who' is the list of one or more individuals or group to be involved and responsible for conducting the action. 'How' identifies the tasks necessary for completion such as seeking financial assistance or funding, getting technical recommendations, acquiring resources, making contacts, etc. 'When' refers to the timing of the action. Projected dates may be used, or the list may simply be organized in sequence. Less precise terms, such as 'immediate' and 'later' or 'near-term' and 'long-term', can allow more flexibility; specific dates can always be added. Wording should be succinct to keep the action agenda small and manageable.

  2. Make sure the group is ready: The action agenda builds on work already done within a group: goals have been set, visions imagined, ideas discussed, and issues explored. People have developed a sense of who they are within the group; they know some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and constraints. They see what needs to be done, and how it might be accomplished.

  3. Generate the actions: Using the group's goals as guidelines, ask the question, 'What do we need to do in order to achieve our goals?' List the answers: brainstorm at first, then narrow the field to what is practical, agreeable, feasible and timely. Make a selection among all the ideas. Select and re-select until there is consensus on a list of actions that can actually be accomplished by the people involved, with the resources they can bring to bear. If a member or sub-group of the overall group is already engaged in an action that fits the groups' goals, include that in the agenda as a way to get an early success and to give credit and support to that action or to the group doing it. This becomes an example of how the whole process can work, how each action can be accomplished.

  4. Define What: Once you have a consensus list, deliberate on the naming and wording of each action/task. The words used to describe the action will tell much about what needs to be done. The name of an action may make it or break it - in promoting it, in instilling it with vitality, in establishing its meaning.

  5. Define Who: Decide who needs to be involved in the action. Without designated responsibility, there will not be enough impetus to follow through. If the group is committed to the action being included, someone will step forward; otherwise, delete it.

  6. Define When: Estimate the amount of time required to do the job. Work backward from the completion date to calculate when to begin the project. Evaluate each action in the context of all other actions to see if priorities can guide the timing, and to see how it fits, time-wise, into the overall agenda.

  7. Define How: This requires identifying the needs of the action. Is there a need for money? Does the group need to recruit additional volunteers? Does the action suggest that you might want to apply for a grant from a foundation or government agency? Is sufficient expertise represented in the 'who' list to either fulfill the action directly or find a way to get others to do it? Are material resources needed? Is further planning needed? Looking at the action, the way it is worded, who is responsible and involved, and when you want it accomplished are clues for the formulation of the 'how' component. You may need to schedule another meeting to discuss this last step when fresh minds and clear thinking are an advantage. It may also be more effective for those who are responsible for completing this task to create a work plan that specifies the steps and materials necessary. In other words, create a mini action agenda for each task detailing how and when the task will be accomplished. This smaller group can report back to the larger group at a future meeting.

  8. Pull it all together: Draw the material together and type it up. In addition to the actions, consider including an introduction giving the background on the group's formation, steps taken to this point, and goal statements and visions. Also have a short conclusion about what is going to happen next.


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