Center for Community Futures
P.O. Box 5309
Berkeley, CA 94705

Contact Us:

Jim Masters, Consultant (510) 459-7570
Matt Klapperich, Accounting Consultant (510) 339-3801
Allen Stansbury, Consultant in Public Policy Research Analysis (707) 540-5776
Teresa Wickstrom, Head Start Consultant (909) 790-0670

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Strategic Planning Retreats for Community Action Agencies, 2017-2018

Click here for the PDF

Dear CAA Director:

The new CSBG organizational standards have prompted many CAA’s to review their approach to strategic planning.  Some CAA’s are focusing on creating an organizational improvement plan to tune up their systems, facilities and to build capacity of their staff.   Most CAA’s can do this on their own.  If there is a conflict among staff, or the board is lagging behind in their understanding then you may benefit from a local facilitator help with the discussion, but this is not what I want to do.

A CAA can achieve the minimal degree of compliance with the standards just by extending their annual CAP plan for a few more years into the future.  You can do this yourself in a 1/2 day retreat with your board.  You don’t need help to do this, and this is not what I want to do.

Some CAA’s collect a lot of information about the conditions of poverty--who is poor, where they live, and other demographic information.   But they do not look at the underlying causes.  They develop anti-destitution strategies in response to the conditions that help some people obtain a minimal quality of life by piecing together income sources, food and other stuff needed to get by.    I don’t see these approaches as changing social conditions or expanding opportunities so this is not what I want to do.

Some CAA’s want to bring about change in the community, either for an entire neighborhood or population group.  This IS what I want to do.  The challenge here is that most of the trends in the U.S. are running against large-scale improvements.  Jobs are being automated out of existence.  Remember bank tellers before ATM’s and gas station attendants before self-service pumps?  Now, real estate brokers, sales people, lawyers, office clerks, accountants, cashiers, food servers, warehouse workers and most other types of information processing jobs are being automated.  WebMD and Dr. Watson are replacing some functions of medical personnel.  Experiments are being done is almost all states to cross-link databases.  Soon, virtually all eligibility will be pre-determined in the cloud.  National productivity has continued to grow, but job growth and wages are stagnant.  The share of national productivity paid out in wages is at its lowest level ever.  Jobs with benefits are increasingly scarce.  The middle class is shrinking.  The “gig economy” (Uber, Homejoy, TaskRabbit) is replacing full-time jobs.  Are you helping the people you work with to get into these new systems?  Some say “new jobs will appear, because they always have.”  But, 9 out of 10 jobs are in occupations that existed 100 years ago, and those are the occupations that are now experiencing shrinkage.  The White Paper that Allen Stansbury and I prepared for the Partnership reviews these unhappy trends in great detail.  See: 

As we see it, there are two approaches that have some possibility of offsetting the negative trends.  One is to change the rules under which the economy operates, by: changing family leave policies, increasing minimum wage, expanding child care, creating public service jobs, being paid for caring for families and neighbors, various forms of asset sharing (Airbnb), expanding what you get if you are working (EITC), and other changes.  At the recent World Future Society conference, several speakers made the case that health will be the next civil rights movement.  A former Director at HHS/OCS said his analysis was that 30% of poverty could be eliminated if all Americans had health insurance and access to health care. 

J-o-b-s are no longer sufficient for millions of people to earn a share in the gross national product.  The other approach is to look at new ways of thinking about how people can “make a living.”  Examples include community supported agriculture, co-housing, makerspaces, artisanal work in metals and wood,  producing culture (400,000 hours of YouTube videos and 350 million photos are posted to Facebook EVERY DAY), 3-d printing, tiny homes, new contests in sports and video games, reducing consumption, trading services, Transition Towns, and various forms of “citizen’s income.”  Remember that the Office of Economic Opportunity ran several guaranteed annual income experiments in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and President Nixon was in favor of a GAI.  Nine other countries are exploring ways to do citizen’s incomes, and so should the U.S.

As most of you know, I work with Head Start focusing on the Parent Family Community Engagement framework.  This new framework integrates all the latest research on parenting, nutrition, brain development, adverse childhood experiences, and two-generation strategies.   This is brilliant stuff, but it is a very long-haul investment.  Whether you have Head Start or not, you should be looking at the PFCE framework for ideas about family development and helping the prenatal-to-five age group.  I think there will be a huge expansion of investment in this area.  Is your CAA a player, or are you an observer?

Most needs assessments describe the conditions but not the causes of those conditions.   But, we now know why wages have stagnated. We now know why income inequality is increasing.  We now know why the middle class is shrinking and is going to continue to shrink.  We now know why the American Dream” of hard work and playing by the rules” will no longer produce a decent living for millions of families.  The challenge is to figure out what CAA’s can do about these trends and their causes.

I want to work with the CAA’s that are exploring (1) how to change the rules under which the economy operates, and (2) alternative approaches to making a living.  I want to help your CAA expand the conversation beyond the traditional “needs assessment,” and anti-destitution strategies. 

I want to meet with you early in your process and show you some of these causes, and help your CAA engage in a spirited discussion about what can be done.  I can provide new data, new information, new knowledge, new perspectives—and new energy—to the remainder of your strategic planning process.

For most agencies, this can be done in a one-day retreat.  I will want to read your most recent needs assessment, CAP Plan and/or strategic plan, then have a conversation with you about which of the mountain of new information will be most interest to your CAA. 

The fee for this is $1,700 plus travel.

Sincerely,    James I. Masters, CCAP, NCRT

P.S.  I wrote both “CAA Planning Manuals” for the National Association of CAA’s in the 1990’s.  I wrote the “major planning issues for board members” for Cal/Neva.  I have done strategic planning “how to” seminars for CAA’s and Head Start.  I have facilitated about 30 strategic planning processes for CAA’s.  You can see my full resume at   I should warn you, it is long because I have been working in community action for a loooooong time.

P.P.S Contact me at or 510.459.7570




Strategic Planning Seminars for Local Head Start Programs 

by the Center for Community Futures

Each seminar runs 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on day one, and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on day 2. (You can modify these times.)

The Agenda
The Lead Trainer: Jim Masters
What Your Colleagues Say about the Strategic Planning Seminars

Strategic Planning for Head Start Programs

Here are eight reasons why you should have Jim come to your site and do this seminar on strategic planning:

1.  GET MOVING AGAIN ON THE BIG SHIFT.  Until 1998, the Head Start was a classic compliance-driven grant-in-aid program based on thousands of rules.  In 1998 the Congress and the Head Start Bureau initiated a shift to become a principle-driven, plan-based program with greater local flexibility.  The Federal Review tool reflects this systems approach. We are right in the middle of this paradigm shift.  Some people on the review teams switch back and forth between these two mental models during their visit.  (“Tell us about your management vision” and “Show me the toothbrushes?”)

    Some of the momentum in moving to a principle-driven program with expanded local flexibility has been lost because of a large number of new initiatives, but the opportunity is still there for you to make this change.  By completing this shift, you expand and define a local policy space that you own – and that provides room for growth based on local priorities.  An unintended consequence of the emphasis on child outcomes is that your activities may be narrowed down to only those activities that move the numbers on child outcomes.  You can preserve your flexibility to develop the whole child and the whole family and to pursue local initiatives by completing the shift to a vision driven, principle driven, plan-based program.

2.  GET A HANDLE ON MISSION CREEP.  Over the years Congress has expanded your duties to provide “all needed services” to “all members of the family” and to focus on “self sufficiency.”  You can not be all things to all people.  You have to put some boundaries on your activity now and in the future.

3.  CREATE STATE-WIDE AGREEMENTS ON SCHOOL READINESS.  No matter what Congress does on child outcomes, the trend is that within a few years America will have universal pre-school -- and this will happen state-by-state. Whether there is a block grant or not, you need to work out an agreement with your state department of education and with other pre-school programs about what it means for a child to be “school ready.”  Head Start programs in California and a couple of other states have done a good job of creating standards that work both for state-funded preschools AND for Head Start.  We will look at these examples and talk about how to do this in your state.

4.  DEVELOP OR REFINE YOUR LOCAL PROCESS.  There is no mandated process for strategic planning or for making the shift to the principle-driven approach.  You have to develop your own “plan for planning” or “policies and procedures” for planning.  We provide you with samples; you leave with a draft. 

5.  REFINE YOUR FORMAT. There is no standard format for what goes into a Head Start program area plan or a strategic plan.  You have to develop your own -- and we help you do that right in the workshop.

6.  RESOLVE CONFLICTING DEFINITIONS. The publications from the Federal level, including the Statute, the IM’s, the A.C.F. Head Start strategic plan itself, the training guides –all were written at different times by different groups of people.   There are different – and sometimes conflicting – definitions of, for example, a purpose, a mission, a goal, an objective, a performance measure and an indicator.  I will help you reconcile these conflicts.

7.  FINISH DEVELOPING YOUR LOCAL OUTCOME INDICATORS. There are 24 mandated performance measures and in theory YOU are responsible for developing local indicators of how you are doing on all 24 (IM-00-03).  The Head Start Bureau intended to provide an array of options for all 24 indicators.  They started developing examples of indicators and provided you with examples for the first 8 (the child outcomes) of the 24 (in IM-00-18)   But then they stopped.  In both the 2002 and the 2003 HHS/ACF national performance reports, we see that Head Start is reporting nationally on only 12 of the 24 mandated measures, and most of the data are from FACES instead of from the local programs.  I think what happened here is that (a) the leadership on development of the whole range of outcomes to cover the entire program came primarily form the late Helen Taylor, and (b) the daily workload of the organization was challenged with Presidential Initiatives (fatherhood, literacy, etc) and (c) everybody’s attention shifted to the National Reporting System and its emphasis on the child outcomes.  Your curriculum vendor is providing you with tools for the child outcomes, but YOU STILL ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR DEVELOPING THE OTHERS.  You should have something for your own use – and that you can show to an auditor or to a review team -- on all 24 measures.  YOU WILL LEAVE THIS WORKSHOP WITH DRAFT MEASURES FOR ALL 24.

8.  OVERCOME TYPICAL PROCESS CHALLENGES.  There are some typical reasons that most plans either never get finished at all or never get used, such as: a.  No compelling reason for doing the plan in the first place.  b. There is no planning system and no step-by-step process, so people do not know what to do. c.  The people involved in the process drown in data.  d.  The staff who are managing the planning process burn out.  e.  The process gets loaded down with other local issues.  We should you how to avoid these problems and the 6 other most common mistakes. 

James I. Masters, Knowledge Worker

Bring your issues and challenges for discussion. You get an excellent Seminar Workbook and exercises to help you build your plan. You get 40 handouts – just about everything in print that relates to Head Start planning. It is a real library.

Come get "unstuck."  Get a handle on this whole results and outcomes issue, learn how to use the Federal Review tool to structure your planning, clear the fog, and light a beacon for your local process.

Results/Outcomes and Planning for Head Start Programs: We shape this draft agenda to meet your need.

1. A brief history of strategic planning in human service programs.

2. The new G.P.R.A. framework: key terms and definitions used by all Federal agencies.

bulletPurpose, vision, values, mission, goals, objectives, results and outcome measures.

3. Strategic Planning in H.H.S.

bulletThe H.H.S. Strategic Plan and how A.C.F. fits into it.
bulletThe ACF Strategic Plan and how Head Start fits into it.
bulletThe Federal Review tool and performance standards for local Head Start planning – what is required.
bulletHow CSBG and ROMA relate to Head Start strategic planning.

4. Compare and contrast strategic planning processes for possible use in your local Head Start program. You may decide to adopt elements from one or more of these approaches:

bulletRegion IV Q.I.C.
bulletUnited Way of America, strategic planning and results.
bulletWilder Foundation, Minneapolis, MN
bullet"Applied Strategic Planning in a Head Start Setting." Tim Nolan, Ph.D.
bulletStrategic Mapping, by The Rensselearville Institute, Rensselearville, New York
bulletStrategic Planning for America’s Schools.
bulletC.S.B.G. and R.O.M.A.
bulletG.P.R.A. framework and definitions.
bulletAppreciative Inquiry

5. How various pieces fit together – or don’t.

bulletThe Community Assessment grew to include topics that are in strategic plans.
bulletHow to use the Federal Review tool to shape your program area plans/strategic plan.
bulletPolicies and procedures and how they can relate to plans.
bulletRelating your Plan to the Grant Application ACYF-IM-HS-00-12.

6. The incredible challenges with measuring results and outcomes in human development. The social science methods are very difficult to use. That is why FACES and the Impact Evaluation are national studies. Locally -- don’t bite off more than you can chew!

We will review several approaches to outcome measurement:

bulletIndividual and family outcomes; scales and ladders.
bulletCommunity outcomes.
bulletWhy you should avoid using social indicators to measure your results.
bulletUsing Child Outcomes in Program Self-Assessment. ACYF-IM-HS-00-18.
bulletHow FACES relates to G.P.R.A., the H.H.S. A.C.F. plan and your strategic plan.

"Now you’ve got the background needed, let’s create your local approach!"

7. Create your plan-for-planning and the framework for your plan. "Hands on" exercises to:

bulletClarify WHY you are planning and what you want to get done with your plan.
bulletChoose the scope of your plan, and the major issues you will and won’t address.
bulletMark up your strategic plan framework (the outline or table of contents for your plan).
bulletUse the Federal Review tool to create a goal structure for your plan.
bulletRelate the Head Start plan and goal structure to a sponsor agency plan/goals.
bulletPut the mandatory results and outcome measures under the correct goal.
bulletDiscuss 4 methods for identifying new indicators if no indicators exist yet.
bulletIdentify WHO will be involved in your planning process, WHY, and WHEN, and WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM.
bulletClarify planning management tasks and who will do them.
bulletCreate a planning calendar.

You will leave this seminar with:

bulletThe first draft of your own strategic plan framework. Use, modify or replace sections of the framework that is presented in the workshop.
bulletYour plan-for-planning checklist and worksheets.
bulletYour draft planning calendar.
bulletA diskette with the seminar workbook, the exercises, the draft plan-for-planning, the draft of the outline for your plan, and many other planning tools on it. 
bulletYour anxieties soothed, your fears calmed – and 40 terrific handouts.

On-Site Training. 

Yes, we can do this seminar for your staff, Policy Council, Sponsor Board/staff, delegate agencies, the trainers you will use locally -- and anybody else you want. Limited to 75 participants per session. This is especially good for working out an approach with delegate agencies about how to develop a plan together. Or, get several sponsors to share the cost. The basic cost for a two-day session is $2,500, plus travel and printing costs. Create the consensus you need to get your process moving!

The Lead Trainer.  

Jim Masters, President of the Center for Community Futures, has worked with Head Start Programs since 1966 when he started work at the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity as a Field Representative. His first job at OEO was processing applications for what was then the summer Head Start program! Jim sponsors the Summer Institutes on Family Development, publishes Policies on Diskette, the Review READY! Workbooks (1998-2010), the Policy Manager Software and many other tools for local Head Start programs. Jim worked with Federal agencies on their G.P.R.A. strategic planning for several years, and is on the H.H.S. A.C.F. O.C.S. Monitoring and Assistance Task Force which developed ROMA. He has facilitated many local strategic planning processes, including the successful $158,000,000 school bond issue for Berkeley schools. He has conducted dozens of workshops on strategic planning. Check out his full bio and the tools for Head Start at

What Your Colleagues Say About The Seminar

"Samples and drafts were excellent! The trainer has extensive knowledge about the subject." -- Naimah Sierra, Director of Planning, Action for Better Community, Rochester, NY

"Just outstanding. Very grateful for the information and materials." -- Steve Hoffman, MIS Manager. 

"Jim is a valuable resource." -- Shirley Hall, Deputy Director of Early Childhood, ABC Head Start Program, Rochester, NY

"Excellent!" -- Eric Record, Program Operations Manager, Community Action of NE Indiana, Ft. Wayne, IN

"Practical suggestions. Interesting experiences. Excellent knowledge of human services." -- Barbara Metcalf, Administrative Assistant, Central Texas Opportunities, Coleman, TX

    If you would like more information about the Head Start Strategic Planning Seminars, call Jim Masters at 510-459-7570.  

Center for Community Futures. 
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