Community Planning and Zoning July 11, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Visioning is a participatory process involving stakeholders and citizens to develop a common vision for the community, or area of geography, for the plan being developed. Visioning can also be used to develop goals, which can be built upon to establish community objectives and strategies.

In the planning process this public participation technique often happens at the beginning. The visioning process can be conducted a number of different ways, concluding with one meeting or several meetings. It is designed to answer the question, “What does the community want to be in the future?” -- generally with a 20-30 year time horizon. The question is often answered with a visioning statement, which reflects the consensus of the participants in the process.

Visioning meeting(s) are conducted with professional facilitators.

The process of visioning is a means to express what a desirable future would look like, based on emphasized community values. The images of the future can be positive or negative and inspire different responses according to the perceptions.

For planning purposes, the vision is usually expressed as a positive, or desirable, image of the future community. It can be defined as a compelling, inspiring statement of the preferred future that the authors, and those who subscribe to the vision, want to create.

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed while using the visioning method. Vision comprises peoples’ values, wishes, fears and desires. In order to make the visioning process work it is necessary to ensure that it is not making an idealistic wish-list, the vision is an image of the future shared by the whole community and the vision can be translated into reality.

Once there is a consensus for the vision of the future, the next step is to link the past and present to the future. This is done by creating goals, objectives and strategies.

There are many ways to define goals, objectives and strategies. The definitions used here are intended to illustrate how the visioning process relates to the plan.

A goal is a utopian statement used to provide direction or describe the end-state that is desired by achieving the objectives and implementing the strategies. Often a goal is not really obtainable. An example of a goal would be “have pure water everywhere.” Often, several goals can be pulled from the visioning process and visioning statement.

For each goal there will be one or a number of objectives. An objective is an achievable point of reference that describes what is targeted in order to resolve an issue. Almost always an objective should be SMART -- that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Objectives establish benchmarks that move the community toward realization of its vision. As a community progresses from today to the future vision, the objectives provide reassurance that the community is on the path to achieving that vision. An example of an objective would be “annually maintain acceptable water quality.”

For each objective there will be one or a number of strategies, policies or methods. A strategy is a policy statement of a government’s position that is designed to achieve an objective(s). A strategy and method are the actual ways the policy and objective are implemented. An example of a policy would be to “use state standards for water quality measures.” It is important that there are people, a government or an agency that is committed to carrying out the strategy, policy or method. An example of a strategy or method would be to “implement controls to annually maintain water quality that meets state standards”.

While goals can be used from the visioning process, objectives, policies, strategies and methods will result from further work in the planning process.


Kurt H. Schindler, AICP, Regional Land Use Educator
Michigan State University Extension

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