The Planning Cycle - Planning Framework
The planning framework provides the structure that will facilitate decision-making in the organization. For fiscal planning, the planning framework will outline two major processes: one for matching revenues with expenditures; and the other for determining priorities between the program and service needs that almost always exceed available budgets.
You may not realize it, but you already have a planning framework of some kind in your organization-whether or not it is effective is another question. Many First Nations operate without an overall plan or goal. Decisions are more haphazard as decision-makers react to various issues as they come up. This is one type of Planning Framework but it is not an effective one.
The Planning Framework proposed in the Fiscal Planning Calendar is based upon the establishment of a broad mandate approved by the leadership and the identification of specific goals, objectives, and priorities within that mandate. Implicit in the Planning Framework is an information sharing process with the community where goals are developed to meet its needs.
A community-based planning framework builds on the principles of strategic planning in a community context. Community-based planning means that decision-makers develop a process to achieve goals and objectives that will create a better community. Often the community will have a vision of what it wants to be like in the future. In addition, the Band Council may develop a mission statement to help guide decision-making in that direction. Thus, the strategic plan begins with the community's vision and the Council's mission.
A common vision allows a community to:
The community vision is determined primarily by community members with the support of Chief and Council, and Band staff as desired. The community vision is not normally mandate-specific-in other words, it will survive changes in leadership with new Band Councils. Visioning is literally looking ahead to the future and imagining what the community will be like in 10 to 20 years. This vision should not be developed in monetary terms but in a holistic sense that considers the community's social, environmental, political, organizational, and economic future. Here is an example:
The Red Feather First Nation is a healthy, vibrant, self-governing community that meets the needs of its people through diverse economic development opportunities, adequate housing and infrastructure, a culturally-relevant educational system, a fair social program, and an adequate health system.
In the case of a First Nation, the mission statement will identify the Band, touch on Band programs and services, and identify how they are provided to the community members. For example:
The Red Feather Band Council is a First Nation government committed to sharing, developing and enhancing the social, economic, health, housing, and educational opportunities of our community while respecting our traditions. Together, we will ensure that these opportunities contribute to a sustainable environment which our children and their children will inherit.
Roles and Responsibilities:
The primary responsibility for ensuring the First Nation lives up to its mission statement is jointly held by Band Council and staff.
Basic Data Collection:
But before Band Councils can do this, decision-makers need to be informed of the current status of life in the community. To become informed, Council requires updated information from its staff, the Band Manager and Program Directors (see Program Accountability).
First Nation decision-makers need this information for three reasons: first, to assess the overall results of the expenditures and effectiveness of the Band-run programs; second, to identify areas that need to be better addressed; and third, to then set priorities for the upcoming fiscal year based on this analysis. First Nations have a real stake in knowing whether funded programs and existing policies are having the desired effect. Collecting data to answer some of the sample questions above can help set a new direction in planning for the future.
With the assistance of the Band Manager, a listing of available data should be prepared for Band Council. This list should include, but not be limited to:
Excellent sources for base data are the Program Year-End Reports. These reports will help Band Council to identify trends that may need to be addressed through project funding because comparisons can be made from the last few years' reports. The benefit of using year-end reports is that the information in them has been collected in a relatively consistent manner over the years. (For more information regarding the types of data available in year-end program reports, see the DIAND National Reporting Guide.)
Other sources of data include a community census, needs assessments, and Statistics Canada profiles. Band staff need basic data with which to develop the preliminary program budgets. For the purpose of this fiscal planning calendar, the financial information required by Band Council for the planning cycle include the following reports generated in the Budgetary and Accountability Cycles.
When a First Nation first undertakes Fiscal Planning, all the data listed above may not be available. But, this should not stop the process from getting underway-fiscal planning, even without all the base data, can significantly improve your overall effectiveness as a Band Council and administration.