The Citizen Handbook

Citizen Participation

Activating Citizen Power

Getting Started

Now that you have a better understanding of citizen participation, it is time to harness your citizen power in a practical way that affects your community and local government. This starts with organising yourself, conducting research and planning what it is you want to do.

Roadmap to Successful Participation

The roadmap to successful citizen participation in local governance and community affairs can fit into six steps:

1. Identify community needs

2. Assemble a citizen group

3. Form partnerships and networks

4. Utilize tools and tactics

5. Keep the community informed

6. Seek feedback

You should first identify the needs or issues of your community and then assemble a group of citizens to address those needs or issues. Once you form a group, it should seek to work with other like-minded groups through partnerships and networks.This will improve the overall impact of your group’s work. Finally, your group and its partners should utilize tools and tactics to engage the community and then follow up with citizens to keep them informed of the progress and/or challenges they face.

Importance of Strategic Planning

Planning is important to the success of any citizen-driven effort. A plan sets the direction of your path to success. Without a plan, you and your group will most likely waste valuable resources.The many unexpected events and challenges that happen during the course of your work will also easily distract you. By planning and budgeting, you and your team will be able to identify short-term goals, calculate the costs, and create a series of clear steps that lead to your ultimate goals. A plan will also help you establish indicators so that you can measure the progress of your work and make adjustments, if necessary.

In order for your plan to be effective, it will need to be flexible, have a central theme or vision, specific objectives and messages. Your plan should guide you through the various decisions you need to make during your work such as setting fundraising goals, the number of volunteers you will need, and the type of communication strategy you will use.

The tactics used in the course of your work (i.e. door-knocking campaigns, rallies, petition initiatives, etc.) should fit into your plan's objectives and overall strategy. It is important that you and your other group members spend time to develop a strategy and activities that support your objectives. Finally, all members of your group should understand your plan and work hard to implement it.

Three Basic Questions

A strategic plan usually answers three basic questions:

     · What must you do in order to achieve your goals (desired change)?

Identifying ways to put your mission into action will help clarify your mission, the vision behind it and the overall goals driving your efforts.

   · Whom does your mission serve?

It is important to consider the population you want to target (i.e. youth, workers, etc.). Your plan will be likely to succeed if you are able to customize it to the needs of your target population.

   · How will you successfully achieve your goals (desired change)?

Once you have a clear understanding of the purpose of your mission and target population, you must then outline the details of your objectives and the tactics you will use to achieve them.

Components of a S.M.A.R.T. Objective

When creating objectives, you should apply the following S.M.A.R.T. criteria:

  • Specific:Is the objective specific?
  •  Measurable:
  •  Achievable:Is the objective realistic?
  •  Relevant:Will the objective support the overall strategy or plan?
  •  Time-bound:Does the objective have a defined timeline?

Components of a Strategic Plan

1. Vision

Your vision defines how your group will change over time in pursuit of your mission. A vision is how your organization views itself over an extended period of time, or what you envision your organization standing for or representing through its mission and actions.

2. Mission

A mission describes the major reason why you are doing your work – the overall impact/desired change that you hope to achieve from your activities and efforts. A mission generally describes why a group exists and what it does to achieve its vision. A mission can be used to outline an individual’s or a group’s efforts in the future and the ways in which they will work together to accomplish a specific task. A mission statement details the type of work that will be done and how it will affect the target population.

3. Values

Values are core beliefs shared among the stakeholders of a community or group. They drive priorities and provide a framework for decision-making. A group will often refer to its values by making tough decisions on future strategy and goals.

4. Strategy

A strategy is a roadmap for how you or your group will go about achieving the mission. A strategy must be realistic, and as such should be able to answer six basic questions:

1. Who?

2. What?

3. When?

4. Where?

5. Why?

6. How?

5. Tactics

Tactics are the tools you will use to implement your strategy. They can range from specific functions or events like rallies or meetings with members of Parliament or specific communication tactics like SMS campaigns or Facebook communication. When selecting tactics the first rule is to make sure that they complement your strategy. Always remember that you have limited resources so it is important that the tactics actually help, and not cripple, your strategic plan.

6. Budget

The success of your strategic plan will depend on the resources available to you and/or your group. Therefore, you should develop a written budget to reflect the cost of your strategic plan. Your budget should outline the cost of each activity, item or service you will need to implement the tactics in your plan.

Sample Template Budget


Estimated Cost

Date Needed
















Total Cost:


7. Implementation Timeline

An implementation timeline includes specific dates, resources needed; person(s) assigned to specific tasks, as well as anticipated external events, policy changes and other important events that may affect the strategy (i.e. elections, public holidays, leadership changes, etc.) This timeline should be available to all group members and partners. A simple example of an implementation timeline is below:

Sample Implementation Timeline




Resources Needed



Organize a baraza in town


Flyers and airtime for mobilization; refreshments; venue; tents; chairs; list of speakers; agenda; hand outs

2500 KES


Print results of community survey

(100 copies)


Final survey results on flash disk; paper; toner; borrowed printer and computer; stapler

3700 KES


Update Facebook page


Borrowed computer and Internet USB; airtime credit; photos and report on 2-Oct baraza; copy of community survey results

300 KES


Meeting with local MP and District officer

Said/ Moses

Printed copy of community survey; report from 2-Oct barazas; transport money; airtime for follow-up calls

200 KES


Monthly group meeting

(Up to 20 pax)


Airtime for mobilization; printed agenda; copies of community survey; borrowed computer and printer; toner; paper; refreshments; venue (Said’s house?)

500 KES

Before you begin scheduling events on your timeline though, take time to think through each detail of each activity. You will need to assess what you need to accomplish for the activity to be a success, including such things as preparation time, mobilization and resources.

For instance, if you plan to conduct small community meetings in each of the villages comprising your community, you should ask yourself the following questions:

   · How many villages do I need to visit to achieve my objective?

   · Where should I begin these meetings and where do I need to finish them?

   · Am I including the necessary travel time between villages?

   · How many residents am I trying to meet in each village?

   · Will I hold a meeting with community, tribal or political leaders in certain villages? If so, who are they?

   · Will I need to bring printed materials like information brochures and posters? If so, when will I need to print them? How will they be delivered?

   · Are there other like-minded individuals and/or groups doing similar meetings in the areas I am targeting? If so, when are the meetings and where?

   · Are there any other important events (i.e. religious services, community meetings, holidays, etc.) that will affect my visit?

You can begin placing each activity on the timeline once the details of each activity are clear. This timeline will help you ensure that your strategic plan stays on track. It will hold you and/or your group accountable for the plans committed to in your strategic plan and will help with measuring short-term progress and goals.

8. Monitoring & Evaluation

Monitoring involves observing and collecting information, and keeping track of every step taken in the process of implementing your plan. Monitoring will help answer questions from supporters and the community about your activities. Evaluation, meanwhile, is the use of information collected during monitoring in order to make judgments about the progress and success of a project. Evaluation is an assessment of how well a project or an activity is doing with regard to the fulfillment of objectives and the achievement of the desired impact. Information obtained can be used to make changes and improvements based on lessons that are learned during the implementation of activities.

What Should Be Monitored and Evaluated?

You can apply monitoring and evaluation to various elements of your project. The following components are examples of things that you can monitor and evaluate within your project:

   · Team members – It can be useful to learn about the ways in which different people involved in the implementation of the project feel about the progress, successes or challenges associated with the project. What evidence of an overall impact have they observed? What recommendations do they have? What specific aspects of the project are working or not working?

   · Target population– It is also useful to consult those who are directly affected by the work you are doing in order to collect valuable feedback about things that are working or not working within your project’s implementation. They are also best equipped to provide on-going assessments of the project’s progress.

   · Budget – It is vital to monitor the financial and other resources used throughout the implementation of your activities. For instance, you might ask is if the project’s resources are being used according to the strategic plan? Can you anticipate overspending? Have you remained within the boundaries of funds allocated to specific line items within your budget?

   · Implementation of activities – It is crucial that you monitor the implementation of your activities to ensure that they are taking place in a timely and efficient manner. Monitoring implementation of your activities will ensure they are going according to plan, completed on time, and there are enough resources available to accomplish all of the planned activities.

   · Quality of activities – You can use monitoring and evaluation to ensure that your activities are meeting your desired standard of quality and reflect the values of your organization.

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