When it comes to community work, residents and neighborhoods have many goals and objectives. It is extremely important to tackle goals in a manageable way. There is a method for creating goals called SMART goals.

By creating a process for identifying and achieving overall long-term goals and smaller short-term goals, you can make your neighborhood vision a reality. Creating a SMART framework allows you to develop an effective strategy and action plan to accomplish and measure outcomes within a defined time frame.

SMART Goal Worksheet (Word Doc)


You must know what you are working toward before you can plan a successful course of action. Define the goal as clearly as possible, why it is important, who will be involved and how you want to achieve it. Get as specific and detailed as possible


In order to know if you have reached your goal, you have to be able to measure it. Having measurable goals not only tells you when you successfully reach them, but also allows you to track progress, meet your deadlines and stay motivated and focused. When framing goals, always ask the question, “How will I know when it is accomplished?”


Goals should be challenging, but realistic and attainable. If they’re too easy, there’s really no point. And if they’re impossible, it will increase frustration and could kill the group’s momentum. Identify how you will accomplish the goal. By laying out the game plan, you can identify constraints, limitations and necessary leg work. Be mindful of elements that are out of your control.


Make sure the goal matters and is meaningful. It should be relevant to the needs / desires of the neighborhood, and to other goals. Relevance will drive the group forward. It also needs to be the right time, so be aware of other factors and the current socioeconomic climate

Time Bound

Creating timeframes and target dates will drive progress by creating a sense of ‘urgency’ while also being realistic based on the group’s capacity. It is important to establish achievable timelines for the end goal/long-term results as well as more frequent, shorter-term deadlines.

Goals vs. Tactics

It can be easy to confuse or interchange goals and tactics. A goal is the end outcome that you want to achieve. A tactic is a tool/activity used to reach that goal. It is important to view them as two distinct things. Sometimes with community work, people focus so much on the tactics that they forget the overall goal, which impacts project sustainability. For example, a cleanup is a tactic to achieve the goal of reducing litter. Focusing just on repeated cleanups could be an easy habit to fall into, because it is a tangible, feel-good tactic. However, it does not address the root causes of the ongoing litter.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths | Weaknesses | Opportunities | Threats

As part of creating goals and tactics, as well as asset-mapping, it is very helpful to do a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Thinking through and identifying these things can help to prioritize tactics, projects and goals. This can be a great activity in smaller working groups, or compiled from individuals. When addressing various neighborhood issues, think about who holds power or controls the ‘issue.’ In some cases, this may be an entity or it may be undefinable.

Timelines and Benchmarking

Defining one large overall goal and final deadline without smaller goals, tasks, and evaluation methods will not allow time to make necessary changes and adjustments to strategies, tactics, and larger goals. Not breaking down the process into smaller increments and timelines makes it less likely to meet the overall desired outcome.

Benchmarks are shorter goals and timelines that allow you to build out the incremental steps, goals, and phases that will move the group along to the desired overall goal. It is much easier to identify the long-term goal and timeline first, and then work backward to create medium-term and short-term goals and benchmarks. Goals in any phase should be SMART.

Additional Resources

SMART Goal Resources


Timeline / Benchmark Resources (PDF)


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