Across the country, state stay-at-home orders remain in place as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches to summer. With reactionary communications, new operational systems or commerce platforms now established, industries are focusing on what reopening might look like for them.

Decisions loom large for community education and child care programs as the ever-important summer season is rapidly approaching. However, despite many unknowns, it’s important to look to the future. Programs everywhere are mapping out various situations regarding what reopening could look like to them with scenario planning.

When properly executed, scenario planning can prove to be a useful tool for your program in the coming months. For the community education and child care industries, scenario planning examines a certain set of realities as to what your programs could look like in the near future upon reopening.

Importance of Scenario Planning

Based on certain assumptions, scenario planning is one of the most beneficial ways programs can use this time to prepare for the future. Not preparing for realistic situations can potentially expose your program to increased risk and errors and unprepared staff once your community is allowed to return.

How your district eventually reopens can leave a lasting impression on your community members. Being prepared will help your community come out of this stronger than ever.

At its core, scenario planning allows you the luxury of truly thinking beyond the now. And it exercises your brain in ways that you don’t often indulge. If you base your scenarios on information you have and surmise, you help prepare your program for when your situation changes.

Where to Start

Start at your core values. Each scenario you plan for, and how you plan for it, should speak to the purpose of your programs. Scenario plans that tie to your core values are honest and realistic but are also creative and bold. Bring in your core leaders to begin, then add a couple rising stars, if applicable, to learn and provide a fresh perspective.

A good place to start is conducting a community scan. What’s the current situation? What’s changed? What’s your part in all of this?

Pull your team together and think about your options. If you can resume programming, what could it look like? For example, you could plan for delivering more online programming to your community, but it’s important to examine if that is what your community needs from you. Or, can you begin planning other initiatives that tie in to your values.

Driving Forces

After reinforcing your core values, it’s important to consider all of the driving forces that will go into your scenarios. Related to COVID-19, some of these forces will be federal or state mandates, along with economic and societal issues. Each situation you plan for should take these forces and how they will affect your program, into consideration.

At a higher level than the previous considerations, affirm your core values and who you serve. Your community is currently missing connections and belonging, so keep them at the front of your mind when developing plans.

What is Out of Your Control?

It’s just as important to plan for uncertainties when developing scenario plans. Similar to your driving factors, your uncertainties will likely focus on when you can reopen and under what parameters, and also public perception of safety when it comes to facets of everyday life.

Plausible Outcomes

After considering driving forces and elements beyond your control, it’s time to develop two or three scenarios using the best information at your disposal. Some scenarios will follow more conservative plans, while others should push the envelope a little more.

While developing these outcomes, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a wrong or right way to implement scenario planning. It’s a forward-thinking exercise. What’s important is that your plans tie back to your core values and you take the time to consider factors, outcomes and implications.

Once your plans are fully formed, you might also find yourself taking elements of certain plans and putting them together. This is a good thing. These plans are meant to be fluid and adapt to current circumstances.

Current Scenarios

Space and social distancing are significant elements to scenario plans for most industries in addition to community education and child care moving forward. Beyond these factors, consider the needs of the families in your district to drive your scenarios. Because what’s good for your community is good for you as a community education and child care provider.

Contributions to his post provided by Edina Community Education.