MAX 401 Teaching Team > MAX 401 Civic Engagement Action Plan Workshop

Preliminary Prospectus

Due 9/6.
Please set up the prospectus as shown below, including the section headings shown in bold. Use single spacing and aim for a document that is 1-2 pages. Don’t include the text below the headings: that’s guidance on what to address in each section.
The purpose of the prospectus is to help make sure your project is focused and feasible before you get too far down the track. Since it’s a prospectus, not a final plan, be concise: each section can be just a couple of sentences. However, make it professional: pay attention to spelling and grammar, and please number the pages.
Finally, each of the sections below contains a "tip" section with advice based on pitfalls that have happened to people in previous semesters. Those tips are not theoretical: they are all based on things people have learned the hard way.

Broad social problem

What is the big picture problem?  You’ll eventually need to justify having other people spend real resources addressing it, so be sure it’s a compelling social problem and not just something that bugs you personally.
Tip: It's often harder than you think to nail down the social problem well, especially if you've been thinking about the issue for a while. It's easy to forget that other people have their own concerns and may not see yours as a high priority, or may not see it as their responsibility. A good test would be to imagine you have to persuade a neutral but hard-nosed person who doesn't initially agree with you to spend a significant amount of time and money on your issue.

Specific problem and population affected

What specific aspect of the social problem are you addressing? What is your target geographic area and demographic group? Be as specific and concrete as possible. It’s not required yet but soon you'll need to present data on the scope of the problem: that is, on the number of people affected and the severity of the problem they face.
Tip: If you haven't already begun thinking about how you would quantify those things, start now. A very good step would be to list some potential sources of data in the prospectus.

Existing organizations working on the issue

What organizations are already working on the problem, or are working on something close to it?  This will be an important list: one of these organizations could become your partner.  The others could be allies or, potentially, competitors for resources you’ll need.  This section will never be empty: even if no one is working on exactly what you have in mind, someone will be working on a related problem.
Tip: Spend some time looking into this thoroughly: do not assume you know all the players. It can be a very big problem, and very embarassing, if you discover late in the game that another organization has been working on your issue for years, or has already landed a large grant to work on it.

Preliminary description of the action

What kind of new action do you want to launch?  At this point, a rough idea is OK: you don’t need a detailed plan. However, you should start looking through the literature in the area.  You’ll eventually need to provide a detailed plan for the action, and also provide some evidence that it could work: e.g., that it has been tried elsewhere and been successful.
Tip: Look hard for places and organizations that have used similar actions or have dealt with similar problems. Learning from their experience is a huge plus and has led to some excellent projects in the past. To be clear, this class focuses on addressing problems successfully, not on creativity per se: it's completely fine to launch an initiative in your target location that has a proven record of success elsewhere.

Resources required

Roughly what resources (people, money, time, space, etc.) will be needed for the action?  Be careful not to underestimate: you’ll lose credibility later on if you approach a partner organization and haven’t been realisitic about what's required. Also, think about how you’ll recruit participants from the population you’re trying to reach.
Tip: Be very wary about thinking that little will be required. If that were true, someone would have fixed the problem before now. Be sure not to say that the only resource needed will be your time: that's never enough. Remember that everyone you want to engage has other responsibilities. Even if you don't need a lot of money, it can be asking a lot to get people to devote attention to your issue, especially in an ongoing basis.

Initial organization to engage

Identify at least one organization that could be a potential partner for your action. Why does the organization seem appropriate? Who will you contact there? Be sure to read the organization’s mission statement to see if your project is consistent with it.
Tip: If you're not already working with the organization, do enough research that you can identify a specific individual by name and know how to contact them (email address, phone number, office location, etc.) That's important because if you can't identify a specific person, it almost always indicates that you don't know enough about the organization.
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Peter J Wilcoxen, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 09/06/2019