Study Process

The completion schedule of reports averages 3-4.5 years based on the seasonal opportunities for best participation from residents, the cycles of local government operations, and the continuing involvement of all committee members. The actual time needed reflects the number of potential topics under consideration, the time needed to research the topic and study each issue’s influence on Chesterfield County.

The committee uses a seven-step process to meet its goals. During each step of this process the committee seeks input from outside sources particularly residents and county departments. The executive committee meets prior to each step to access the progress-to-date and to map out the next phase.

(7 months) Organization of the Report. This begins with selecting a topic and developing a work plan. All county departments are contacted for suggestions of long-range challenges to the county. These are added to the list of topics considered in the past. Members recommend topics after developing a short pro-con analysis to explain the suggestions.

Once the committee has a short list of four to six topics, they hear panels of experts discuss each topic. These panels are made of representatives from county departments, state agencies, private business or industry, non-profit organizations and academic institutions.

After the topic is selected, members determine what the study will require and set more defined target dates.

(8 months) Environmental Scan. This search for information from many different areas assists the committee in determining the scope of the report. Most issues become unwieldy if not narrowed to a more focused subject matter.

Research is varied depending upon the topic chosen. Often members read and discuss articles and books broadly defining the topic. Department directors have knowledge of particular issues as do representatives from the private sector and academia. Sometimes conferences, seminars or workshops are timed to coincide with the committee’s research. The committee has toured the county and county facilities as part of this phase.

Committee members develop a vision of the county twenty or thirty years in the future with relationship to the topic. Putting the mission of the report into words helps the committee define the scope of the report and stay on course over the ensuing months.

(10 months) Key Strategic Issues. Continuing in-depth research assists the committee in identifying and addressing key issues related to the topic under study. Identifying major trends early in the report process determines gaps in the research. Members work diligently to learn as much as possible about the core issues through their own research, with the help of county personnel and through discussions with expert panels.

The committee develops preliminary long-range (20-30 years) strategies for resolution of the challenges related to each major trend. These are compared to current county strategic planning practices.

(8 months) Internal/External Analyses. The scope of the report and preliminary strategies are discussed with county departments, interested residents and external organizations by scheduling presentations at internal staff meetings and external community meetings. This feedback coupled with additional research is used to develop the report outline.

(8 months) Strategies and Action Plans. The outline guides the writing of a draft narrative and assists the committee in crafting recommendations to include in the report. The draft is reviewed by county departments and interested individuals. Suggestions for additions, omissions and corrections are reviewed by the committee before a final document is published.

(4 months) Presentation. The report is presented at a scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting. After presentation to the board, it is given to county administration for a feasibility analysis. This determines the implementation plan the county will use.

Additional presentations are given at community meetings. The committee also does presentations upon request by private groups and organizations. Copies of the reports are distributed throughout the county, region and state.

(annually) Monitoring Implementation. The committee has NO authority to implement any of the strategies. Once the report and its recommendations have been presented the committee steps back except to monitor its implementation.

As required by county charter, the implementation status of recommendations and strategies in all reports to date are tracked annually. Recommendations from the Committee on the Future are, by definition, meant to be visionary. For this reason, many of them cannot be implemented immediately or even appear feasible for a number of years. Others become unfeasible due to lack of funding, manpower or community will. It is significant that the rate of implementation remains high. The percentage of recommendations that have been implemented or are in progress (ongoing programs) at any given time varies depending on the topic and when the report was completed.

Once a year each department is asked to report on the implementation status of all strategies that fall under the purview of its operation. The results are recorded and annual reports are sent to the Board of Supervisors.