Planning Team

Creating your Planning Team is the first step to assessing your community’s need for a charitable clinic. ECHO has worked with successful planning teams as small as two people and as large as 20. Remember – we’re taking the first steps and assessing a need.

This section covers:

  • Charitable Clinics & Healthcare Reform
  • Building Community Support & Organizing a Community Meeting
  • Networking with Potential Partners
  • Conducting an Environmental Scan
  • Creating a Business Plan
  • Crafting Initial Mission, Vision, and Value Statements
  • Reflection Questions

Leadership Composition and Structure in Clinic Development

When imagining what it will take to develop and operate a new charitable clinic, individual visionaries or groups of interested parties will most naturally focus on the operational aspects of clinic development (who will the clinic serve, where will the clinic be located, what supplies will be needed?). Equally important, time should be spent thinking about what legal structure (for profit? nonprofit?) the clinic will employ to realize this vision and what resources will be needed in order to establish a governance structure that will preserve and promote the clinic’s essential place in your community’s health care safety net.

Indispensable Leaders*

Through their years of experience, ECHO Consultants have identified the following leadership functions as key in clinic development success:

  • Visionary: Gives voice to the clinic in the community in the earliest stages.
  • Medical Champion: Gives voice to the clinic in the medical community. Could be a part of the Operations Committee structure.
  • Planning Team Leader: Designs, implements and leads the Planning Team process. Responsible for getting the job done!
  • Data Champion: Assert and manage the power of valid data to document the initial and ongoing need for the clinic in the community. Could be a part of the Operations Committee structure.
  • Governance Ally: Ensures the role of governance is held in esteem and receives energy and effort equal to that of the efforts toward operations. Could be a part of the Legal Committee structure.

*These leadership roles and functions are not necessarily or typically held by 5 different individuals.

The Planning Team Structure and Intent

The Planning Team structure is devised in such a way to facilitate:

  • Broad enthusiasm for clinic development
  • Broad utilization of a variety of experience, skills and gifts brought by Planning Team and Committee members
  • Effective communication between the ECHO consultant and those involved in the development effort
  • Clarity among developers about roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority
  • Development of a culture and process that will be replicated in the clinic’s organizational chart (to include the role of the Board of Directors)

The body of the Planning Team is best illustrated as*:

*Details describing the tasks to be accomplished by the Planning Team and each Committee are found within the ECHO Benchmarks document.

The Planning Team Leader and Committee Chairs

The Planning Team (and the Board of Directors when formed) will have specific and time-sensitive projects to accomplish in their work, remaining mindful of the overlapping responsibilities and sequencing of their tasks. The Planning Team Leader and Committee Chairs will be most effective if they have experience and skills as effective organizers, in creating and leading strong teams of capable individuals with varied skill sets, in delegating responsibility and holding people accountable for results, in identifying and deploying outside resources as needed, and in communicating effectively and in a timely manner with a myriad of partners.

As the Committee Chairs and Planning Team Leader sit together in monthly meetings, they will be charged with holding the “bigger picture” of clinic development as opposed to simply being a representative of their particular area of work. It is this body of the Planning Team, then, that is best suited to make strategic decisions around clinic mission, vision, values, name, etc. Some decisions will naturally be informed by the recommendations that come from the committee work (Operations, for example, will make recommendations about the scope of service), but it is the Planning Team who must consider how all of the pieces will best fit together to form a clinic that is both vital and sustainable in the local community. Many clinics are developed by volunteers who have active and demanding personal and professional lives apart from clinic development; it is critical that those in leadership positions feel ready to take on the responsibilities that may span several weeks or months in the realization of the clinic opening its doors to patients.

The Planning Team Leader has the added responsibility of being the liaison between the Planning Team and the Board of Directors. When the Board begins meeting and engages in Board training, the Planning Team Leader should be a full participant, just as the Executive Director would function when this position is hired. One of the challenges faced by the Planning Team Leader is to clarify when decisions will be made by the Planning Team (perhaps upon the recommendation of a Committee) or when the final decision must be made by the Board of Directors. In many ways, the Planning Team Leader serves in the typical “middle management” position, requiring a commitment to timely communication with both the Board (whom the PT Leader reports to) and the Planning Team members where committee work is coordinated. Often this makes for challenging decision-making, but is an important skill as it sets the tone for the relationship between the Board of Directors and the eventual clinic Executive Director. This will be discussed in further detailing the following module.

The Composition and Characteristics of a Successful Clinic Planning Team

As with any community organizing effort, it is important to involve people with relevant occupational backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets on the Planning Team and in the Committee structures. As noted in the graphic above, the Planning Team consists of the Planning Team Leader and the Chairs of the various Committees needed during the Exploration and Development phases (see ECHO Timeline and ECHO Benchmarks documents). The size of each Committee is dependent only upon the ability to inspire involvement and to marshal these human resources in a way to keep them actively engaged and moving toward completion of their assigned tasks.

When considering potential members of the Planning Team or Committee structures, perhaps as important as the types of occupations or backgrounds needed are the personal characteristics, cultural competencies, teamwork skills and work ethic of the individuals.

Characteristics of Successful Clinic Planning Teams and Committees:

  • Committed attendance at monthly meetings of the Planning Team and separate monthly/regular meetings of each Committee to sustain members’ energy and enthusiasm and maintain momentum towards launch
  • Planning Team and Committee meetings that begin and end on time, are forward-moving, participatory, focused on action and decision, that celebrate accomplishments, identify and assign tasks yet to be done, and address disagreements or conflict with assurance and grace
  • Planning Team and Committee members that demonstrate inclusiveness and represent the racial and cultural diversity of the patients the clinic will serve
  • Regular, consistent communication between Planning Team and Committee meetings in the form of meeting minutes sent out to the members as a record of decisions and commitments made

Participation as a Planning Team or Committee member will be rewarding, challenging and inspiring. Many community members report feeling honored to have been a part of the clinic’s development in some way. Their inclusion creates powerful friends and advocates in the months and years to come.