7 Rivers Alliance Strategic Planning

Many communities and some counties in our region have no economic development or planning staff. They lack the leadership necessary to create plans or identify priorities that would help them grow and thrive. Without a point person or a plan, there is no one to help them secure grants or identify resources that can help them solve community challenges.

The 7 Rivers Alliance would like to help. We invite communities within our region to apply for a unique opportunity to develop a strategic plan or focus on a specific project involving community-wide economic growth with the support of experienced professionals and engaged citizens.

The plan will be built through a SWOT analysis and a deliberate process that will identify leaders in the community who will carry out the plan or project.

The SWOT analysis allows for the assessment of the internal strengths and weaknesses of a community with respect to physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, economic development infrastructure and human infrastructure. A SWOT analysis can therefore help community developers to determine the strengths on which to build, the weaknesses to avoid or overcome, and the external positive and negative factors that may enable or impede community development efforts.

Why Participate?

● Empower your community: Develop a roadmap for growth and prosperity through a collaborative planning process.

● Identify priorities: Uncover your community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to guide decision-making.

● Unlock resources: Gain access to expert support and identify funding and strategic opportunities to implement your plan.

● Build leadership: Cultivate local champions to drive positive change to ensure long-term success.

Who is eligible?

This program is open to communities within the 7 Rivers Region that are in need of economic development assistance. We welcome applications from diverse communities facing unique challenges and aspirations who are committed to long-term growth of their community.

Program Benefits:

Expert guidance: Benefit from the expertise of Rusty Cunningham, a longtime business leader and journalist, and Chris Hardie, CEO of the 7 Rivers Alliance.

● Tailored plan: Develop a strategic plan or project customized to your community’s specific needs and aspirations.

● Sustainable future: Build a roadmap for long-term growth and prosperity through actionable strategies.

● Community: Create a collaborative environment to implement the plan and create a focus on economic development for the benefit of the entire community.

How will it be done?

Through this planning exercise, community leadership will be identified to take on the various projects and initiatives necessary to carry out the community vision. It is important to note that 7 Rivers will not take the lead in implementing any strategic plans. It is critical that leadership come forth from the community to take this role. We will help identify resources for the community.

The planning will follow this process:

1. Community preparation: We will engage the community with a survey and ask citizens to contribute photos of great things about their community and things they want to improve. We will review any previous plans and create comprehensive community data that will include a wide variety of economic conditions and indicators.

2. SWOT Analysis: Key stakeholders will be invited to a public forum in which we will engage them in the SWOT analysis. We will then identify the top priorities for future action at this meeting.

3. Plan creation: The summary of the SWOT meeting will be prepared along with identifying the initial top priorities. The plan will be created with the assistance of another public forum or through a group of key stakeholders that could form a committee to steer the future plan.

4. Plan approval: Depending on the structure of the community, the plan will be considered for approval approved by the governing body.

5. Implementation: The community will implement the plan

6. Check-in/revisions: As needed

The timeline for steps 1 through 4 will be over roughly a six-month period.

Investment & Commitment

To ensure community collaboration and engagement, a one-time fee of $1,000 is required for participating communities. This contribution will support essential program materials and resources. Selected communities must demonstrate a commitment to active participation throughout the planning process and a desire, as well as capacity, to carry out the recommendations derived through the process.



1. Submit a brief application outlining your community’s needs, challenges, and aspirations.

2. Outline the organization of parties that will collaborate in the efforts and intent to commit to strategic plan implementation.

3. Describe your existing plans and resources, if any, related to economic development or community planning.

4. Demonstrate your commitment to community engagement and leadership development.

5. Include letters of support from your local partners or leaders.


Application deadline: April 1

● Selection notification: April 15

● Public SWOT meetings: TBA

● Plan development & implementation: Ongoing

To help your application, you may want to consider the following questions to help more clearly identify your goals:

● Community Overview:

● Brief overview of your community’s history, character, and unique assets.

● Describe the pressing challenges facing your community (economic, social, infrastructure, etc.).

● Highlight any existing initiatives or plans related to community and economic development.

● Motivation for Participation:

● What are your community’s aspirations for the future?

● What do you hope to achieve through strategic planning?

● How will participating in this program benefit your residents and businesses?

● Community Engagement:

● Describe your plan for involving citizens in the planning process.

● Describe the parties involved with your community economic development and community planning that would participate and initiate this plan.

● What existing community groups or organizations will you partner with to reach a wider audience?

● Do you have any existing tools or resources for gathering community input (surveys, forums, online platforms, mail)?

● Leadership Development:

● How will you identify and empower local leaders to head the strategic plan?

● Are there existing volunteer organizations or individuals with past record of successful community initiatives?

● What steps will you take to build capacity and ensure long-term leadership sustainability after the program concludes?

● Sustainability and Implementation:

● How will you ensure the strategic plan is actionable and followed through?

● Do you have a vision for establishing a local committee or organization to oversee plan implementation?

● How will you leverage existing resources and funding opportunities to bring the plan to life?

● What strategies will you use to monitor progress, evaluate success, and adapt the plan as needed?

Join us in shaping the future community! Apply and take the first step towards economic development and support from 7 Rivers Alliance