Critical Success Factors

The most important lessons learned from any pilot initiative reveal underlying factors that help ensure a successful effort. Although the three pilot sites had different players, processes, structures, and schedules, several critical success factors were common to their Comprehensive Strategy planning experiences.


In each of the pilot sites, the Comprehensive Strategy planning process was led by a dynamic, influential, and respected community leader who was able to generate and sustain commitment from other community leaders and key community organizations. They came from different types of organizations in their respective communities, but each emerged as the community's leader in mobilizing the local effort. Equally important were the heads of the various committees, subcommittees, supporting agencies, and other organizations that helped "make things happen" in each pilot site. Whether employed or retired, from the public or private sector, these community leaders ensured that the day-to-day work of assessing and planning for a Comprehensive Strategy was accomplished.

Agency and Community Support

Agency and community support were vital to the success of the initiative because of the significant staff time involved in collecting and analyzing data, determining priority risk factors, assessing community resources and needs, attending training sessions and committee meetings, and developing the community's strategic action plan. In San Diego, CA, for example, the city's chief of police devoted a full-time detective for 1 year to help develop the local action plan. In Lee County, the State Attorney's office supported the active participation of its staff in Comprehensive Strategy planning activities. Although the participation of volunteers was the foundation of the successful planning process, all three sites underscored the importance of having sufficient and dedicated staff resources to accomplish the various critically important and time-consuming assessment and coordination planning activities.

Maximizing Existing Resources and Systems

One of the cornerstones of the Comprehensive Strategy is its multiagency, coordinated approach to reducing juvenile crime and delinquency. Each of the three pilot sites incorporated existing organizational and programmatic resources into its Comprehensive Strategy planning process. In Duval County, for example, key leaders from local civic organizations were recruited, and existing data sources from the Children's Commission were tapped. Lee County drew on the framework of its existing Juvenile Justice Council, which adopted Comprehensive Strategy principles and provided support throughout the planning process. San Diego County built on risk and resource assessments that already had been completed in 10 of the county's communities and merged its State-funded local action plan efforts with Comprehensive Strategy planning to avoid duplication and maximize participants' contributions and time.


Engaging the media early in the Comprehensive Strategy planning process can provide the initiative with a powerful ally. As key partners in the process, the media can help promote public awareness of positive youth issues and generate community support for the planning process. Through their active involvement, local media can be sensitized to the need to ensure that incidents of crime and delinquency involving local youth are portrayed fairly and accurately. In Lee County, for example, the media not only enhanced public awareness of the community's comprehensive youth planning efforts by regularly covering Comprehensive Strategy activities, but also served as a public watchdog of the initiative's progress—a role welcomed by members of the planning team.

Training and Technical Assistance

Participants in Comprehensive Strategy planning efforts at all three pilot sites believed that the training and technical assistance they received were essential to their success. The training helped ensure that participants shared a common language and a common understanding of the Comprehensive Strategy framework. For example, the Comprehensive Strategy process ideally involves a broad range of community participants, many of whom may have limited knowledge of the actual workings of both prevention programs and the juvenile justice system. A critical part of the community orientation phase, therefore, was to ensure that everyone understood the basic components of the continuum of care, characteristics of youth at risk of entering or in the juvenile justice system, system decision points, and agencies and issues involved. The site-specific technical assistance helped local planners stay focused and provided guidance during the challenging assessment and decisionmaking processes.

Early Wins

Even while still in the planning phase of their Comprehensive Strategy initiatives, the pilot sites achieved early wins—small (and sometimes large) accomplishments that came about largely because of their coordinated, systematic assessment and planning efforts. These accomplishments—new funding, stronger partnerships, positive system changes—no matter how small, were enormously important motivators and served as early evidence of the gains the community could achieve with a comprehensive juvenile delinquency plan in place.

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The Comprehensive Strategy: Lessons Learned From the Pilot Sites Juvenile Justice Bulletin March 2000