Sustaining Gains

Several core functions are critical to the success of sustainability planning and successful implementation. These core functions are discussed below.

Communication and stakeholder engagement are key to sustainability planning and implementation. Communication and engagement are critical to a successful sustainability planning process, and to the successful development and execution of a sustainability plan. Stakeholders who have an investment in the work should be an important part of the sustainability planning as well as the implementation process. When stakeholders are not well informed and are not included in the planning process, they may fill the void with misinformation. They may create a situation that is less than productive that could result in duplicative or even contradictory sustainability plans. Thoughtful communication and inclusion of stakeholders throughout the planning and implementation process is essential, particularly if there is any concern about differing views on sustainability goals and methods. 

Effective use of data supports robust sustainability planning and implementation. Data are invaluable in developing and implementing a sustainable plan. First, using data allows a more objective focus on what to continue, modify, or eliminate. These decisions can be informed by analysis of key information about existing programs and policies. Second, to support implementation of the sustainability plan, data showing progress toward the desired results and goals are useful to make the case for sustainability. Third, good data can make it easier to objectively communicate reasons for continuing policy, programs, and systems, and harder for others to dismiss or propose eliminating policy, programs, and systems. Data can and should inform communications and give stakeholders information that they can use to bring others along. 

Collecting, analyzing, and using data throughout ongoing policy, program, and systems implementation work helps build sustainability into the ongoing process of day-to-day work. This approach is more efficient than waiting to collect and use information exclusively for sustainability purposes, and is connected to the importance of having regular check-ins to see that the plan and its implementation trajectory are on track. 

Leverage existing accountability frameworks. States with strong systems for setting goals and measuring progress, and a disciplined approach to quality improvement, will be able to use these systems as a foundation for sustainability planning and implementation. Approaches such as results-based accountability and implementation science stress the same fundamentals that inform sustainability planning and implementation: setting a clear vision and goals, gathering and using data to understand progress in achieving goals, assuring active steps for continuous quality improvement, engaging with relevant stakeholders to develop a shared understanding and commitment to the work, and a commitment to ongoing communication and information sharing. States are encouraged to use their existing frameworks and approaches to support sustainability planning and implementation.