Develop a Vision, a Mission, and Goals

Developing your program’s vision, mission, and goals helps ensure that staff and community partners are working toward a common objective. These elements ultimately help guide your evaluation and quality improvement efforts, too. Generally, a vision describes what the program aims to accomplish (i.e., the ideal state), while a mission defines your program’s purpose and reason for existence. Goals are specific and measurable outcomes that align with and contribute to your vision and mission.

  1. Develop a vision
  2. Develop a mission
  3. Develop goals

Develop a Vision

Oral health is a critical component of overall health and well-being throughout the life span. We envision a Washington where we ensure that:

  • Every person is free from oral disease and enjoys optimal oral health;
  • Every lay person and health professional understands the importance of oral health and its relationship to overall health and wellness;
  • Prevention and health promotion are essential; and
  • Oral health care is funded so that it is available, accessible, affordable, effective, and efficient.” – Washington State Oral Health Coalition’s vision statement
  • Form an advisory group with key stakeholders and community members to collaborate on developing a vision. Your program can continue to engage this group throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Enlist a leader for group meetings; ensure this person has strong facilitation skills and is impartial regarding the group’s interests. Meetings should integrate information collected during the needs assessment process and should gather new ideas from key stakeholders and community members on what to include in the vision statement.
  • Develop a consensus on common themes, values, and objectives most important to the advisory group members, and hence the community, over the next 5 to 10 years. From this consensus, draft a concise, positive vision statement relevant to your community.

Develop a Mission

“Our mission is to provide high-quality, comprehensive medical and dental care, patient advocacy and related services to people who need them most, regardless of their ability to pay." – Mission statement from the Care Alliance Health Center in Cleveland, Ohio

  • Leverage an advisory group with facilitator to develop your mission, following the steps described above for developing your vision. Consider developing your mission in the same group meeting as your vision.
  • Draft a mission statement describing what you want your program to accomplish. The statement serves two purposes: 1) mobilize staff, volunteers, and supporters to focus on specific goals the program wants to achieve and 2) act as a reminder of the program’s initial motivation.
  • Ensure that your mission statement is brief and outcome oriented. Use clear, understandable language, and make certain the mission can be adapted to potential changes in your community.
  • Review mission statements from other programs for ideas.

Develop Goals

“By 2020 (by when), to increase by 20% (how much) those elders reporting that they are in daily contact with someone who cares about them (of what).” – Example of a specific goal from the University of Kansas’s Community Tool Box

  • Develop SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. In addition, set goals that are challenging (i.e., stretch for significant health improvements).
  • Building on your environmental scan (see the Conduct a Needs Assessment section for more information), research common goals in the field and account for logistical requirements (e.g., additional funding, staff training) that might be necessary to reach the goals.
  • Set goals that specify how much of what will be accomplished and by when.
    • Ensure that your organization has baseline data to quantify each of your goals (the National Oral Health Surveillance System has examples of baseline data to quantify oral health goals).
    • Consider both process metrics (e.g., number of oral health services delivered) and outcome metrics (e.g., number of clients reporting reduced oral pain) because showing the results of one often strengthens the other (Chapter 5, Section II, of the Mobile-Portable Dental Manual provides examples of process and outcome metrics that quantify goals).

Program Spotlight: Washington State Oral Health Coalition

Washington State had been working to identify the oral health care needs of its citizens and to promote dental disease prevention and access to care. This case study provides additional information on how the Washington State Oral Health Coalition (WSOHC) developed a vision, mission, and goals for its program.

A broad-based group of organizations and people, whose mission is to promote and advocate for optimal oral health for all Washington State residents, the WSOHC took several steps to update its vision, mission, and goals in a comprehensive oral health improvement plan. First, the coalition created a steering committee (known as an advisory group in the Oral Health Guide) to lead the effort. The steering committee distributed surveys to coalition members, health professionals, and the public to gather feedback on the WSOHC’s vision and goals. To define its priorities, the steering committee also organized more than 60 webinars and in-person sessions with stakeholder groups in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Finally, the WSOHC convened an oral health education consortium to gather comprehensive feedback from the academic and research communities. The finalized plan contained collaborative input and participation from oral health coalitions; health-oriented government agencies; professional associations and licensing boards; community health clinics; dental insurers; oral health education consortiums; and oral health foundations. Moreover, web-based and in-person sessions were conducted with community members who aren’t health professionals. In the plan, the WSOHC outlines measurement indicators, or data sources that align with each specific goal, as well as prioritization criteria for each goal.

Key Resources

The resources listed below provide additional guidance and support for developing your vision, mission, and goals.

  1. University of Kansas’ Community Tool Box, Chapter 8: Developing a Strategic Plan – Section 2 (Proclaiming Your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements) and Section 3 (Creating Objectives) explore the steps your organization can take to develop a vision, a mission, and goals. This chapter includes, as well, checklists and examples that can help you develop these strategic elements.
  2. Washington State Department of Health’s Community Roots for Oral Health: Guidelines for Successful Coalitions – This resource describes ways in which your organization can find common ground for a shared vision and mission in developing an oral health program. In addition, it contains examples and descriptions of a vision, a mission, and goals that oral health programs can consider.
  3. National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership (MAPP), Chapter 2: Visioning – The National Association of County and City Health Officials’ Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership plan describes a community-driven strategic planning process to improve community health. Chapter 2, on visioning, guides communities through a collaborative, creative process that leads to a shared vision and common values.
  4. National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center’s Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual, Chapter 1: Partnerships and Planning – In Chapter 1’s planning section, the Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual addresses how a clinic’s mission and goals might affect financial sustainability and access to care. A table illustrates how different mission statements yield different policies.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health Workbook: Logic Models (PDF) – The CDC has detailed how oral health programs can construct a logic model (diagram that links program inputs and resources to program outcomes and products) to illustrate how programs can accomplish desired outcomes. This resource includes instructions on writing vision, mission, and goal statements for a coalition, organizing these elements within the larger context of developing a plan for an oral health program.
  6. Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Smart Goals Template (PDF) – Vanderbilt University Medical Center has developed a template that your organization can use to make sure your program goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Goals and Objectives Checklist (PDF) – The CDC has developed a checklist of criteria your organization should consider when developing program goals.