Learning patterns/Get started with SMART program objectives!
What problem does this solve?
This learning pattern is aimed at organizations, groups, and individuals who are designing SMART program objectives for the first time rather than at seasoned program practitioners. It is aimed at people who are writing objectives for programs rather than specific projects or activities. A program is a group of related activities that achieve common objectives by using similar methods.
When creating a new grant request, you may be asked to provide SMART objectives for your programs. This is a good practice when planning any program, even if you do not intend to seek funding. Still, the SMART framework itself can seem like a challenge. After all, you need to fit all five components of the SMART framework into your objectives, but they need to be concise! Sometimes people struggle with forming SMART program objectives before they have a clear structure in place for their programs. Understanding how activities in your programs are related and what they have in common is an essential first step to making good SMART program objectives.
What is the solution?
Using the SMART framework for making program objectives can be challenging when you do it the first time, but you will get the hang of it with practice.
The SMART framework
What is the SMART framework? It's a way of structuring your program objectives that helps you understand your results. It helps you ensure your program work can be achieved and measured within a specific timeframe, and helps you communicate the possible value of your program work to others, such as funders and your community.
- S for Specific. Is it clear what you plan to achieve?
- M for Measurable. How will you know that you have achieved your objectives?
- A for Attainable. Based on what you know, is it possible to achieve your objectives?
- R for Relevant. Will your objectives actually show something useful about what you plan to achieve?
- T for Timebound. When will you know that you have achieved your objectives (or not)?
Step by step guide
Here are five steps to help you make your SMART program objectives.
- Understand your program. Are the activities in your program clearly linked by having similar methods toward achieving a common goal? If not, you will need to restructure your programs before you begin to write your objectives.
- Decide what you want to achieve with your programs. Programs may have many good results, but you will want to focus on the most relevant achievements to your organization's strategy.
- Make your objectives specific by setting specific targets (numbers you can measure, that describe something useful about what you will achieve). Then limit each target within a specific time frame. Ensure your objectives are attainable by looking at what you have achieved in the past with similar resources, or by looking at the work of others.
- Ask yourself each question in the SMART framework above, and make sure that your objectives include this information.
- Limit your objectives to 1-3 closely related objectives for each program. Most programs will only need 1-2 objectives. If you have trouble limiting the number of your objectives to 3 closely related objectives, go back to Step 1 and rethink your program structure.
- If you are struggling, look to the work of others to inspire you. You might be able to adapt the SMART objectives of others who have done similar programs. Make sure they are realistic and relevant in your context.
- Ask for help. If you are applying for an annual plan grant, contact the Wikimedia Foundation for coaching in this area. It's available for Simple APG and FDC applicants.
This process can seem abstract at first! Here are a few examples:
- Type of program: Edit-a-thon series
- Example of a SMART objective: Toward our strategic goal of increasing the quality of scientific content available on Wikipedia through partnerships, in 3 months through a series of 6 thematic edit-a-thons about echinoderms, 50 echinoderm-related articles will be created and 150 articles will be improved by 25 experts and graduate students in the field of marine biology; 12 images of rare echinoderms will be uploaded and used in their respective Wikipedia articles in 6 target languages. We think this is achievable based on the results of Wikimedia Antarctica's mollusc-a-thons with the University of Antarctica; given that we will have access to a bigger potential participant pool we think we can achieve at least as much.
- Type of program: Photography contest
- Example of a SMART objective: In order to fill an identified content gap in aerospace-related content across all language Wikipedias, between 1 July and 15 September, 400 participants in 40 countries will contribute more than 1000 images related to aerospace technology to Commons and add 200 images to 400 articles on Wikipedia that currently lack quality images according to our community's assessment; of these 1000 images, we expect 50 will be judged as very high quality by the contest adjudicators. This represents a 20% decrease in our target for total images but a 10% increase in total images used over last year's achievement of 1211 photos uploaded and 179 images used in articles through last year's targets and we think this is achievable due to improvements to our contest rules.
SMART Process for Setting Program Objectives: A resource page with guidance and resources to help you further.