Program Essentials


A solid foundation lays the groundwork for success

Every successful effort needs a solid foundation. The Program Essentials module provides the information needed to lay that solid foundation, setting your effort up for success from the ground up. Getting these basic elements in place creates alignment around the vision and goals that will support and sustain long term performance.



Elements of Success

Focus on community as a base
A community focus allows for peer to peer sharing of best practices and experiences, creating a networked community with civic pride as an engagement point. Focusing on the benefits to your municipality or area creates a central theme that participants can support.Leverage friendly competition
Leverage competition within the community you engage to motivate all participants to do more. The competition should be friendly and good-natured with the understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats. There can be levels of competition, including national, within the city or between districts, or between buildings or building types.

Establish clear start and end dates
It’s important to create and communicate start and end dates for your effort to create time bound motivation for participants and potential participants. Be sure to include enrollment period dates within the start and end dates so potential participants will know when they can join the effort. Consider a phased approach to help manage resources – Atlanta had two phases of recruitment.

Create a clear vision
A clearly defined vision creates a project framework that allows those involved to work towards the common vision from their particular angle of interest or expertise. The vision should be communicated frequently.


Develop a strategy for success

  • Plan for growth – Start small and grow from there. Start with a pilot area with clear boundaries to test your effort and to work out startup issues. Structure your pilot to allow for expansion and have a well-developed plan for how expansion will occur.
  • Identify high impact potential – Identify impact areas as a place to start your effort. Target potential participants who have existing motivations for involvement to increase your momentum towards success.
  • Larger alignment – Look to align with larger city/state/national efforts like a city sustainability plan or strategic/master planning effort to increase the strength of your program.

Be transparent
Make transparency a standard practice for your effort. Be transparent around the motivation for engaging in your effort and around management structure and resources, including resource allocation.

Invite collaboration
Create a public private partnership with strong convening power to manage the effort.

  • Collaboration should include municipal officials, commercial real estate representatives, technical resources, utilities representatives, members of foundations and non-profits.
  • Use interns, students and volunteers to provide administrative and operational support.
  • Establish functional area committees to drive area decisions. Functional area committees also serve as a way to get interested volunteers and community members involved. Suggested functional area committees could include steering, data/benchmarking, financing, education, events/recognition, and marketing/communications.

Establish clear roles & responsibilities
Setting clear roles and responsibilities for all partners helps provide structure and avoid confusion during your effort.

  • Be clear about the management structure, resource allocation and the decision-making process among the partners.
  • If your municipality is leading the initiative, consider having a third party as the primary budget party because of the limits on a municipality to solicit program sponsorships.
  • Identify and recruit a strong technical resource(s) as a collaboration partner. Having a resource dedicated to managing the technical aspects of your effort will give you validity and serve as an added plus for participants.

Take a district approach
Adopting a district or area approach to participation can further internal competition and allow for neighborhood level program messaging. Provide clear guidelines on program elements such as marketing and communications, recruitment, or management that are standard, and therefore not subject to district interpretation, and program elements that districts can manage on their own.

Keep participation voluntary
Voluntary participation, as opposed to required participation, creates an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.

Offer an early adopter incentive

  • Work with your steering committee to determine what type of early adopter incentives are available and which work best for your target audience.
  • Structure your incentive so the participant has some “skin in the game”. Make sure the participant has some responsibility for continued action or engagement as a result of participating in the incentive.

Engage consultants as needed
Plan on using consultants for more robust pieces of work that go above and beyond the day to day program management activities so you can keep your team focused on their priorities.

Competition as a motivator
Use competition as motivation to get projects started sooner rather than later. Highlight success stories and incorporate case studies on projects that have started to keep the competition lively.

  • Spend time in the beginning to create the vision and develop guidelines for partners to use when marketing, recruiting, managing relationships and creating communications in their specific districts. This allows your partners to leverage their individual strengths to support the shared vision while customizing some aspects of the program for their area.
  • Create and share a program organizational chart to share with partners for role clarity and transparency.
  • Atlanta focused their program on commercial real estate to create the greatest potential impact from energy and water use savings. Special attention was given to existing buildings in areas where energy efficiency and water use projects would help with revitalization efforts as well as efficiency savings. This provided a double benefit for commercial properties who joined the program.