Organize a Summit: Planning and Scheduling

B. Planning and Scheduling

1. Set Theme
Once a Summit Team is in place, determine a particular theme based on current issues, needs, and interests of local partners. This theme should consider a current issue or topic that needs evaluation to generate the most enthusiasm and impact.

A thematic approach can help drive fundraising and location selection. Ideas to consider include:

  • Significant anniversaries or celebrations
  • New national and federal initiatives, programs or policies
  • Recently designated heritage areas
  • Proposed national parks or monument
  • State preservation plan goals
  • Controversial section 106 cases
  • New legislative bills or resolutions that have significant community impact to a historic places or region
  • Interpretative or tourism marketing changes
  • Proposed developments
  • Current adaptive reuse projects
  • Culturally diverse historic properties
Select Youth Summit locations by considering the qualities needed to fulfill the theme of the Summit and also the availability of strong local partners. Local partners can ensure a lasting impact on the community while providing firsthand regional perspectives for Summit participants. Also consider connections the location makes for students in the educational setting and how the content of the program can align with state and national standards. A Summit is only truly successful if it reaches a broad group of partners and participants and has a lasting impact.

Questions to consider when selecting locations:

  • Does the location help fulfill identified theme and focus?
  • Would a Youth Summit held at this location fulfill content curriculum needs?
  • Are there current issues or initiatives to review?
  • Are there strong local partners?
  • Are there significant historic properties that can be visited?
  • Are there current historic preservation projects to be reviewed?
  • Are there places that can convey cultural heritage?
  • Is there a possibility of a meaningful service-learning project and for whom?
  • Is there adequate lodging for groups?
  • What will the impact be on the region or community?
  • Would local schools participate?
  • Is the timing right for a Youth Summit?
  • What size Youth Summit is suitable in this location?
  • Is transportation available for participants?

3. Calendar and Planning Timeline

The next step is developing a timeline. Event planning and fundraising take time! Factors to consider include the number of paid versus volunteer staff to undertake duties, applicable fundraising deadlines, seasonal lodging restrictions, and partner expectations.

For a multi-day summer Youth Summit, a nine-month planning schedule is possible, but securing funding from larger foundations and government entities often requires a year or more.

A sample timeline for planning:

One Year Out:
  • Identify partners
  • Assemble Summit Team
  • Determine locations
  • Identify major donors
  • Research and prepare grants
  • Select focus and theme

Nine to Twelve Months:
  • Contract with consultants
  • Develop budgets and cash flow projections
  • Plan and develop program
  • Fundraise
  • Design and prepare logo and graphics for outreach to community
  • Cultivate partners
  • Develop applications
  • Draft agenda
  • Hold on-site planning meetings
  • Develop recruitment strategy
  • Select dates
  • Determine number of participants
  • Confirm liability insurance

Six to Nine Months:
  • Make site visits to communities
  • Invite speakers
  • Identify issues
  • Set program and curriculum goals
  • Research service project options
  • Announce dates
  • Prepare promotional materials
  • Undertake recruitment; distribute applications
  • Start logistical planning: reserve lodging, check into meals
  • Continue program planning
  • Continue agenda development
  • Develop confirmation forms (liability etc.)

Three to Six Months:
  • Finalize lodging, transportation, and meals
  • Continue program planning
  • Work toward finalizing agenda
  • Confirm staff and volunteers
  • Confirm speakers
  • Confirm photographer or videographer
  • Undertake recruitment
  • Develop and distribute promotional materials
  • Apply for local re-certification credit for teachers

One to Three Months:
  • Finalize agenda with alternative rain plan
  • Finalize logistics planning (meals, lodging, transportation)
  • Continue special event coordination
  • Continue to communicate with partners
  • Hold on-site meetings
  • Continue program planning
  • Continue with ongoing speaker/program communication, coordination, and confirmation
  • Communicate with sponsors and manage grants
  • Review and accept applicants
  • Communicate and coordinate with selected applicants
  • Disseminate and collect necessary releases and liability forms
  • Solicit “giveaways”
  • Draft packet templates
  • Manage budget

One Month:
  • Receive registrations
  • Maintain communication with applicants; send information and updates
  • Provide updates to partners and presenters
  • Prepare and distribute media releases and outreach materials
  • Manage cash flow
  • Confirm and train volunteers
  • Obtain curriculum support materials
  • Develop printed materials for packets
  • Communicate with sponsors
  • Coordinate appropriate signage
  • Order needed materials for registration
  • Confirm all logistics
  • Assign lodging rooms
  • Coordinate special meals
  • Update and confirm all programming activities
  • Draft and distribute staffing roles and responsibilities

One Week:
  • Finalize and print packets
  • Finalize and print nametags
  • Provide final meal counts
  • Continue media releases and outreach

After Summit:
  • Distribute recommendations
  • Thank sponsors
  • Prepare summary reports and/or deliverables
  • Update budget
  • Send press release to educational contacts with teacher and student information
  • Send press release to local news
  • Distribute payments/stipends/salaries
  • Send follow up email to provide additional resources/mentor contact information for educators
  • Update social media and website with photos and recommendations

4. Summit Schedule

Consider two types of Youth Summits (although other options are possible): a shorter issue-focused Summit and a multi-day Field School Summit.

The issue-focused Summits can consist of one to three days with one or two overnights, and could be held during the school year. They can address a particular critical issue that is generally time-sensitive and may focus on advocacy or they may take place as part of a larger meeting or conference. With this choice students will miss school and educators will need substitutes, but this type of Summit can offer irreplaceable experiences in leadership opportunities.

Outline for shorter Youth Summit (one nights lodging):

Day 1: Convene in afternoon; evening activity; meet and set goals, prep for presentations

Day 2: Morning program and community interaction; lunch; afternoon program and community interaction; conclude in late afternoon.

Field Schools are best scheduled outside of the school year, featuring a Tuesday through Friday schedule with three nights lodging and four days of programming.

Overview Outline for Field School (three nights lodging):

Day 1: Check in mid-afternoon; afternoon icebreaker; cultural program; break into smaller groups with youth summit leaders; set goals and expectations.

Day 2: Morning site visits; issues-oriented programs; lunch with local community leaders; afternoon site visits and issues-oriented programs; dinner and activity; meet with Youth Summit leaders; blog; work on day’s recommendations and final presentations.

Day 3: Service-learning activity; lunch; afternoon site visits and issues-oriented programs; dinner; wrap up recommendations and preparation for final presentation.

Day 4: Presentation of final recommendations to leaders and elected officials at meeting or Town Hall format. Conclude at noon.

5. Number of Participants

The size of Youth Summits can vary depending on program, venue, and funding. Determining the number of students, educators, and staff is driven by six major factors:
  1. Theme and purpose
  2. Fundraising and budget
  3. Location and suitability to sites
  4. Lodging and transportation capacity
  5. Partner goals
  6. Recruitment and availability of participants
Theme and Purpose: The theme and purpose influence the determination of the number of participants. For example, a mini-Summit may convene to address a specific advocacy issue or topic. For a mini-Summit, a certain dynamic can be reached with 12 to 15 students, while larger numbers would be a deterrent to the purpose of the program. A larger Summit could convene at a large, well-staffed national park or major urban area could accommodate more than 100 participants. There are also intangible dynamics to consider: Too few participants may not encourage enough energy to generate an active brainstorming session to generate fresh and new ideas. On the other hand, too large a group might dissuade interactive participation if individuals feel they can hide in a crowd and not fully participate and take an active role in the process at hand.

Fundraising and Budget: Obviously, fundraising and budget will drive size. Generally, for a three to four multi-day Field School for budget-planning purposes the cost of Youth Summit can be $1,000 per participant. With donations and in-kind support this cost can be significantly reduced.

Location and Suitability: If the region selected can accommodate many visitors, or allow for ease of transportation between sites, more participants can be included. Clearly, with a preservation focus it would not be appropriate to overwhelm site stewards or risk impacting a site with too many visitors. Remember the wide age ranges of participants and accommodations for student needs as well. These factors change how suitable a site can be for programming.

Lodging and Transportation: Lodging and transportation can be an issue in both rural areas and in major metropolitan cities. Both could have high priced or limited lodging. Think of alternatives that are more cost effective, such as university housing. Lodging that may be a bit farther away can reduce cost, even considering the expense of bus travel. Remember that in some areas a 55-passenger bus cannot maneuver easily, so transportation issues can be a key factor in getting to remote or small sites. As with other event planning, motor coaches sometimes are not economically practical if you cannot fill the bus. For example, with high cost of motor coaches, it may be worth limiting participants to the number that can ride in one or two motor coaches.

Partner Goals: Consideration of partner goals is essential in all planning. A partner may expect or seek a large audience to maximize exposure and outreach, while others may prefer the smaller group for more personal contact.

Recruitment and Availability of Participants: Be sure to arrange the Youth Summits for a time when students are available for participation. Check local school calendars for conflicts and end dates of school. Many districts bordering each other may not have the same school break. A one week variance in the release of students from school can reduce participants by a third. To ensure adequate supervision, plan on recruiting enough educators, mentors, or service leaders to provide a ratio of six students to one adult
Click here to download the complete Youth Summits Guide and Planning Tools as a .pdf

Last updated: January 19, 2017

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