New Program Development

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Programming is the life-blood of every YMCA, and new, fresh programs are critical both for attracting the attention of prospective members and for maintaining the interest of current ones. The good news is that an idea for a new activity can come from anywhere: a child, an adult member, staff, etc. The bad news is that these sources may not be trained in or aware of how to recognize, evaluate, or reduce risk. Thus, if upper management does not diligently review proposed new programs and program changes, activities may be implemented that expose participants to danger or place the resources of the YMCA in jeopardy.

New ideas and possible programs should be qualified by an evaluation process that systematically and thoroughly explores potential problem areas. The purpose of the procedure is not to discover risk so as to reject the idea, but to identify and manage risk, thus enabling an idea to become a viable program. To ensure adequate protection for all parties involved, a consistent method should be used to evaluate each idea. The technique should be broad enough to delve into all potential injury and loss causing aspects. It also should document both identification of risks and consideration of control methods.

The evaluation should be multi-phased with major criteria considered early in the process so that minimal time and expense are expended on nonviable ideas. One early step should confirm that the general idea itself is appropriate, i.e., that it is consistent with your mission statement and with that of the Y of the USA. A second should determine the potential benefit type (e.g., needs met or revenues generated) and extent (e.g., number of individuals served, demographic group affected, etc.) and compare that with the estimated financial cost of the program. The needs and availability of material, equipment, transportation, and facility as well as the effect on staffing (e.g., number and training) should be assessed. Obviously, an idea does not have to generate positive revenues to produce a profitable program. Many benefits are not measured strictly financially.

If the appropriateness and cost-benefit studies suggest that the idea should be pursued, risk identification and assessment should be done. Included in the review should be communication, vehicles, inclement weather, effects of environment, special considerations (i.e., cultural diversity, language differences, or individuals with special needs), and any aspect of food and drink (acquisition, storage, preparation, service, or clean up). The details of how abuse prevention training would be handled should also be explored.

Two documents on our web site may assist you with such evaluations. New Program Evaluation and Risk Assessment Sheet together will help guide you through the steps outlined above.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.

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