Goals typically address weaknesses, with the aim of eliminating strategic disadvantages, building on strengths to develop strategic advantages, utilizing new opportunities and/or minimizing perceived threats. For example, an established political party that performs well among older voters but not as well with youth might target its recruitment to voters under 40 years of age. It might also seek to build more loyalty with older citizens by involving them in party life through newsletters or by developing mechanisms to consult them in party decisions.
Goals should flow from the problems identified during the SWOT analysis. To use the two sample problems discussed above:
- “The party communicates inconsistently with members because contact lists are decentralized and not maintained in a standardized format” might translate to a goal of “centralize contact lists and standardize communications with members”; and
- “No political party adequately represents segment ‘x’ of the population” might translate to a goal of “consult with segment ‘x’ on their needs and priorities, develop policies that address that segment’s concerns, and communicate them to that segment.”
Goals are important for any new ICT project because they:
- Focus attention on the problem the party is trying to solve, rather than the technology itself;
- Provide benchmarks for assessing the ICT intervention’s efficacy; and
- Help eliminate scope creep.
For example, if a party’s goal is to increase its support among young voters, and it hopes to use social media to do that, then it can research which social media sites young voters are using. After a given period, it can assess whether young voters have responded to efforts using the selected medium and whether that has translated into more votes or an increase in young members. Finally, maintaining the goal of targeting young people prevents the party from tackling tangential projects, such as creating an additional social media group for pensioners or social workers.
Technology can help a party identify who is not being reached, and consequently help the party strengthen its outreach to those groups. For example, if opinions coming in on a party’s Facebook page are overwhelming from men and those via email are mainly women, perhaps a party can increase communication to women by reaching out directly through email communication.
One common acronym used for goal setting is SMART. This means that goals should be:
- Specific, or well-defined and focused. For example, rather than simply “Get more votes,” a goal could be “Increase vote share among women and youth in Province X.”
- Measurable, otherwise the end is indefinite. For example, “Open more branch offices” is an endless goal. By contrast, “Open five new branch offices” provides a definite, reachable target for party staff.
- Attainable and realistic. For example, every party wants to garner a majority in the legislature, but a small party that received a five percent vote share in the last national election is unlikely to do so. The party could set a more attainable goal by instead aiming for a 40 percent increase in the number of seats it holds. Further, voters and the media measure the party by the stated goals of party leaders. If the goal is to win 20 new constituencies but the party only wins ten, then it failed even if those ten seats represent a substantial improvement.
- Relevant to the party’s overall objectives and strategic vision. A party should develop a long-term strategic plan and set all goals accordingly. For more information on strategic planning, see IDEA’s Strategic Planning for Political Parties
- Time-bound, so that there is a clear deadline for goal achievement. Creating a clear timeline also helps parties select interim goals and plan periodic assessments. The plan page discusses these concepts in more detail.