Organizational Design and Planning Hacks for SSPs

This section has 9 hacks in it.
“The best people to help shape structure are those who are intimately involved with the results that structure produces.”
Chris Hutchinson
This section looks at some of the decisions organizations have to make in terms of organizational culture, design, and planning.

Organizational Culture and Power

Things like organizational culture and design can sound boring, abstract, or superfluous, but to build an organization that is going to last, they need to be considered from the outset. There are many tools for assessing the existing organizational style of your organization and/or learning how to adjust it.

Types of Fiscal Entities

Once you have decided how you will handle power in your organization you are ready to consider basic logistics such as your fiscal structure. Most independent SSPs are organized as charitable organizations (nonprofits), which have legal and tax requirements. There are several ways that harm reduction groups have organized themselves in order to meet those requirements.

Organizational Planning

A part of any well-functioning harm reduction organization is regular organizational and strategic planning.

Mission Statements

A mission statement is a short statement about the purpose of the organization. This sometimes includes a description of the organization, what it does, and its objectives.

Values Statements

Values statements, often written as “Principles of Unity” or “North Star Statements”, encapsulate the full values and aspirations of the organization. These statements help define the culture of the organization and services it provides

SWOT Analysis

Strategic and implementation planning begin with a SWOT analysis. This analysis of an organization’s position in the market was first developed for the Stanford Research Institute by a management consultant named Albert Humphrey and his team in the 1960s.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is setting goals and objectives given the SWOT analysis, determining actions to achieve goals, and mobilizing resources to execute those actions as a part of an implementation plan. In the context of formal program planning and grant writing, goals differ from objectives in that goals are about long-term, “big picture” outcomes while objectives are shorter-term outcomes that are clearly measurable.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is the process of preparing for large transitions, often in leadership, in an organization. Harm reduction leaders agreed that it is never too soon to start succession planning and that not doing so can lead agencies to serious issues with programmatic stability in the long term.

Implementation Planning

Implementation planning is the final step in the planning process. This is where specific dates for achieving goals and mini-goals are made. This often seems like a step that organizations at the end of a long planning session can defer. Though this can be tempting, implementation planning is one of the most crucial steps in the planning process. It is critical to ensure you turn good intentions into actual outcomes.

More Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
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The hacks on this site are shared with you under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. This allows you (with attribution) to adapt content for your own use, although we do ask you to then also allow others to have equal access to anything you develop. More details of this licence can be found on the Creative Commons website.


We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.

Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation. 

Harm Reduction Hacks site design and implimentation by Nigel Brunsdon

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