From Post-Camp Reflections to Action Plan: Making It Happen

From Post-Camp Reflections to Action Plan: Making It Happen

Photo Credit: Ghostlight Theater Camp, Photographer: Alexandra Rivers

It can be hard to change things at camp… for many reasons. A big one being that you have an 8 to 10 month gap before you get to try everything again. In the moment, it is easy to know how I might have run that evening program differently, or what parts of camper arrival day didn’t go well. What is tough is then ensuring that those thoughts are 1) captured, and 2) implemented next time (which is probably next summer). 

So as I’m thinking about how to capture and implement all of the changes for next summer, I’m also thinking about how I can maximize the fall. Because for those of us who only run summer programming, we have time, and we have space, to really impact change at our own camps over the next few months. So why does it feel like the fall gets away from me every year? And how can I help ensure that doesn’t happen?

I thought I’d share my plan to solve for this weird gap in time many of us deal with, because I want to avoid getting to May and remembering I had all of these ideas with no time to implement them. 

1. Brain Dump

Before we get too far away from the camp season, I am going to do a massive brain dump of how the summer went. Here is a template. I typically use this as an unfiltered space for me to get my thoughts out. I’ll write down all the kookie ideas, the small details, the big projects I wanna work on, etc. 

To create my template I did this:

  • I started with the big buckets (like Operations and Program)

  • For each bucket, I went granular with the items I want to make sure I reflect on (like Arrival Days and Evening Programs)

  • For the brain dump part, I’ll go through each item and capture what went well and what I want to do differently next year

BONUS POINTS: Get input from your team on these things, too. Call the counselor that ran that evening program, talk to your laundry vendor about how you could improve the partnership. Capture those conversations in your brain dump.

2. Make a List

Once I’m done, I’ll end up with a very long, probably overwhelming document. This is where people tend to stop (myself included). I’d argue that the rest of this process is more important than the brain dump itself. Now that I have my ideas captured, I need to ensure they actually happen. 

Here is an actual excerpt from a post-camp brain dump I’ve done in the past: 

  • Daily schedule 

    • Shower schedule - needs to be organized and defined 

    • More time off 

    • Possible JC meeting during snack or some other time 

    • Clearer expectations for rest hour 

    • Consider free seating - (maybe one or two days at a certain meal) 

Here are 3 examples of actions I would pull from that brain dump: 

Here is a template to capture the actions from your brain dump. 

TIP: As I create my task list I’ll also categorize it. This is helpful when I actually go to prepare things for next summer. For example, when I go to prepare the daily schedule for next summer, I can pull all of the tasks that I need to complete at that time pretty easily because I have a “Daily Schedule” category. 

TIP: I typically put the action items in a place that will be easy for me to find when I need them. I might go ahead and make my “Camp Daily Schedule” for the following summer, even if it’s an exact copy from last year, and add a tab “Updates for 2023”. That way it already lives in the place where I need it. 

3. Using the fall

Once I’ve got my task list prepared and categorized in a way that will make sense for me, I decide which things I can begin implementing right now. The biggest issue I have between summers is that by the time I revisit things (often in April or May) I either don’t remember exactly what I wanted to do differently, or it’s too late to make the changes. So, where possible this year, I am going to get ahead of my planning so that I can actually implement the changes that are going to make camp even better for campers next summer. 

My hope is that by actually capturing my thoughts and turning them into actionable steps now, I can be more intentional about making impactful change for my organization next summer!

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