milestones of the five year plan

640px-Borne_routière_MadagascarSo by now, you’ve probably gotten a copy of the long-awaited letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated 29 December 2015, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, which spells out the framework for the upcoming Five Year Plan. (If not, it’s available online, from the official Bahá’í Reference Library website!)

First things first: It’s a really awesome letter. A friend and I read through it the day it came out, and we felt that it was one of the most complete letters we’ve read—in terms of describing the entire process of growth from the initial stages, through the establishment of a program of growth, past the intensification of growth and into the far reaches of activity where Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation starts to permeate into the fabric of society. We were also able to see quite clearly the stages at which our clusters were located in the process, and the next steps awaiting us as we progressed from one milestone of growth to the next.

Those “milestones”, though—what are those? In the interest of cutting through some of the jargon, here’s my attempt at a brief explanation/recap of “milestones” in the context of the Five Year Plan.

The “milestones” mentioned by the Universal House of Justice in its recent guidance all relate to the development of a community’s capacity for systematic, collective action towards its own spiritual and social transformation. Basically, we can think of them as stage markers that help describe how advanced a community in its spiritual and social development. Here are the ones we know about.

Just starting out

No systematic action yet, although individual initiatives may take place here and there. Institute process may not yet be established or is at the very beginning stages.

First milestone

An initial flow of human resources goes through the sequence of institute courses and advances into the field of systematic action. Core activities “are being maintained by those progressing through the sequence of institute courses and committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster.” A program of growth first emerges.

See: 28 December 2010 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors[1] , para. 4; Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, Section 2, “Emerging Programmes of Growth”; both available as part of the compilation The Five Year Plan, 2011-2016[2] .

Second milestone

A steady stream of friends is going through the institute process & engaging in intensive, systematic action; the process of growth becomes self-sustaining; “all the elements necessary to accelerate the expansion and consolidation of the Faith are not only in place but also functioning with an adequate degree of effectiveness”; an intensive program of growth develops.

See: 28 December 2010 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors[3] , para. 9; Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, Section 3, “Increasing Intensity”; both available as part of the compilation The Five Year Plan, 2011-2016[4] .

Third milestone

Capacity for self-sustaining social action within a population, based on the skills of service developed through the institute process, emerges. A system for extending a “dynamic pattern of community life” that can “engage a people…in the work of their own spiritual and social transformation” is evident.

See: 29 December 2015 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors[5] , para. 31.


Significant percentage of population engaged; Societal impact of the Faith, and its effect on general discourse in a locality, is evident. “They are seeking to understand how a flourishing local population can transform the society of which it is an integral part.”

See: 29 December 2015 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors[6] , para. 32.

So now, a question: How advanced do you feel your home cluster is, in terms of these milestones?

Photo: Borne routière sur la Route Nationale 7 à Madagascar, by Bernard Gagnon.

3 thoughts on “milestones of the five year plan

  1. Digging your blog.

    In our little community we are starting small. We have a good number of kids among the Baha’i community, so we decided to have a children’s class every week. Sometimes the parents pray and consult in the other room while the classes are happening. The hope is that friends from the outside community will come and bring their kids, and that the adults can eventually have a proper devotional. But right now we are just trying to get he thing started and established.

    I think it’s good to understand the broader vision, which I agree that the House of Justice’s recent letter lays out well. But I also feel we need to be realistic in our immediate goals, so as not to put undue pressure on ourselves and our communities, and keep our local efforts enjoyable and sustainable. In other words, go for “small” with gusto and enthusiasm, see how it works out, and then go from there.

    • Digging your blog!

      That sounds like an amazing way to get things started. It makes perfect sense to start small, that is, start with a manageable plan that members of the community can work together on, and that will help them generate learning. The key at this stage, I think, is fostering and maintaining unity and solidarity amongst the members of the community in supporting these initiatives. The more united we are, the more easily we can ride out the inevitable crises and learn from them. And of course, it helps immensely to do all of this with gusto and enthusiasm, as you said.

      As you said, we have to understand the broader vision while also setting realistic goals for ourselves. This, of course, requires that we have an honest and accurate understanding of our own capacity as a community—that we read our own reality, to borrow the phrase from the Universal House of Justice. Once we know our capacity, we can better understand what steps are needed to bring us forward along the path of growth. Then we act on these steps, come back and reflect on our experience, and then consult on the next steps—and the next cycle of growth continues.

  2. Good morning

    To my mind, an excellent overview of the process so wonderfully described in that document from the Universal House of Justice. Thank you for presenting this.

    Both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh have made explicit and implicit statements in their Writings regarding the further reaches of time, well beyond the current Plans. My favourite comes from the Báb. I offer it here (below) that it may be known that, regardless at any time how bleak the outlook may appear, at how insurmountable just sometimes the task may appear to us, if we but place our full trust in God and carry out His wishes, as we see them expressed in terms of the action needed in this day, as guided by the Universal House of Justice, then we are utterly assured that our efforts must and will bear fruit. Be patient. Be trusting. Be assured.

    “The Day is approaching when God will render the hosts of Truth victorious, and He will purge the whole earth in such wise that within the compass of His knowledge not a single soul shall remain unless he truly believeth in God, worshippeth none other God but Him, boweth down by day and by night in His adoration, and is reckoned among such as are well assured.” (Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 153-4)

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