'Task Elaboration' is a process of taking a Big Idea and breaking it down into ever-more-discrete projects, until it's reduced to a set of simple, specific actions that individual volunteers can do.
For example, consider if the big idea is "Get Measure 123 passed". Of course, that's too high level, so the first thing is to turn it into a planning action on your personal todo list:
* Get Measure 123 passed: - Plan out getting Measure 123 passed [me]
After giving it some thought, you identify three projects to do in support of this measure:
* Get Measure 123 passed: - (DONE) Plan out getting Measure 123 passed [me] * Get word out about the importance of Measure 123 * Get a statement into the voter's guide * Contact voters to encourage them to vote for the measure
Each of those projects are still broad, though, so they also need to be subdivided into more tangible tasks. At this point you also want to get some other people involved to help do the brainstorming and planning. Again, we recast them as a planning tasks, for example:
* Get Measure 123 passed: - (DONE) Plan out getting Measure 123 passed [me] - Identify some people to do brainstorming [me] - Arrange meeting of brainstorming team to do detailed planning work [me] * Get word out about the importance of Measure 123 - Plan to get word out about the importance of Measure 123 * Get a statement into the voter's guide - Plan to get a statement into the voter's guide * Contact voters and suggest they vote for the measure - Plan to contact voters and suggest they vote for the measure
For the third item, the team brainstorms out the following steps:
* Get Measure 123 passed * ... * Contact voters and suggest they vote for the measure - (DONE) Plan to contact voters and suggest they vote for the measure * Send out postal mailings to prospective voters * Email campaign to send out educational/promotional materials * Phone up likely voters and educate them about the measure * Raise funds to air radio commercials about Measure 123 * Canvassing in key swing districts
These are getting down towards regular processes that have been worked out and done many times before. For postal mailings, for instance, a worked out process exists, and we can pull in a standard template of tasks to be done to carry out a postal mailing. It might look like this:
Phase 1 - Draft letter for the mailing - Decide criteria for who to send it to Phase 2 - Review/refine letter and provide comments - Decide additional materials to include in mailing - Establish list of N people to send it to Phase 3 - Edit the letter to final form - Print labels for N mailings - Acquire N copies of additional materials Phase 4 - Recruit envelope stuffers - Print out N copies of letter Phase 5 - Stuff envelopes Phase 6 - Deliver envelopes to post office
The phasing allows for controlling prerequisites. I.e., all the phase 3 tasks must be performed before later phased tasks can be undertaken.