Getting Together Ideas for Effective Collaborations

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					           Getting Together: Ideas for Effective Collaborations
                Developed by Department of Health and Human Services

             SAMSA- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration


          Characteristics of Effective Collaboration
A STUDY OF MORE THAN 30 COALITIONS FOUND 19 FACTORS PRESENT IN
EFFECTIVE COLLABORATIONS:

ENVIRONMENTAL

     a history of collaboration or cooperation in the community
     favorable political/social climate

MEMBERSHIP

     mutual respect, understanding and trust among the partners
     appropriate partnership (no key stakeholder is missing)
     ability to see collaboration as in their self-interest and to take an interest in the
      success of other members
     ability to compromise

PROCESS/STRUCTURE

     shared stake in the process and outcome
     not limited to one level of decision-making
     flexibility
     clear roles and policy guidelines
     adaptability

COMMUNICATION

     open and frequent communication
     established informal and formal communication links

PURPOSE

     concrete, attainable goals and objectives
     shared vision
     unique purpose

RESOURCES

     sufficient funds
     a skilled convener
Steps for Building Successful Collaborations


STEP ONE: DEFINE THE PROBLEM AND ITS IMPACT ON THE
COMMUNITY
Some collaborations don’t get off the ground because of a gap between community
perception of a problem and the actual situation. It is hard to coalesce around a vague
issue, one that does not seem to affect people in a tangible way. Use survey data to
demonstrate specific needs, identify areas for improvement, and approach funding
sources.

It has been said that “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably never get
there.” The same is true for collaborations. If you and your partners do not know why you
have convened, what you want to do, and how you want to do it, it is unlikely that your
collaboration will amount to much. In addition, articulating the mission and developing
goals and objectives must be a joint effort.

       One successful collaborator reports that in their collaboration, the
       principle of “no dominant voice” guides the group. Everyone’s input is
       important; everyone’s voice carries equal weight.

STEP TWO: INVOLVE ALL THE RELEVANT INDIVIDUALS AND
ORGANIZATIONS
Practitioners advise that you should identify and involve key stakeholders. Though a
collaboration may focus on a single school community, it is important to bring to the
table key leaders—from business, local and State government, or social service agencies,
for example. They recognize the problem and want to prevent it from escalating, but they
don’t know how because they may be more accustomed to responding to events rather
than implementing prevention strategies. However, they may be very interested in
investing time, money, expertise, and energy in a science-based prevention approach. If
you are working with the school system, encourage the school superintendent and
principals to take a leadership role in your coalition (even if that role is only one example
of publicly stated support for your efforts).

Successful collaborators believe strongly that the people on the front line must be
intimately involved in the collaboration from the beginning. ALWAYS include parents
(and other primary caregivers) and youth in your collaborations. They are key, and their
perspectives are critically important. At the same time, involving parents and youth and
then keeping them involved isn’t easy. Practitioners who have worked with both groups
offer these suggestions.
To Involve Youth
HAVE A YOUTH SUBCOMMITTEE
that meets at times convenient for youth and does helpful tasks and activities; be
consistent in operating it and in reporting about it.
VALUE YOUTH INVOLVEMENT
If they feel valued and believe that you will follow through on their suggestions, youth
will stay involved.
MAKE IT FUN
Think about your activities in “youthful” terms. Always check in by asking, “Is this fun?”
and “How do you want to do it?”
ACT ON YOUR SUGGESTIONS
If they see no action on their suggestions, they’ll stop talking.
HAVE YOUTH CO-CHAIR
MAKE YOUTH RESPONSIBLE
for the activities they say they want to do.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
and take risks; youth will respond. One practitioner used e-polling to get information
from youth regarding what actions to take to prevent copycat San Diego school
shootings.
RESPOND TO WHAT PARENTS AND YOUTH TELL YOU
Families want to know what you’re going to do “tomorrow,” not next year, so it is
important, said one practitioner, to “do something to get off the dime.” Their
collaboration held a youth summit last year, featuring two youth—one whose brother had
been killed, the other who was the brother of the offending youth.

To Involve Parents
APPLY THE MAGIC FORMULA
food, child care, performances by their children, and interesting and relevant topics and
activities.
ENLIST THE MEDIA AS PARTNERS
Media will do things free for families, and they’re very interested in youth activities. One
practitioner said her collaboration asked all the local media to be part of the stakeholders
group, and now there is a countywide TV show produced by youth.
USE INDEPENDENT FACILITATORS
not connected with any particular organization, to be sure families are heard.
FREE YOURSELF FROM THE NOTION
that everyone has to sit together; smaller subgroups might be a better venue for parents
and youth to speak up (at least initially).
PROVIDE MONEY
and other tangible support so that community people—youth and families—can afford to
be involved. Avoid scheduling meetings at times that conflict with families’ other
obligations.


Adapted from: T. N. Thornton, C. A. Craft, L. L. Dahlberg, B. S. Lynch, & K. Baer. (2000). Best Practices of Youth Violence
Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action (pp. 1–19). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National
Center for Injury Prevention and Control
MANY POTENTIAL COLLABORATORS are known in their community for their
history of collaboration. They build on their strong reputation and their ability to make
themselves available for collaborative efforts. They demonstrate a willingness to take on
the initiative, and they are characterized by a collaborative organizational style. They do
not zealously hold on to their “turf,” nor do they fear that involvement in a collaboration
will somehow diminish their organization’s role or place in the community. They bring
experience and knowledge of the issue or problem to the effort.

STEP THREE: CONVENE A MEETING
After you've identified your potential coalition partners, schedule the first meeting for
them to share their ideas about the perceived need and what to do about it. Keep meetings
short, schedule them at convenient times and places, and serve food, even if it’s only
cookies and juice.

STEP FOUR: SHARE PERSPECTIVES
Successful collaborations have clear and open communication, in order to establish trust
among partners. Being clear about the nature and purpose of your collaboration is one of
the best ways to maintain trust. Make sure that all voices are heard, even if you have to
solicit comments from quiet members. Provide feedback and follow-up through minutes
and other communications, as well as through your actions in response to issues and
concerns raised. This helps partners know that their involvement is not just “window
dressing” and that their opinions are valued.

External communications are important as well. An effective collaboration will convey
its goals to the community at large. For example, one collaboration developed a logo that
succinctly illustrated its purpose and disseminated individual members’ vision statements
on their image of the community 10 years in the future.

Key to establishing a collaboration in your community is the notion that you are building
relationships with other individuals, other organizations and agencies, and the
community. These relationships—like any connections—require attention. It is important
to be tuned in to the issues and concerns of potential and current partners so that
problems can be addressed before they become crises and so that each partner feels
he/she is a valued member of the team.

Successful collaborators report that they often hold one-on-one meetings with potential
(as well as current) partners, rather than meeting with them only in group settings. This
individual attention helps to build trust and provides opportunities to identify and resolve
issues that might not be comfortably shared in a large group.

STEP FIVE: WORK TO RESOLVE DIFFERENCES
It is important to acknowledge the other issues that divide groups, such as cultural
differences between agencies and organizations, and work to help all stakeholders
understand how their participation in the collaboration will help them achieve the
outcomes for which they are statutorily responsible.

Remember that although you may share a common vision for a community in which
families are healthy and functional, the partners in the coalition may vary in their views
of exactly what that means. You and your partners are likely to have different definitions
of your “clients;” you may (and probably will) operate in different legal and policy
environments; and you may not share a perspective on the desired positive outcomes. For
example, three potential collaborators (the school system, the child welfare system, and
the substance abuse/mental health system) have different perspectives on how to define
successful outcomes for the same youth identified as at-risk or engaged in problem
behavior:

      For the school system, the positive outcomes include school retention,
       advancement to the next grade, improvement in grades and test scores, and
       increased participation in school events.
      For the child welfare system, the outcomes include safety and a permanent family
       situation.
      For the mental health and substance abuse system, the outcomes include
       decreased alcohol and drug use, improved social and home life, and decreased
       need for and utilization of behavorial health care services.

Although organizational differences could lead to cultural clashes, the problems are not
insurmountable. Experienced collaborators who have overcome the challenges give the
following advice:

      Be alert to the ways gender makes a difference.
      Acknowledge cultural differences among members.
      Maintain close and constant contact with partners through on-site and face-to-face
       interactions as well as through e-mail and phone contacts.
      Take the time to allow trust to develop naturally.
      Build a sense of “mutuality” and a feeling that all members are benefiting from
       the contribution.
      Be flexible and persistent.

STEP SIX: GET THE WHOLE COMMUNITY INVOVLED
Rally the community through a kick-off event that brings people together, provides an
opportunity for family and community fun, and helps get your issue on the “front page.”

       A community near New York City wanted to transform its poor image,
       which was created by high crime, housing problems, and too many school
       suspensions and dropouts. The school district superintendent knew that
       the schools needed to partner with the community. He helped assemble key
       leaders from his students and staff along with elected officials, police,
       probation officers, human service organizations, and business people.
       This collaboration gathered information through brainstorming, focus
       groups, and extant data, and applied for and won a School and
       Community Action Grant from SAMHSA.

       To unite the community, the collaboration arranged a fun family night
       with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Businesses donated tickets, and
       3,500 community members attended the game. A school band and a school
       chorus performed, and the school superintendent threw out the first pitch.
       The event created an amazing amount of positive publicity for the
       community, raised students’ morale, and improved parents’ views of the
school system. It also provided an opportunity for wholesome fun for many
who had never gone out as a family. Nurturing the collaboration is a high
priority and an ongoing focus for this community.

They have developed a logo, a formal shared vision statement of what the
community will look like in 10 years, by-laws, and subcommittees. A
formal communication system has been established; subcommittees meet
regularly, and the summit council and executive council meet monthly.
The Families and Schools Together (FAST) program has been
implemented. Brochures, a web site, and attendance logs (among other
items) document the history of the project. Activities include community
service days, a variety of surveys to take the pulse of the community,
school system retreats, and teacher institutes.

Leaders say they have created a “movement,” not a “program.” Over the
past 2 years, the collaboration has secured $2.5 million for its work, and
the results are amazing. They and the community have found that
transformation is possible.

STEP SEVEN: DETERMINE THE NEXT STEPS
Often collaborations are initiated through a grant award process, and
partners find themselves in a good financial position, at least initially.
Funds are available for staff and other infrastructure elements (such as
travel expenses, reimbursements for volunteer participation, and the like).
Grant funds stimulate contributions from other sources as well. But, as we
all know, grants end. Practitioners report that successful collaborations
plan from the start to be self-sustaining.

If you anticipate that your collaboration can and should be instrumental in
the years to come in addressing youth violence and related problems, start
from Day One to establish the contacts and mechanisms you will need to
ensure an ongoing base of support in terms of both dollars and in-kind
contributions. In this effort, it is important to keep your eye on the goal—
to remain true to your vision and values and to the problems around which
you coalesced.

				
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