Community Partners -
The Making of a Partners for
No matter what you call it
collaboration, partnership, or community building
no one denies the primacy of a cooperative
approach. But building effective, community partnerships
is neither easy nor formulaic. You won't discern
a beginning, middle and end for this dynamic, evolving
process. And no one can underestimate the importance of
patience, effort, trust and skill.
This guide, developed by the NYS Partners For
Children, presents the best of our collective knowledge on successful
partnerships in New York State as well as other parts of the country. Bear
in mind that this is a guide, not a prescription. Successful partners know
when to ask for help, so don't hesitate to call Partners For
Children at 877.522.9241 for
information, assistance or a referral to a local
partnership with first hand experience.
Envisioning the Collaborative
Like most dynamic processes, this one is far
from linear. Not all partnerships will begin at the same
point. A community experience and current
level of partnership activity will determine where they
begin and what their next steps should be.
Although distinct stages appear here medcarnet.com, in
reality, they overlap and reverse. That right.
Just when you think you are at the final stage,
you probably ready to re-visit some of your
Wait, There is More..
Like the collaboration building process
itself, these dynamic elements characterize successful community
a cross-section of community stakeholders
parents and families
leadership among community champions
a common vision and goals
in joint strategic planning
clear rules and decision-making responsibilities
an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding
open and frequent communication
to improve through evaluation
Assembling the Team
Every partnership benefits from alliances
that represent the range of community
interests and resources. Look for people who will bring
clout, commitment, knowledge and diversity to the table.
Remember that consumers, the people,
including parents and children, who will use services,
must help establish goals and strategies.
Grassroots and volunteer organizations that
may not have financial resources, are important for their
racial and cultural perspectives.
As the conduit for major community
resources, public sector organizations offer a direct
line to federal and state agencies; key sources of
dollars, technical assistance and policy support.
Highly experienced in service delivery
strategies, private providers and nonprofit organizations
offer well developed volunteer networks as well as useful
community contacts. Be sure this group includes the local
philanthropic community United Ways,
foundations and other charitable organizations.
Guidelines for Hiring a
Involving the business and corporate
community lends a further degree of legitimacy, and
provides an added measure of management, marketing, and
finance expertise to the partnership.
Professionals in the community are valuable
resources who may give entree to elected officials,
media, and other local leaders. Include the educational
and medical communities, law enforcement agencies as well
as other helping professionals.
Challenged to find new ways to promote
efficient delivery of services, elected officials may
endorse collaboration as a possible means to that end.
When, and how to use the media, depends upon
the partnership readiness to publicize its
milestones. Regardless of the decision, media involvement
is necessary in the strategic planning process to
determine when and in what forum it is best to "go
Sometimes, local resources aren't
sufficient to the task and a consultant may be hired to
keep the process moving forward. Once you've
made the decision to bring in a consultant, how do you go
about your search? Variances can be quite daunting. Some
charge by the job, the day, the month, or the hour and
may or may not include expenses.
Consider these basic factors when hiring a
1. Take time to focus on the desired
outcomes before approaching any consultant. Ask the
consultant directly how he or she would facilitate each
of those outcomes. The interview will be more revealing,
and the decision easier, if specifics are discussed.
2. Use your community resources to identify
and screen possible consultants. Many nonprofit
management centers and community and private foundations
maintain a consultant directory. Some even provide
consultants directly, often for a lesser fee than an
independent consultant charges.
3. Get mileage out of the interview process.
Interview prospects by phone first. If you like the
results, ask for a proposal, then follow up with a
face-to-face interview. Be sure the key players on the
board are involved in the interview.
4. Be sure everyone on the team understands
the purpose of the consultation, desired outcomes,
estimated duration, and their involvement. Let them know
how much time you will expect.
5. Rely on research, experience, references,
insights, rapport and chemistry in making your decision
about which consultant to hire.
6. While discussing the big picture, and the
outcomes, be sure not to pass over the details (like
fees). Follow-up on the details in the proposal: fees,
contracts, schedules, staff resources in their offices,
and timeliness, including other consulting work that may
7. Write a Letter of Agreement or contract,
no matter how short the consultation is. Include desired
outcomes, client and consultant expectations, timeline,
conditions for termination of the agreement by either
party, fees and expenses, time to be spent by the lead
consultant, and other pertinent facts including a
description of the "deliverables." Use the
completed letter of agreement to keep the consultation on
8. If the consultation is long-term, build
benchmarks into the agreement to measure progress.
9. After you have hired the consultant, if
you expect the consultant to keep up his or her side of
the bargain, be sure you keep up yours.
Additional resources for hiring a
To supplement your search for the right
consultant, why not take advantage of the myriad
resources from the National Society of Fund Raising
For the 2002 Directory of Consultants,on the Web.
Please note that Partners for Children does
not endorse any particular consultant on this list. Your
screening process should include a thorough reference
Conducting a Needs Assessment
Often a dichotomy exists between what a
community thinks it wants and what, in fact, a more
careful analysis reveals it needs. Early on, participants
should agree to a needs assessment process
simply defined as identifying problems and developing
interventions to help solve these problems. The
assessment becomes the basis for the
partnership strategic plan, including clearly
identifiable outcomes and evaluation strategies.
Augment collecting and sharing data by
interviews with community members who will be directly
affected by changes in the provision of services, along
with more general community forums and focus groups. It
may not be necessary to engage in extensive data
collection, since many partners already have data and
It Not Just the Data. .
As the partnership plans for this activity,
questions need to be answered? What information
is needed to document the problem?
additional data is needed, what data collection
methods will you use? What key indicators and
data sets are available from educational, social
services and governmental sources?
each data collection method you decide on, what
types of data will be obtained? How? By whom? Due
is the target population for each method? What
are the qualitative and quantitative measures?
Advantages and disadvantages?
special resources will you need to do the
assessment? What approaches to needs assessment
Solicit information from individuals whose
description of what exists for the client population or
state-of-affairs is credible, either by their position in
the community or through their experience and/or
expertise. These individuals include elected officials,
agency directors, law enforcement officials, teachers,
This may have the added benefit of engaging
their interest in the resultant strategic plan.
Also called town meetings, these public
meetings can be open to the general public or limited to
a specific population.
They can take the form of an open public
discussion or a more structured format where partners
hear testimony from selected individuals.
An excellent way to help stakeholders
appreciate what consumers are confronting.
Select individuals from the needs population
or client group and provide an analytical, realistic
description of their problem/situation, use of local
services, access and other difficulties, additional
control input by what you ask and whom
way to position your organization with important
people (shows you are working on common
visibility in the community
active involvement of the broader community
sensitivity to the clients' "real
moving and motivating
- It is
too easy to solicit input only from those
individuals sympathetic to your cause
may be ignoring less visible segments of the
community and those who may be contributing to
of forum has profound effect on number and type
- It is
possible to lose control of the group, or have a
vocal minority slant results or turn meeting into
a forum for complaints
of a "typical" client may be biased and
represent a minority of cases
describe one "real" person, not a
composite of several put into one
"example." The anonymity of the person
must be insured
A few well-chosen statistics will support
the direction of the strategic plan, the outcomes to
which the partnership has agreed and form the basis for
With this approach, you use existing data
(census data/records, government studies and reports and
research articles) to develop a statistical picture of
The most commonly used method to collect
data, the survey can be used to collect information from
a sample of or from the community.
Survey information is collected through
telephone or in-person interviews, or by mailing
questionnaires to specific groups.
is an abundance of studies and data
cost to access data
flexibility in drawing and developing conclusions
of data is catalytic in producing more projects
and proposals as staff sees the need
in design of survey to get at problem areas
out exactly what you want to document
be very time-consuming
of staff shows up in studies quoted
that statistics can prove anything
original data has questionable validity, your
extrapolation will be inaccurate.
time to do properly
A hallmark of Partners For Children is its
focus on outcomes measurable improvements in
child and family well-being. Outcome evaluation is a
natural progression from the needs assessment process,
continues the data collection and analysis activities,
and enables partners to make adjustments and
Definitions: An outcome is an inherently
valued state of being. To measure outcomes, communities
must also agree to indicators more specific
than outcomes that specify the directions of
desired changes in concrete areas necessary to achieve
the desired outcomes. For each indicator partners should
clearly state the degree of improvement or change they
expect to occur and expected timeframe for those
improvements. Finally, partners will establish measures,
the specific, concrete source of data used to identify
youth development Indicator
in number of low birth weight babies
- % of
births with low weight (less than 2,500 grams)
of teen pregnancy for females ages 10-19
Selecting Measures:Since outcomes are the
backbone of your progress report, partners should select
them carefully. In selecting measures partners should
bear in mind:
reasonableness of the measure. Does it reflect an
understanding of the problem? Is it significant
to the proposed solution?
reliability of the measure. Will it remain
consistent and accurate over time?
sensitive is the measure to external factors that
may cause ambiguous interpretation?
the data be tracked over time? Is the data
readily available? Is it feasible to collect and
track the data?
it relate to available data?
costs and effort are involved in collecting and
analyzing each measure?
frequently will each measure be updated? How
timely will it be once it updated?
what geographic level is the measure available?
County? School district? Zip code? State? Census
historical/baseline data exist?
it be possible to compare local data for the
measure against standards? Is it possible to
compare it against state or national data?
Against data from a similar community?
What to do with the information:The
collected data and the resultant decisions, formulate the
basis for educating and informing the community
of local needs and efforts to address
At the beginning of the project, when the
needs assessment is completed, the information is useful
the current status of child and family well-being
in the community;
the baseline against which future progress will
local service needs and priorities;
how local children and families compare to
counterparts in other communities, in key
indicators of child and family well-being.
This information and the resultant decisions
form the basis of an early report to the community. This
report will highlight the reasons for collaborative
activity, the key outcomes to be addressed, the goals for
the coming year, and expected timeframe for the next
After key elements of the strategic plan
have been implemented, you may want to provide an update
to the community. Include a summary of the
partnership activities, analysis of impact or
effectiveness of those collaborative activities, and
update the data sets that were reported in the initial
report. In addition, the next and subsequent community
reports (some partnerships call them report cards, others
prefer the term profile) should include goals for the
coming year and any changes that will result from ongoing
Reporting results publicly serves several
It helps to provide an objective assessment
of the effectiveness of the local partnership and its
impact on established outcomes achieving its
goals and improving the well-being of children and
It provides a context for changes in local
efforts and serves to educate the community about the
progress as well as the work that remains.
It helps to stimulate action and enables the
community to make informed decisions about investments,
service delivery strategies and policies necessary to
achieve the desired results.
Partners For Children and positive outcomes
have become synonymous. These broad-based community
outcomes are the focus of our state-level efforts:
ready for school
succeeding in school
support and stability
health and well-being
The NYS Partners For Children have developed
a tool that is intended to assist communities with their
outcome measurement/data collection efforts. This
document Assessing Child and Family Well-being can be
obtained by contacting Partners For Children.
Show Me the Money!
Understandably, prospective collaborations
will worry about the funding, but interestingly enough,
successful partnership projects stress that funding
issues should NOT be what drives the initiative. NOR
should it be the first question asked.
Maximizing existing local resources: When
the partnership arrives at the point of discussing
funding, options exist.
One stresses the "investor
concept" where prospective funders become
involved in the project from the beginning, participating
in the application and evaluation process, as well as the
In one instance, an "investor support
group" was established over a year and a half. No
money was brought into the discussions at this stage.
Once the vision of the group was established, the
investors went back to principals to ask for donations,
with a clear picture of the collaboration
objectives, scope and negotiated outcome and
invariably, with a strong commitment.
Other collaboration participants point to
bartering agreements, "aidable" funding
mechanisms, and in-kind contributions. While lump sum
cash donations help, it is the real commitment of all
partners that makes it work.
A successful community school notes that
"Although funding practices have been characterized
by rigid categorization in the past, more and more
government agencies are now looking to fund programs that
successfully leverage limited resources by building
bridges and coordinating services with the
In some cases, existing resources may be
leveraged or shifted from currently available funding.
Finally, potential funding sources should be
wide-ranging, and might include government
reimbursements, legislative grants, community
foundations, private funders, in-kind gifts and fees.
When local resources aren't enough,
be sure to make maximum use of appropriate federal
entitlement programs. These might include Chapter I
funding, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act under the auspices of the U.S. Department of
Education. The U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services oversees programs including Medicaid, Early
Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Services
(EPSDT), and Title V of the Social Security Act Maternal
and Child Health Block Grant. Under the same federal
agency, Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the Family
Support Act of 1988, Title XX Social Services Block
Grant, the Child Care Development Block Grant and the
Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Block Grant
provide funding for various health and human
All successful community collaborations
agree on this point: "Don&rsquot come to the
table for money! Make your project plan, and the money
will follow." A financial strategy should be the
means to implement service delivery design, rather than
an end. "Simply finding ways to generate new money
will not cause systems change unless a plan exists
defining how to use additional revenue to improve service
the least complicated strategy to accomplish the
refinancing strategies that might invite audit
exceptions or federal financial penalties, and
the benefits of a financial strategy to assure
advantages outweigh the challenges of
implementation and ongoing
administration. Been there, done
that. A community collaboration celebrating 40
years of success advises:
program content, outline, guidelines and scope
first; allow 3-6 months before any money is
"investors" to discuss the proposal
it is far more likely that funders
will buy into your efforts if they&rsquove
been there from the start.
a single fiscal intermediary and it is
advisable that this not an agency, which provides
services, to avoid real or perceived conflicts of
interest. Community partnerships can manage funds
much easier through one source and distribute
monies through one agency.
collaborations take time; laying the groundwork
to make them work is labor intensive.
must be made by consensus and they
must be ones everyone can not only live with, but
Research Cyber-StyleSurfing for dollars:
Explore the web for funding sources by starting with our resouce page
What about collaboration?
Use these key phrases to guide your search:
We are grateful to the following for allowing
us to adapt material:
Coalition Training Institute, May, 1996, The
Center for Pediatric Research, Norfolk, VA.
subscription information contact Kathy Brenan @
National Technical Assistance Center of the
Children Aid Society.
Rochester/Monroe County Community Profile:
How Well Are We Doing? Visit these websites
Center for Governmental Research, Inc., Rochester,
Together We Can: A Guide For
Crafting a Profamily System of Education and Human
Departments of Education
- Health and Human Services
Humor, in most circumstances, makes even the largest
job a pleasure.
The Partners For Children wish to thank the Popcorn
Group who amassed, amused, confused,
condensed, collaborated and cajoled to achieve this final