Key Steps to a Successful Collaboration
The following 8 steps can serve as a roadmap for RHY and DV/SA interesting in exploring how they can work more effectively to address the needs of street youth dealing with relationship violence. Brief descriptions of each step are included, followed by a case example that illustrates how these steps played out one collaborative project.
Identify Common Purpose | Back to TopDetermine goals of the collaboration to identify the common purpose. Participants in the collaborative effort came to the table based on a common interest in addressing these goals.
Examine Core Values | Back to TopIt is common for people to come to the table with little or no experience with collaboration or to have had negative experiences in past efforts. Embarking on cross-stream collaboration with two completely different service systems requires an examination of core values. This process will inevitably reveal common ground as well as potential areas of conflict. Conflict can both assist in generating new ideas as well as clarifying for each person the values that guide their work. Most professionals have discretionary pieces of their job, and the decisions made at those discretionary moments are guided by the core values of the individual. By understanding the context of the values of each system, “issues” that could threaten the vitality of the collaboration can be averted. Recognizing and acknowledging shared values can help new partners attain a true sense of synergy and connection to purpose.
Create a Shared Vision Statement | Back to TopShared values provide a foundation on which to build the collaboration and pave the way for creation of a shared vision statement to guide the work.
Explore Shared History | Back to TopRecording social movement milestones, cultural events, and political markers for the past 30 years, including the passage of key legislation, important benchmarks, and newsworthy events critical to the development of RHY and DV/SA fields. As each respective movement materializes on the timeline, it becomes clear that there is a compelling shared history and the intersection of accomplishments and challenges may emerge.
Understand Current Realities | Back to TopConducting an environmental scan can help the collaborative partners understand the challenges and opportunities facing one or both fields. A survey of the community(ies) your effort will target ensures that your vision and action plan is grounded in the needs and interests of the youth you hope to assist.
Develop an Action Plan and Timetable | Back to TopAfter laying the groundwork and finding common ground, efficient and effective development of a comprehensive Action Plan to guide the work can occur. Collaborative community groups run the risk of meeting to discuss a particular issue rather than strategize ways to respond to individual, family, and community needs and develop resources. Participants may lose interest in the meetings and groups that do not move toward measurable outcomes. Action plans can also prevent a group from acting only when there is a crisis or tragedy; an action plan increases the probability that change will be strategic.
Forming small work groups to address specific goals in the Action Plan will:
- Allow individual members to explore aspects of the work that are most interesting to them
- Create opportunities for members to get to know each other more intimately
- Lead to the development of a large number of deliverables in a shorter amount of time.
Be mindful that, in order to effectively create a product, it is necessary for the groups to coordinate efforts and complete work outside of meeting time. Provide time at each meeting for the groups to create deliverables associated with their goals. Include an opportunity for the groups to report on progress and enlist the support of the full group as needed. Each group will benefit from the work of the others.
Develop a Learning Community | Back to TopThe “care and feeding” of collaborative partnerships is important. Professional development and training are cornerstones to successful programs, but also of successful collaborations. In addition to providing opportunities to develop specific skills and knowledge needed to address goals, there is a much broader impact. There is an opportunity to develop a Learning Community.
Effective Learning Communities apply theories of adult learning to create conditions that support and encourage continuous learning. This theory forms the foundation of a group action model that is participant-driven, needs-based, and outcome-centered. Built on the principles of Adult Learning1 and Learning Communities,2 this model is effective because:
- Participants are autonomous and self-directed: they are involved in the process of identifying and planning their own learning and activities. Staff serve as the facilitator of the team process not as director.
- Participants are Resources: the group can capitalize on participant experience and the rich reservoir for learning this represents. Learning integrates new ideas with existing knowledge.
- Activities are goal-oriented: meetings are designed with mutually identified, measurable goals.
- Activities are relevant: On-going participant feedback and needs assessment frame service delivery and allows for active involvement in design and content.
- Activities are practical and solution focused: Hands-on learning that provides direct application to program implementation by addressing challenges and enhancing services will be most effective in completing project tasks.
A Learning Community provides the context for people to share knowledge, expand their learning, develop strategic alliances, and form new ideas and practices. Based on the principles of adult learning, it brings a diverse group of people together, widens the conversation and opens the doors to unique connections that may not have otherwise been realized. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. It uses a shared leadership model and critical reflection to create a culture of questioning, investigating, and seeking solutions so all grow professionally. The more people learn, the more they wanted to know.
Build in time annually or bi-annually to revisit the work done during that period, and to reset goals and action steps for the coming year.
Establish Consistency | Back to TopCollaborations are well-served by consistency in structure, participation, and schedules:
- Consistency in structure: Have a format for your sessions that is familiar and predictable. Sessions should include a mix of learning, group planning and reflection, and dedicated time for small work groups to address their goals.
- Consistency in Participation: Commitment to the collaboration must come from the organization, not just the individual. Agency leadership must be invested in the process and willing to dedicate staff time.
- Consistency in Schedules: Set meeting times one year in advance with group input. Not everyone will be able to make every meeting. Setting dates well in advance allows individuals to prioritize the sessions in the planning.