Partnerships and collaborations are important for many reasons. For example, collaborating with community agencies can facilitate outreach to Veterans averse to seeking help through VA medical centers, identify gaps in homeless services in the community, facilitate referrals for emergency shelter and other services not provided by VA facilities, build coalitions needed for community-wide homelessness prevention efforts, and leverage additional resources to help homeless Veterans that otherwise would not be available.
Partnerships and collaborations also help us use available resources wisely and help us be more effective and build support for our work by involving more people. Cultivating partners and developing collaborations take time and often involve significant changes in everyone’s thinking about how your work gets done. Generally there are four levels of collaboration, each with certain requirements and benefits (Chinman, Imm & Wandersman, 2004; Himmelman, 1996). The four levels are described below with an example based on a VA homeless center and a community agency.
Networking – the exchange of information for mutual benefit. The most informal type requires little trust or time, although these factors may be create barriers to expanded collaboration. An example: the VA homeless center provides information about its programs to the community agency to facilitate referrals.
Coordinating – the exchange of information and change in activities for mutual benefit and common purpose which requires fewer turf issues as well as more trust and time. An example: the VA homeless center and community agency coordinate the times when their programs are offered to enable Veterans to take advantage of programs at both locations.
Cooperating – the exchange of information, change in activities and sharing of resources for mutual benefit and a common purpose. This requires:
More organizational commitment than networking and coordinating
High amounts of trust, time and access to each other’s turf
An example: the community agency provides office space to allow a staff member from the VA homeless center to be on-site to provide outreach to homeless Veterans and the VA homeless center provides space on its property for the community agency to operate a homeless shelter to serve both Veterans and non-Veterans.
Collaborating – a formal, sustained commitment by several organizations to enhance each other’s capacity for a common missions by sharing risks, responsibilities and rewards. An example: the VA homeless center and community agency provide professional development to each other’s staff to better meet the needs of the homeless populations they both serve.
It’s important to acknowledge some of the potential barriers you could face -- like turf issues and limited resources. You may have to slow down and take some time to build relationships. Use the capacity assessment to determine who from your program or organization knows someone from another organization you want to partner with, and then reach out to start developing a good working relationship with that key person. Be specific about what you want—specific commitments are sometimes easier to negotiate than open-ended ones—and consider how you may be able to help them in return.
LINKS TO PARTNERSHIP AND COLLABORATION SITES
To find out more about how to develop partnership and collaboration capacities, we recommend:
The Resource Center for the Corporation for National and Community Service
You’ll need basic tools to help you do your work no matter what the program is – computers, Internet access, and spreadsheet programs. You’ll want original copies of the program materials. The original purchase price of materials may be expensive so if you borrow a copy from a partner, make sure it is a complete one!
Don’t forget to think about all the specific, practical things you might need to conduct your activities, e.g., meeting space, food, supplies, transportation, notebooks, videos, and TV/DVD/video players.
When considering how much money it’s going to cost to run the program, think ahead. Staff turnover may require additional staff training down the line. Increased participation in a new program may result in increased needs and costs in other areas, such as transportation, janitorial services, or utilities. For specific segments of your work, you may also need to consider hiring an evaluator with the technical expertise to help you. Some ideas are listed below to help you identify one.
RESOURCES FOR HIRING AN EVALUATOR
To find out more about how to hire an evaluator, we recommend:
The W.K Kellogg foundation has an online toolkit about evaluation with a section on developing an evaluation budget as well as how to hire and manage an evaluator which includes a free, one-page hiring checklist: http://www.wkkf.org/default.aspx?tabid=75&CID=281&NID=61&LanguageID=0
To find an evaluator, go to the Web site for the American Evaluation Association: www.eval.org
Before considering hiring an evaluator, you should check to see whether evaluation expertise is available to you through your Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC) or Systems Redesign Committee.
How to Determine Program Capacities
Starting on page Error: Reference source not found, we’ve provided a Capacity Assessment Tool to help you capture information about the key capacities described above you’ll need to implement and evaluate your program. Materials describing the program you’re considering should help you determine the following basic information:
Requirements for each type of capacity
Whether your organization has the ability to meet those requirements
Once you have filled in these important pieces of information, you can determine what you could do to improve your capacity if it’s insufficient.
You may find that it’s going be very hard to improve your capacity in some areas. This is the reality for many organizations. Don’t be discouraged. You can think of creative ways to get what you need or your assessment may help you see more clearly that the program you’re considering is not the right one for you. If you can’t achieve sufficient capacity for the program you are considering, you can return to the short list of evidence-based programs you created in Step 3 and select another one to consider that might work better with your capacities.
You may also find the Capacity Assessment Tool helpful as a planning instrument. For example, filling it out may show you what types of staff you need to hire or what kinds of expertise you need to recruit in the future.
Sustainability Tip: Building and maintaining the various capacities described in this step helps sustain your efforts. You’ll have enough resources, a well-trained staff, a group of supportive volunteers, and the right leaders helping you stay connected to partners or developing new relationships and collaborations that keep you going. Also don’t wait until you’ve finished your program – think now about how you can find or develop new resources to support your work.
Instructions for Using the Capacity Assessment Tool
Make as many copies of the tool as you need to complete this task. There are separate capacity worksheets for each of these areas:
Program specific staff capacities
General staff capacities
Technical (expertise) capacities
The process for completing the Capacity Assessment Tool is as follows:
Gather together information describing what is required to implement the program you’re considering including costs, staffing levels and requirements, training needs, materials, facilities and other fiscal and resource capacities.
For each of the programs you’re considering, go through each of the capacity worksheets and answer the questions about capacity requirements, whether you think your organizational capacity is adequate in each area and what your plan is to increase the capacity if you need to.
If filling out all the worksheets for several programs seems like a lot of work, you might consider splitting the tasks up among several people. You could divide the task by each program you’re reviewing or have one person responsible for finding out all about one capacity area such as technical expertise for all of the programs you’re considering.
Once you complete the Capacity Assessment Tool, you’ll have a better idea about whether you can implement the program you’re considering with enough fidelity to achieve your desired outcomes. The most revealing part of this task may be the gaps that appear. These gaps may be capacities you can build to achieve your goals or they may indicate that you need to select another program.
If you don’t have the necessary capacities, it’s important to think through how you can get them. If you can’t deliver the program well because of capacity challenges, perhaps you should consider selecting a different program (identified in Step 3) or stepping back to build up your capacity.
Applying This Step When You Already Have a Program
It’s important to periodically reassess what you’re doing and whether or not you have all the capacities needed to continue the quality of your work. Consider these questions:
Have you hired new staff since you started your program that need to be trained?
Have your facilitators been to a refresher course or updated their skills in the last several years?
Are there additional training resources that you need?
We suggest you use the Capacity Assessment Tool which begins on page Error: Reference source not found to help you revisit the capacities you have for a current program or for any new program you’re planning to implement.
Checklist for Step 5
When you finish working on this step, you should have:
An understanding of the key capacities you need to support your work
Assessed whether you have the right levels of capacity needed to implement your potential programs
Determined which capacities need to be further developed so you can move ahead with your work
Further narrowed your choice of programs to implement
Before Moving onto Step 5
You’ve now completed a cycle of evaluating an evidence-based program for its potential to meet your goals and desired outcomes, its fit with your Veteran population, and your capacity for implementing the program. You may have repeated this cycle to examine several potential programs.
In Step 6, you will pick the program that best fits your Veterans and which you believe you can effectively deliver. Step 6 will outline the details of developing a plan to deliver your program.
Step 6: Make A Plan For Implementing Your Program.
Overview of Planning
After testing several potential evidence-based programs for fit and capacity, now it’s time to finalize your program selection if you haven’t already done so. Step 6 will show you how to create a detailed plan for implementing your chosen program. When you finish the tasks outlined in this step, you’ll be ready to launch your program.
Your plan should bring together all the decisions you’ve made in the first five steps and help get your team ready for implementing, monitoring and evaluating the program you selected.
This step helps you decide who does what and by when so that no details are forgotten. The tasks in this step also ensure that the aspects of cultural fit you considered in Step 4 become fully operational.
The tasks in this step will help you:
Finalize your program selection
Develop a work plan
Confirm that have done all you can to make sure your program is culturally appropriate
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
Previously completed assessments or tools from all prior steps