Monday, January 23, 2012

Making a Difference in Your Neighborhood: Creating Accountable Partnerships

In November 2011, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) released a new tool for communities: “Making a Difference In Your Neighborhood: A Handbook for Using Community Decision-Making to Improve the Lives of Children, Youth and Families.” Based on CSSP’s work in communities throughout the past two decades, this handbook provides communities with the “how to” guidance that is needed to begin community change efforts. In the next few months, we will provide a brief overview of each of the handbook’s chapters and highlight the information that we believe is critical to building communities that improve outcomes for children and families.

This week, we spotlight Chapter 2: Creating Accountable Partnerships.

As communities begin to develop a results agenda, it is critical to acknowledge that each member of the community brings a wealth of skills, relationships and experiences that will inform and strengthen your community change efforts.  Individuals - including local government officials, school board members, faith leaders, business leaders and nonprofit leaders - and local agencies and organizations all have access to the knowledge and resources necessary to implement effective community change strategies.

Engaging these individuals and agencies as partners can take on many forms, with some members/agencies creating formal working relationships and others creating more informal relationships.  Ultimately, there should be a group of core partners that is dedicated to the identified results agenda.  This core partnership will likely initiate many of the community change efforts and play a large role in creating new partnerships by using their networks to engage residents and other stakeholders.  

It is important to structure partnerships in a manner that promotes shared leadership, transparency and inclusive decision-making to ensure that all members of the community have a voice and that the partnership's work remains focused and accountable to the results agenda.  As partners develop a shared agreement around specific roles and responsibilities, it may be helpful to consider the following questions:
  • How can each partner contribute?
  • How will we make decisions?
  • What kind of staff/volunteer support do we need?
  • How will core partners and the broader community work together?
  • How will we sustain the involvement of neighborhood residents?
  • How will we monitor and evaluate our progress towards achieving results?  
For more information about creating accountable partnerships, including assessment tools and strategies for effective collaboration, please view the Making a Difference in Your Neighborhood Handbook.

To learn more about CSSP’s work in communities, please click here.

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