Activities to Extend Learning
A. What is collaboration?
Define collaboration with examples from your own work situation.
Describe two experiences you have had with collaboration: one positive, one you wish had gone differently.
B. Why collaborate?
How do you, as a family worker, network and build relationships with other family-serving agencies that might lead to interagency collaborations?
Write a script to introduce yourself and describe your program/agency to a new family worker who was just hired as part of an interagency collaboration. Include the following information: what services your agency offers; how the agency networks with the community and does outreach to families; the agency’s relationships with other service providers; and, in general, how the agency obtains its funding.
In your opinion, who are your agency’s “gatekeepers” (people in your community whose support will help your agency do its work and whose negative impressions will hinder it)? How does your program/agency keep these people informed about your agency’s services? How do these people, in turn, support your agency in the community?
C. Coordination and cooperation: The first steps toward collaboration
Describe the differences between coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. Give two examples of each from your work or personal life.
Sometimes agencies decide to collaborate when it is really more appropriate to coordinate or cooperate in offering services together. Describe one situation when the most appropriate way to offer an interagency service is through coordination; one, through cooperation; and one, through collaboration.
Why is effective family development work between a worker and family a good example of collaboration? Describe a situation to illustrate how the process of collaboration works between a worker and family.
D. Different levels of collaboration: Individuals, front-line workers, and systems
Describe an individual-level collaboration.
Describe steps a frontline worker can take to promote collaboration between agencies. How are these similar to a collaboration between a frontline family development worker and a family?
List three reasons why collaboration is often needed at the system level for services to be delivered more effectively to families.
E. Keys to successful collaboration
Describe a successful interagency collaboration in which you took part or are doing so now. Using the seven steps, explain how the group applied the keys to successful collaboration to make the partnership work and achieve their goals.
Create a list of simple ground rules to discuss if you were the facilitator at a first meeting of agency leaders and community members who are meeting to discuss a project requiring interagency collaboration.
Think of an interagency collaboration your agency is involved with right now. Answer the following questions or talk with an agency colleague to find out the answers: What was the inspiration for creating an interagency collaboration? How were partners’ tasks and responsibilities assigned? How do the partners keep each other informed? What new skills has your agency learned as a result of the collaboration.
F. Practical pitfalls of collaboration (and how to turn them into advantages)
Describe examples of some of the pitfalls of collaboration that have occurred in your community or that you think could happen. For each, describe one way the pitfall could be turned into an advantage.
How can the pitfalls of collaboration influence effective working relationships between family workers of partnering agencies? What can family workers do to help their agencies turn the practical pitfalls of collaboration into advantages?
The chapter states, “Conflict is inevitable in collaboration. It can even be a benefit, because it can deepen the group’s understanding of each person or agency’s point of view.” What do you think about this? Describe an experience when a conflict within an interagency collaboration helped deepen each partner’s understanding of the goal or of each other.
G. The bigger picture: How agency, state, and national policies affect your work
Describe three examples of how state or national policies affect the families you work with.
How can you encourage families to take an active role in influencing policies that affect their ability to become self-reliant? Think of examples from your experience when you have or might have taken this action.
Sometimes, the lack of state or national policies has a profound impact on the daily lives of families. Think of a family you are working with where a lack of a policy affects their lives (for example, the lack of a national prescription plan for senior citizens or a federal minimum wage so low that it still leaves families with poverty level income). How does the lack of a policy affect families that you work with? As a family worker, what can you do to help?
H. Interagency training: A key to interagency collaboration
Describe how interagency training can promote interagency collaboration.
How does interagency collaboration help families become self-reliant?
How has your participation in FDC training helped you recognize ways that interagency training can promote interagency collaboration?
These skills practices are a suggested list. You may also develop your own skills practice or make modifications to the ones listed below to help you create a meaningful and manageable plan.
Arrange to talk with an informal “gatekeeper” in your community (a person in an official or unofficial position of respect who refers families to your agency and whose negative impressions will hinder your agency’s efforts). Provide up-to-date information about your agency’s services and ask for her/his ideas and suggestions about ways to build positive relationships with families and other service providers in your community. Ask about areas of need in the community that she/he feels are not being met. Describe how interagency collaborations your agency is involved with help bridge gaps in support or services. Write a reflection summarizing this gatekeeper’s impression of your agency’s strengths, challenges, and recommendations for increasing your agency’s ability to collaborate effectively.
Arrange to talk with a family worker from another service provider in your community to network and build a respectful relationship with her/his agency. Choose a family worker who you know from working together on an interagency committee or who has referred families to your agency. Ask if she/he would like to meet for coffee or lunch to talk about ways the agencies can work together more effectively. At the meeting, use techniques for “communicating with skill and heart” to develop a mutually respectful relationship and share helpful information about ways the agencies can cooperate or coordinate services. Write a reflection describing the skills you used to develop a respectful relationship and how you think the meeting will help families involved with both of your agencies.
Before the next agency staff meeting or in-service, talk with your supervisor and offer to share a brief explanation of the differences between interagency coordination, cooperation, and collaboration to other family workers and staff. If your supervisor agrees, prepare notes to explain the differences using examples from your own agency’s services and programs. At the meeting, share the information, present the examples, and facilitate a short discussion to respond to questions and comments. Write a reflection on how you prepared for the meeting, how it went, and how the group responded to the information you presented.
Arrange to talk with a colleague (co-worker, supervisor, or leader) who coordinates a program or service of a successful interagency collaboration. Ask her/him to describe how the collaboration progressed through the following steps: developing a partnership; assessing reasons for collaborating; setting goals and making a plan; learning and practicing skills of collaboration, and celebrating accomplishments. Write a reflection describing what you learned, the strengths of each partner, and how the collaboration help bridge any gaps in support or services to families.
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