Teamwork urged for fixing communities

By Todd Cohen

Taking on urgent community problems is a tough job that requires new ways of thinking and working together, a new report says.

In Needle-Moving Community Collaboratives, a report based on a look at hundreds of community partnerships throughout the U.S., The Bridgespan Group found some common “operating principles” at 12 partnerships it considered to be successful.

Those include a “commitment to long-term involvement;” the involvement of “key stakeholders” across sectors; the use of shared data “to set the agenda and improve over time;” and the engagement of community members as “substantive partners.”

The report also finds five common elements that are essential to the success of community collaboratives, including a “shared vision and agenda;” effective leadership and governance; “alignment of resources toward what works,” as well as the use of data to “continually adapt;” dedicated staff capacity” and “appropriate structure” that links “talk to action;” and “sufficient” funding, targeting investments “to support what works.”

The report says most of the “ingredients” for a successful collaborative must be “locally grown.”

But it also says collaboratives can benefit from some key resources provided by institutions beyond the community, such as state and federal government, national networks and national philanthropy.

Those institutions can increase the “visibility and legitimacy” of a collaborative’s work; support policy and environmental change; provide support for knowledge and implementation; provide funding for the collaborative’s infrastructure and implementation; and help push for greater community partnership.

To achieve the efforts by communities as they struggle to find ways to better address their biggest challenges and “achieve more impact,” the report says, “government, community members, nonprofits, philanthropy and business must pull together.”

Those partners, it says, “must create common goals and singleness of purpose around what works, supported by adequate resources and outstanding leadership.”