What is going on in government and nonprofit communities that will impact their ability to succeed in the future?  I’ve asked this question to over 1,000  leaders as part of my Impact & Excellence book tours.  Six main themes have emerged as shifts that will likely shape the future of the sector.

  1. Redefining Accountability
  2. “What Works” Requires Investment in Data Collection
  3. Behavioral and Mental Health is Finally Getting Attention
  4. Succession Planning is Needed
  5. High-Performance Measurement Cultures Pay
  6. Collaboration is King

Hot Topic #6 Collaboration is King

A greater emphasis and expectation of social service collaboration is emerging.  Organizations and systems are moving towards managing to outcomes as funders focus on investing in “what works” and models of collective impact.   When organizations start collecting and analyzing performance and outcome measures, the need to form alliances with others to achieve medium and long term goals becomes obvious.

The importance of new collaborations became clear for one of our clients, a leader of a subsidized permanent housing nonprofit when she started examining her outcomes. To better understand what characteristics predicted long-term positive housing outcomes, they compared move-out data between individuals who qualified for government-funded programs that provided case management services to those individuals who did not qualify for such broad assistance. Through analysis of the collected data, leaders discovered that those who received case management services were significantly more successful at staying in permanent housing.

To increase the organization’s success rate of keeping individuals permanently housed, leaders realized the need to form mutually beneficial partnerships to best serve their clients. To assist these clients who currently do not qualify for additional services, they would need to seek additional partnerships and funding sources. When the executive director realized this need (and acknowledged her own need) to bolster her skills in building alliances and partnerships, she sought counsel on how to strengthen these skills in order to best meet this objective. The data held clues to what was most needed, and this leader responded by improving her skills and training in a way that allowed her to respond more fully to the challenge at hand.

Collaboration is an Indicator of High Performance

Research conducted as part of the Six Secret Success Skills for the High-Achieving Social Sector Leader revealed that a leader’s ability to partner emerged as one of the six most important skills.  In addition, leaders who created high-performance measurement cultures are more likely to value collaboration and partnerships compared to low-performing cultures (Impact & Excellence).   In the 21st century and beyond, the social sector will need to work together to solve increasingly complex problems. Strategic partnerships and alliances will be of critical importance if organizations are to achieve increased effectiveness and attract increased funding opportunities. The ability to find solutions for social challenges and effect change demands the experience, expertise and knowledge of several different groups.

How to Build Successful Collaborations

Collaborative leaders foster win-win opportunities and form interdependent relationships that help individuals, teams and organizations advance their goals.  Leaders who master the ability to create strategic alliances and partnerships understand the underlying meaning of the common expression, “There is no I in team.” They take the time to develop trust and respect among employees and stakeholders.  They listen to employees, clients and partners, using the information they gather to start from where they are and work toward a solution to an identified problem.

Successful collaborations have the following elements.

  1. The purpose and the members of the collaboration are formally defined.
  2. Leaders are passionate about how a collaboration will spur their mission forward and model their value of partnerships.
  3. Collaborative members are transparent, respect one another’s professional training and unique contribution, and work to foster good relationships.
  4. Leaders and program staff within collaborations strive for high-levels of communication which reinforces the common mission and how each member contributes to the mission.
  5. Collaborations are client-centric, focusing on addressing consumer/client needs from a whole person perspective.
  6. Leaders seek common outcome measures to evaluate performance and to make continuous improvement decisions.
  7. Leaders work together to solve collaboration barriers.
  8. Resources and funds are shared across the collaboration.

High-Performance Collaborations Improve Lives and Save Tax-Payer Dollars

When high-performing, leaders come together to create collaborations with the eight elements listed above, magic happens for clients and communities.  This is evidenced by research Measurement Resources recently conducted for Western Youth Services (WYS), a collaborative youth-serving mental health organization located in Orange County, CA.  We examined how WYS’s collaborative model alters the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  Without intervention, individuals with four or more ACEs are seven times more likely to have mental health problems and eleven times more likely to attempt suicide than individuals with zero ACEs. By embracing the collaborative elements above, WYS is successful at delivering services to youth and in reversing this trend by increasing resiliency in youth.  Measurement Resources estimated that each successful outcome saves the community approximately $18,856 in community costs per youth (Healthy and Hopeful: Healing Trauma – How the WYS Collaborative Model of Mental Health Services Builds Resilience and Alters the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)).

If you are seeking assistance to strengthen to develop a high-performance collaboration which will lead to enhanced community outcomes and public savings, Measurement Resources is here to help!  Contact us today to schedule a call to explore how our solutions can help you achieve your goals.