Building and Sustaining Community Partnerships for Teen Pregnancy Prevention: A Working Paper. 3. Community Involvement & Membership Recruitment

06/01/1998

Community involvement is another essential, and particularly challenging, part of the mobilization process. Several studies of partnerships noted that skills in community organizing and development are essential,(52) especially among the conveners of the partnership.(53) Most emphasize inclusion of those most affected by the problem, including youth-at-risk, parents, and traditionally disenfranchised groups.(54) Yet involving youth and males and sustaining residents' involvement are among the greatest challenges, requiring expertise, resources, time and energy.(55) In the Annie E. Casey Foundation supported Plain Talk partnerships, community members were involved through their participation, often paid, in the community assessment process.(56) Stipends, home health meetings, door-to-door canvassing, and addressing other needs identified by residents as more pressing are useful in recruitment.(57) Grassroots organizations are also helpful in this regard.(58) A number of studies of partnerships found that technical assistance(59) or the hiring of a community organizer(60) is important in successfully involving the community.

Beyond involving community residents, membership recruitment includes attracting a broadly representative group of individuals and organizations both within and outside the community with a role to play in the issue. Diversity of membership is considered essential in partnership success.(61) The evaluators of the Community Partnership Demonstration Program funded by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) hypothesize that "successful partnerships will reflect their target community characteristics."(62)

Most studies found benefits to including prominent citizens and political leaders, and representatives of business, education, and health and human services sectors, faith communities, youth serving organizations, the media, professional organizations and service organizations.(63) Less expected partners include sectors such as housing, transportation, justice, welfare, child welfare and foster care, sports and recreation, managed care, shelters, drug companies, and organizations that are concerned with birth defects and disabilities.(64) Some suggest a balance between public and private sectors.(65) In general, involving various sectors from the beginning is an advantage. In the Plain Talk partnerships, this was particularly true of health care providers.(66)

Partnerships tend to grow as they develop, often beginning with a small group with common needs and interests and broadening to include diverse constituents.(67) Some partnerships have found it useful to limit new members based on geography, on programmatic novelty, philosophical approach, and interpersonal style.(68) While diversity is considered important, large, diverse partnerships are more difficult to manage.(69) Because of the variety of partnership types and structures, no absolute or even approximate number of partners can be identified as optimal.(70)