Models of Community Partnerships
Models of partnerships tend to focus on one of three questions: (1) what are the preconditions that lead to partnership formation; (2) what is the process of collaboration within the partnership; and (3) what are the outcomes when organizations join in partnerships.(249) Models of partnerships in teen pregnancy prevention and other health promotion efforts have looked primarily at the process of interaction within the partnership, viewing the group over time and looking at internal and external factors and their relation to each other. They typically see partnerships as evolving through a series of stages, with certain issues or tasks assuming prominence in each phase. The rate at which the partnership moves through these stages and the direction of change is affected by internal and external factors. Some of the more well developed models are described below.
The Open Systems Model(250)
Florin, Chavis and associates develop a model of partnerships using systems theory. In this view, pictured in Figure 1, community organizations are open systems that receive various input from the environment, which is transformed within the organization by organizational components and processes and becomes throughput. Within the throughput the organization performs activities that use energy or resources to either maintain the organization or produce the organization's goals. Once they leave the organization, its activities result in output, either intended or unintended. These become part of the environment, which can serve as further input to the organization. Like all systems, community partnerships tend toward disorganization and "death" or entropy. The organization resists entropy by using energy, first collecting inputs or resources-for example, members and money-then transforming them to maintain the organization, and then using them to produce output.
This model highlights the importance of access to information on the environment, both from community assessment and from feedback, including criticism, on organization activities. The community partnership must make constant adjustments to the environment. The organization also needs information on its own functioning; again monitoring and feedback are important to maintaining the organization.
The Health Promotion through Community Change Model(251)
The Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development adopts a health promotion approach in which responsibility for supporting health and preventing disease is shared by individuals and the environment. The Work Group shares the view of the World Health Organization that a community development approach emphasizing self-help, citizen participation, and community control fits well with the health promotion framework. Their model posits community partnerships as catalysts for community change. Community change is, narrowly, new and adjusted programs, policies, and practices related to the partnership's mission. Ultimately, community change is the achievement of the health outcomes that are the partnership's mission, along with empowerment of the community.
The model is presented in Figure 2, an adaptation and simplification of Community partnerships plan for and implement preventive interventions designed to change the targets of change, for example, youth and parents, and agents of change, for example, peers and adults, in various channels of influence, or community sectors, such as schools, courts, and the like. Collaborative planning, the first element in the process, involves the community in identifying community health goals and specific changes to be sought in the community. Health goals are specific levels of intermediate and ultimate outcomes, for example, a 50 percent reduction in sexual activity among young adolescents and a 25 percent reduction in rates of teen pregnancy. Community leaders and outside support may assist in planning by providing training to community members, assisting with needs/strengths assessment, developing group structure, and assisting in strategic planning. Planning is both a first step and a continuing activity throughout the life of the partnership.
Community actions are the second element in the process. They begin to occur regularly in the first eight to twelve months of the partnership. These are actions taken within the community by the partnership to create community change. For example, meeting with the school principal about new after-school programs is a community action. Community changes, the third element, are new or transformed programs, policies, and practices, such as an after-school program for latch-key youth, enhanced enforcement of truancy regulations, and the like. They begin to occur regularly in the first 10 to 14 months of the partnership. These actions and changes are seen, within a public health model, as affecting risk and protective factors associated with particular health outcomes. Both community actions and changes are among the more immediate outcomes of the partnership.
Community capacity and intermediate and ultimate outcomes, the fourth element, are the ultimate goals of the partnership. These include the community's ability to pursue its chosen purposes both now and in the future and the evidence of the impact of the partnership's activities on intermediate outcomes, such as behavioral factors linked to its purpose, and on ultimate outcomes. The fifth element is adaptation, renewal, and institutionalization. This is the partnership's ability to adjust to new conditions and build long-term, sustainable capacities. Each element of the partnership framework affects the others. And outcomes can provide feedback that will affect future planning, implementation, and outcome.
Because ultimate and even intermediate outcomes often take many years to appear and are difficult to document, it may be hard for partnerships to sustain their efforts and retain support. The Work Group advocates that evaluators and partnership members together develop a system of evaluation that suits local conditions and answers questions identified by the members. Using a variety of sources of data, including
a monitoring and feedback system,
a goal attainment report,
interviews with key participants,
surveys of satisfaction,
community level indicators of impact, and
evaluators assess four process variables-members recruited or participating, planning products, financial resources generated, and dollars obtained-and three outcome measures-services provided, community actions, and community changes. These variables may change, depending on the particulars of a given group; in one partnership evaluation, instances of media coverage were included among process measures. The results of this monitoring are regularly communicated to partnership members, the community, and current and potential funders. This information guides partnership development and allows the recognition of early success. The Work Group has used this system to evaluate eight health and human services coalitions in Massachusetts, cardiovascular disease prevention coalitions in Kansas, a CSAP Community Partnership Program in New Mexico, a substance abuse prevention program in Kansas, and three replications of the South Carolina School/Community Program to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
In these various partnerships, evaluators found that process measures developed first, usually in the first three to six months, and continued to increase throughout the life of the group. Groups that only produced high levels of planning products, which the Work Group called "Planning Coalitions," tended to be productive and have satisfied members during the first year, but then both production and satisfaction decreased. Services and community actions developed in the first six to eight months. Community changes followed. Groups that largely produced services for members and providers, with few community actions or changes, tended to have high degrees of member satisfaction. Groups providing services to the community without many community actions or changes tended to be newer and still developing. The Work Group called these "Support Networks." "Coalitions as Catalysts for Change" produced planning products and then community actions and changes in steadily increasing numbers. Services provided grew steadily but more slowly. "Hybrid Coalitions" had high numbers of both planning products and community actions and somewhat lower numbers of community changes and services. Satisfaction of members in these groups was high.
Analyzing the data from these partnerships, the Work Group concludes that planning products do not lead to community change; community actions are necessary for change, and in most cases the actions do produce changes. They hypothesize that community changes are early evidence of the partnership's success. There was evidence for this relationship in the analysis of Project Freedom, a partnership to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse, which successfully changed its community in many ways and documented a reduction in single car accidents, a measure of community level impact, that appears related to these changes. Further research is needed to establish this causal link.
The empowerment framework advocated by the Work Group includes grant makers, outside evaluators, and technical support providers within the partnership. They and local partnership members are interconnected, each requiring the cooperation of the others to function successfully. More reciprocal relationships among partners, with communities defining priorities, directing missions, determining assistance activities, and influencing evaluation methods and goals, should lead to both empowerment and the achievement of community-determined outcomes.
Community Based Consortium Development(252)
In a series of articles, Bailey and McNally Koney review the literature on the development of organizations, inter-organizational collaboration, and community organizing and find that, despite differences, the models have three elements in common: 1) they view development as an evolutionary process from start up to mature system; however, they do not see this progression as always proceeding smoothly from one stage to the next-various factors both within the system and outside it can affect how quickly the system moves from stage to stage and whether it moves forward or backward. 2) They view the chronological age of the partnership and its stage of development as independent. 3) Each developmental stage has specific issues and characteristics associated with it.
From the literature, they isolate eight key components that together characterize partnership development:
- leadership that is inspirational & either participatory or authoritative; it may be one or more organizations or individuals
- membership representing diverse constituencies
- environmental linkages-the type, strength, and continuity of connections between the partnership and external organizations, including the level of community involvement
- purpose-or mission and whether it is voluntary or mandated
- strategy-the ideology and proposed means to achieve the purpose
- task(s)-the number of issues to be addressed and specific activities that will lead to accomplishing the purpose
- structure-the size, geographic scope, centrality of decision making, complexity of function and services, formality of rules and policies
- systems-the mechanisms for decision making, communication, budgeting, planning, administration, and the like
Leadership has an overarching role in creating effective relationships among all the components. Others of these components have primary or secondary importance in one or more of the four stages of partnership development. Their four-stage model is adapted from earlier three-stage models-formation, maintenance, and termination.(253) They call their framework Community Based Consortium Development (CBCD).
Assembling is the first phase. During this period a leader is identified, either through self selection, mandate, or by community choice; members are recruited based on resources needed to achieve the mission; roles, responsibilities and relationships are determined and understood; the mission of the group is understood; a structure is initiated; funding and other resources are identified.
Ordering is the next phase. In it processes and structures for building consensus and managing conflict are established as are systems for distribution of resources, communication, decision making, and evaluation; member recruitment continues as turnover occurs; leaders emerge among members.
Performing is the third phase. It involves the operation of all the systems that were established and performing the activities necessary to accomplish the group's purpose.
Ending is the final phase. The focus in it is on evaluation of the partnership, making adjustments and improvements, and ultimately disbanding or renewing the association by reforming or creating a new group.
The eight partnership components are process variables to be measured in formative evaluation that assesses the processes used by the group in its development and their strengths and weaknesses. This information is regularly communicated by evaluators to partnership members to allow for continuous improvement and to monitor the development of the partnership through the four stages. Summative evaluation measures the achievement of the partnership's goals and objectives.
Bailey and McNally Koney note that their model is based on a social psychological approach that emphasizes socio-emotional characteristics, for example, interpersonal relationships, influence, power, control, and satisfaction of the members and leader. In addition, their examples are all partnerships that were formed as a condition of external funding mandates. They conclude that the model should be used as a general guide rather than a detailed blueprint for partnership development.
Systemic Inter-organizational Networks(254)
One of the most highly developed models of inter-organizational groups is proposed by Alter and Hage in their book-length study of a variety of "network" arrangements in both the public and private sectors.
Alter and Hage suggest that four conditions are each necessary for inter-organizational relationships to develop: there must be a need for financial resources and sharing of risk; a need for expertise; a need for adaptive efficiency, i.e., speed, flexibility, and quality in the development of new products and services; and finally, a willingness to cooperate. They propose that the willingness to cooperate is the most basic condition and that it shapes analysis of costs and benefits. In other words, both ethics and economics lead to cooperation: increasingly, among cognitively and technologically advanced groups, solving complex problems is seen as the joint good. A culture of trust, created by a history of collaborative behavior, such as professional associations and friendship networks, is necessary for there to be a willingness to cooperate. The complexity of the task is the critical determinant of greater inter-organizational collaboration because it increases willingness to collaborate, need for expertise and need for funds and sharing of risks. The interaction of these conditions is pictured in Figure 3.(255)
Alter and Hage describe a 12-type system of inter-organizational forms of collaboration based on variation along three dimensions. The first dimension is whether the organizations are in competitive or symbiotic relationships, in other words, whether they occupy the same sector or different sectors. The second dimension is the number of organizations involved: two and three organization associations are distinguished from multi-organization networks. The final dimension is the extent of cooperation among the organizations: limited, moderate, and broad. The authors suggest that inter-organizational collaborations tend to evolve, going from exchange relationships to action or promotional networks and finally to joint ventures and systemic networks, which are non-competitive associations of many organizations that cooperate broadly. This sequence is not rigid; a network may begin as a systemic production system. However, more developed forms have to include the collective activities of the less developed forms. Alter and Hage note that they might have included other dimensions in their taxonomy, for example, duration of the group, location of the membership, and others. They suggest that their taxonomy is not exhaustive but is a beginning.
Synthesizing organizational theory, population ecology theory, and institutional governance theory, they suggest a system of 19 variables grouped into categories. Their model is shown in Figure 4.(256)
External controls on the network include three factors:
- resource dependency-the degree to which the network relies on external resources, for example, state funding
- network autonomy-the degree to which the network is governed by external mandates
- work status-the degree to which clients receive services voluntarily or involuntarily
Technologies, what we know and how we use this knowledge, can be defined along five dimensions:
- task scope-the complexity of the task, for example, the number of categories used to diagnose or the number of intervention roles used in service delivery
- task intensity-the degree to which services are concentrated, for example, the average minutes spent with or on behalf of each client
- task duration-the degree to which services are long lasting, for example, the average months case remains open
- task volume-the size of the work load, for example, the average number of cases at one time
- task uncertainty-the extent to which outcomes of the process or intervention are knowable.
External controls and technologies together comprise the environment of the network. These to a large extent determine the network's structure and operations. The five dimensions of network structure are:
- size-the number of participating organizations
- centrality-the extent to which one or a small number of organizations dominates the network
- complexity-the extent to which a variety of services are available to clients within the network
- differentiation-the extent to which there is division of function among organizations in a network
- communication/connectivity-the number of communication linkages between organizations in the network.
The choice of coordination methods, called operational processes, are the operations of the network that are most important for outcomes. These processes occur at two levels:
- administrative coordination-the extent to which decisions are made jointly and with mutual adjustment and feedback. Coordination at the administrative or policy level can be impersonal-achieved through formal plans, contracts, and rules, either written or unwritten. Coordination can be achieved through personal methods, involving a staff person who acts as coordinator and informal, direct communication between administrators and staff. And coordination can be through group methods in which standing and ad hoc interagency committees meet regularly to plan and coordinate.
- task integration or operational coordination-the extent to which staff members work together interdependently across organizational boundaries. Task integration can be sequential, in which one agency treats a client, terminates service, and refers to the next agency. Task integration can be reciprocal, in which more than one agency treats the client at the same time. Or it can be collective, in which staff from several agencies develop treatment plans together and systematically share the tasks of treating the client.
Networks employ some combination of the three levels of administrative coordination and task integration. When environmental factors, structural characteristics of networks, and internal coordination are in balance, networks operate effectively, with two outcomes kept in check:
- conflict-the amount of disharmony and strife between organizations in a network, and
- performance gap-the difference between expectations of the network's effectiveness and its actual effectiveness.
A network is in balance when its technology, structure, and coordination develop "in tandem." In other words, as dependency on external resources, complexity of tasks, and complexity and differentiation of structure increase, higher levels of personal and group coordination are required. When impersonal coordination is used in dependent and complex networks, there is greater conflict and performance gap. There is a tendency for networks to be pushed out of balance by controls from outside funding sources that emphasize impersonal methods of coordination through regulation, formal operating procedures, and structural differentiation. This sort of network experiences the most conflict and performance gap.
In contrast with administrative coordination, task integration through team methods increases as networks become more complex and more dependent on outside resources. Alter and Hage suggest that task integration may compensate to some extent for lack of administrative coordination. Inter-organization direct service teams are easier to establish than joint administrative decision-making groups. They are also harder for outsiders to control.
The theory and its application to a variety of social service networks lead Alter and Hage to make several recommendations for inter-organizational groupings:
- Power within large organizations should be decentralized.
- If there are many exchanges of clients between agencies, a boundary spanner should be created to help move the relationship toward joint service development.
- Partners with complementary competencies are better suited to develop solutions to complex problems.
- In promotional linkages and networks it is better if all organizations are of about the same size in personnel and revenues.
- Support networks of all professionals working in a network should be formed at the same time as the network to build trust, by creating social bonds through information sharing, collective learning and other interdependencies.
- As tasks get more complex in promotional and systemic production networks, coordination through teamwork involving all member organizations becomes essential. In simpler systems, like promotional linkages and production ventures, boundary spanners must provide a steady flow of information to member organizations about developments and difficulties. Problems should be solved jointly.
- In systemic production networks and joint ventures, successes and failures, profits and losses must be shared. This is necessary for joint problem solving.
- In systemic production networks and joint ventures there should be coordinating councils at the administration and production levels. Coordination requires active participation of members in joint problem solving.
- In any collaborative effort, structural differentiation leads to a lack of a common frame of reference, or definition of the problem, which is a major cause of conflict. This can only be overcome by understanding of the partner organizations' culture and model, which is best accomplished by transferring personnel, both staff and administrators, to the other agencies.
- Partners and the government need to measure adaptive efficiencies, time to market, and the time cost of development, so that managers do not continue to focus exclusively on production efficiencies.
The Open Systems Model*
*Chavis, Florin & Felix, 1993, "Nurturing grassroots initiatives for community development: the role of enabling systems," in Community Organization and Social Administration: Advances, Trends and Emerging Principles, edited by T. Mizrahi and J. Morrison, New York: The Haworth Press, page 45.
The Health Promotion through Community Change Model*
*Francisco, Paine, & Fawcett, 1993, "A methodology for monitoring and evaluating community health coalitions," Health Education Research: Theory and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 3, page 405.
The Environmental Forces that Promote
Systemic Inter-Organizational Networks*
The Systemic Inter-Organizational Network Model**
*Alter & Hage, 1993, Organizations Working Together, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers, page 265.
**Ibid., p. 103.