Beyond teen pregnancy prevention, those working on other complex social problems with multiple, interrelated causes - violence, alcohol and other drug use, youth development - have also come to the conclusion that individual, single shot solutions are inadequate.(7) As a result, efforts to address all of these problems have increasingly focused on the need to involve a variety of community institutions and mobilize resources community-wide through creative partnerships.
Partnerships, coalitions, and collaborations (see Appendix A for definitions) have been a strategy for promoting health and for delivering social services since the early decades of this century. It wasn't until 1990, however, that "Inter-organizational and Interdisciplinary Collaboration" was given an entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Work. Professional interest in cooperative approaches increased in the 1960s because of decentralization, specialization, and categorization of services and growing acknowledgment of the complexity of the social and economic conditions that these services attempt to ameliorate. Shrinking resources, increasing competition, and administrative and technical innovations also contributed to interest in collaboration.
Many government and private funders-interested in eliminating duplication, increasing cooperation and leveraging resources-have mandated collaborative approaches to programs in health and human services, housing, justice, and the environment. Somewhat later the for-profit sector moved in this direction, as well. The forces favoring partnerships intensified in the 1980s, spurred by federal policies that reduced traditional sources of funding for local programs. Approaches have included comprehensive community planning, functional specialization among organizations, joint programs and collocation, and task integration. Since the 1980s, inter-organizational collaborations "are rapidly becoming a common method of producing goods and services."(8)
If broad-based, comprehensive prevention efforts are a beneficial method of addressing the issue of high rates of adolescent pregnancy, are community partnerships a meaningful approach for delivering these interventions? Reviews of literature on partnerships suggest that these associations do have some significant advantages over individual organizations or agencies.(9)