Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI): A Process Evaluation: Research Brief. What are the Key Leadership Ingredients?


Although each state must adjust an initiative to fit its own cultural and political context, the OMI experience suggests that the replicability and sustainability of all similar initiatives are likely to depend on three key qualities:

Strong leadership, management, and fiscal support.  The OMI has shown that running a statewide marriage initiative is a complex, demanding challenge requiring strong management and considerable resources. Funding is needed to sponsor training and supplies for workshop leaders, provide them with technical assistance and support, arrange and conduct large community-wide events, maintain a management information system, foster research activities to inform development and expansion, and recruit and monitor the progress of public agencies. Disciplined management is needed to set goals and monitor progress towards them.

Persistence, flexibility, and creativity.  Rolling out marriage education services statewide is no simple task, and pre-defined solutions are rarely likely to work just as planned. The OMI experience shows that developing and carrying out a statewide initiative requires patience, determination, and the flexibility to come up with creative solutions to obstacles. Developing a keen eye for implementation opportunities and moving quickly to take advantage of them is important. The success of Oklahomas decision to contract out its initiatives management to a private firm illustrates how this strategy can promote nimble assessment of and response to problems in a way that public agencies, with their constraints, often find difficult.

Responsiveness to a diversity of perspectives while maintaining core mission.  In the long term, sustaining a marriage initiative requires surviving transitions of state leadership. The Oklahoma experience is instructive about the elements needed for such survival. The OMIs emphasis on services as well as social values made it possible to appeal to a wide range of political perspectives. Attention to a variety of supporters and potential skeptics in the planning stage as well as later phases of implementation underscored the fact that the OMIs focus is on finding solutions rather than serving political purposes. While the initiative was launched and developed under a Republican governor, the initiative has grown and matured under a Democratic administration.

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