What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Our work this past year increased the collective understanding of the need for a coordinated social service system across multiple community sectors. During the initial stages of the grant, we held collaborative meetings with nonprofit leaders. The facilitated meetings created an atmosphere of open dialogue bringing forth the barriers and opportunities within the social services sector. The collaborative meetings allowed voices to be heard in a nonthreatening environment leading to increased understanding of the current situation and created a forum to problem solve generating ideas for solutions. The collaborative meetings were well attended and generated the opportunity for organizations to network with one another beyond the collaborative discussion.
Our work this past year lead to the self-identification of pilot agencies for the project. Through the collaborative meetings, the consensus was made to move forward with implementing a coordinated intake system as a start to improving the coordination among social service agencies. All of the collaborative participants were asked about their interest level in moving forward with a pilot. Through this process, six agencies stepped forward to be part of the pilot project and implement the shared software. We did not have to convince agencies to join the pilot. Another successful piece was that all of the collaborative participants desired to stay engaged regardless if they were able to be a specific pilot agency.
Our work this past year lead to the hiring of a full-time coordinator for the project. Having a full-time coordinator to implement the software and start training pilot agencies was incredibly instrumental. The coordinator has dedicated herself to fully grasp the capabilities of the software ensuring full implementation of all parts of the software. As we move into software implementation and agency on-boarding, the staff person is able to provide hands-on assistance to alleviate the stress of a new software and immediately answer questions. A main priority is to support the pilot agencies to ensure correct software usage, valid data collection and a smooth transition to a new system.
Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving
The collaborative element is the driving force to our progress. For a coordinated intake system to be successful multiple agencies and individuals must collaborate to find common ground. Implementing process change across the community is hard. Without collaboration, silos would stay present ultimately stalling the project or creating great division. Collaboration has allowed individual agencies to see how they are part of the larger picture, and through working together, we are learning the social service sector will have more collective impact together than individually.
Other key elements of Community Innovation
During the collaborative discussions it was discovered that many of the social service agencies lacked sophisticated software technology to track their clients, services and impacts. The identified collaborative solution of a sophisticated software, would not only allow a coordinated social service system to be built and but it was discovered that it would also allow individual agencies to operate more efficiently internally giving them access to technology previously unavailable to them.
Understanding the problem
Through discussions, the need for a solution to serve both the entire social service system as well as individual agencies was uncovered. A key component to selecting the software solution was the agencies ability to customize the system to meet their internal needs while still participating in overall community data collection and sharing.
If you could do it all over again...
If we could go back to the start of the grant period and give ourselves one piece of advice...The advice would be to be patient. There are a lot players that must be brought along in understanding and approving each step of implementation. Patience provides the needed energy to continue to address questions and barriers without allowing discouragement to take over.