Capacity Building Partnerships
Modified capacity building to provide opportunities for co-designed offerings with community and co-funding partners
Capacity building has been the core of the Discovery initiative support for communities since its inception. Discovery launched with 49 community grantees. Given this large number of grantees and the goal of building their individual and collective capacity to influence policy, the Memorial Fund offered modest grants but invested significantly in capacity building. In addition to technical assistance training and workshops, communities also had peer sharing opportunities, and a liaison to offer advice, give feedback, and help them to understand the Discovery values and goals. The Memorial Fund's investment in capacity building has averaged to be approximately 25% of the community supports budget.
In the early years of Discovery, the Memorial Fund provided customized technical assistance that was designed internally. It was tailored to correspond to community needs and readiness at a given point in time and was adjusted according to community feedback. At times, there were different versions of training on the same topic to accommodate community needs and readiness.
The realization of how challenging it was to develop this customized technical assistance for 49 communities led to changes in the approach to capacity building. Beginning in 2008, technical assistance focused on three core capacities: Community Decision-Making, Results Based Accountability, and Facilitative Leadership Training. It was offered to community teams through multi-session workshops.
Modified Technical Assistance Offerings
In 2012, the Memorial Fund shifted its approach again, adding new offerings to the menu of technical assistance supports and providing opportunities for partners to co-sponsor offerings. This plan focused on peer learning and statewide organizations were provided more opportunities to participate.
Memorial Fund Capacity Building Offerings
Through the direct Discovery capacity building program, communities had opportunities to participate in Peer Exchange Sessions, Topical Calls, On-Site Technical Assistance, Results Based Accountability Training, Facilitative Leadership, and the Equity Learning Project.
These bi-monthly meetings were the core element of the 2012 Capacity Building Program. During these sessions, Discovery community and statewide grantees connect with each other, learn about concepts, practices, tools, best practices, and emerging initiatives that support decision making and talk with public and private funding partners.
Provided semi-monthly opportunities to trouble shoot around shared issues as communities continued developing and implementing their community plan and to initiate on-site technical assistance from technical assistance providers.
Helped to develop practical collaborative skills and tools for tapping the creativity, experience, and commitment of participants and a forum in which to explore their challenges and aspirations as leaders.
Began in 2013 and was the next level of Facilitative Leadership Training. Participants learned about results-focused agendas and processes, decision making tools, and conflict resolution strategies.
RBA prompts communities to start at the end (the result wanted for all children and families) and work back to the means (the strategies, actions, and programs to achieve the result). Communities continue to use indicators to measure progress and develop performance measures to answer the questions, "How much did we do?" "How well did we do it?" and "Is anyone better off?"
Co-Sponsored Capacity Building Offerings
The decision to offer communities technical assistance that was co-designed with other funders and state agencies was a significant shift in approach to capacity building for the Memorial Fund. This shift represents a level of commitment to and comfort with co-funding partnerships and growing recognition among state funders and agencies of the Discovery community influence. The capacity building opportunities provided through state partners and other funders provided expertise in the areas of health, family strengthening and school readiness.
Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI) has been a Memorial Fund partner in the public/private partnership to support community planning since 2009. CHDI ensures that the health data and strategies developed by communities will effectively address all aspects of healthy child development. In 2011, CHDI developed a tool kit for integrating child health services into community early childhood initiatives. Communities received support from CHDI to identify indicators, critical issues, ways of bridging systems and engaging health providers. In 2013, CHDI and the Memorial Fund worked together to provide a Health Data Institute.
Data Clinics were launched in 2013 to help communities work with data, not just how to find and analyze it, but how to make sense of the data and use it to tell a story. Three data Clinics were held in 2013, each with a different featured topic and speaker. A panel from The Department of Children and Families presented on how to use abuse and neglect data and how DCF partners with communities. The CT Department of Public Health presented on healthy birth and maternal health data with a discussion of the problems communities are having with these indicators and how to present the data more effectively. The United Way Of Greater New Haven presented on the Strengthening Families model and how data can be developed locally to provide a picture of family strength.
The Grade Level Reading Campaign in CT, supported by the public-private partnership including the Memorial Fund, the State Department of Education (SDE), the Connecticut Center for School Change (CCSC) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), began in 2011. Through the national campaign, the Memorial Fund partnership was able to leverage technical assistance on chronic absence, summer learning loss and financing for the Discovery communities that are working on early literacy and involved in the Campaign.
The Pre-K to 3 Institute was launched in collaboration with the State Department of Education in 2013. This institute looks at how early care and education providers and K-12 schools can become more connected and aligned in their work with children and families.
The Early Childhood Alliance has found new ways to connect with Discovery communities, providing individualized communications support and tools, including a communications toolkit and staff support.
The Equity Learning Project is a partnership between the Memorial Fund and Everyday Democracy, the goal of which is to work with several Discovery community collaborative groups to integrate an equity framework and equitable practices into their early childhood engagement and community change efforts. Communities participate in a series of institutes on structural racism and economic equity and learn techniques for considering issues of racial and economic equity in conversations and decision-making.
Memorial Fund partners are not only providing planned technical assistance offerings for communities. For example, the Department of Children and families brought in a speaker on collective impact to present to communities. There is a growing recognition in the state that the Discovery communities are a group that policy makers want to engage.
The capacity building supports offered through Discovery are constantly being modified and tweaked, and sometimes completely rethought, to meet the changing needs of Discovery communities. Memorial Fund partners are not the only ones providing planned technical assistance offerings for communities. As the network of partnerships created through Discovery grows, the Memorial Fund continues to seek opportunities to learn from and facilitate the sharing of the knowledge and expertise within the network.
Although the Memorial Fund was already providing capcity building to communities, working in partnership became a learning and change process in itself. Compromise is essential to a co-design process and the Memorial Fund had to shift from a central position to one of negotiating values and approach with diverse funders.