Cross-Sector Collaboration Creates Resilient Communities

Posted by April-Dawn Knudsen on March 21, 2018 at 4:14 PM

Collaboration is the vehicle for producing outcomes that equate to more than the sum of our parts. This is never more true than in rural regions. I have lived, worked, and served across rural Colorado since 2008. I choose to invest my time, talent and education in these communities because of the opportunities to make tangible impacts within a lifetime. It is because of my experiences with cross-sector partnerships that I believe in the outcomes and resiliency that is built through collaborative intelligence and joint problem-solving.

Most recently this has looked like the work of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the High Rockies (BGCHR) and Park County Libraries (PCL) coming together to expand local opportunities for Park County’s youth. Park County, Colorado is roughly the size of Delaware and is home to under seventeen thousand residents. In this region, population clusters are far apart and are often divided by a mountain pass. Rural isolation, lacking or failing infrastructure, access to mental health and medical services, and transportation are some of the pressing needs from this region; and as in much of rural America, financial and human capital is a challenge. Service providers are faced with many of the same challenges as residents, with low funding opportunities, limited capacity, and more need than resources. To be more effective in service delivery, to lessen the competition for local dollars, and to prevent the wasted energy of remaking solutions, we have chosen to connect and find out what is working well for an organization that we might use our energy to amplify, and to strategize around shared opportunities for improvement.

PCL has adopted and implemented several evidence based literacy and language programs over the last few years. Through partnering with the BGCHR and Platte Canyon Schools, these programs are being used by hundreds of youth throughout our rural region and these youth are seeing significant, measurable impacts in their reading and language scores.

In addition to this, the PCL has worked tirelessly to improve STEM opportunities for local youth. When BGCHR identified STEM as an area for programmatic improvement, we turned to PCL to see what was possible. Rather than creating a new STEM program, BGCHR now takes Club Members over to the Library for STEM Friday and the Summer Reading Series. By working together in this way, BGCHR is able to access cost savings, while supporting PCL’s grant funded programs and over-all reach to serve more kids more often.

Another recent example of collaboration bringing value is seen though Park Family Connections (House Bill 1451). Park Family Connections brings youth and family service providers together from across sectors to discuss challenges, share resources, and create wrap-around solutions for multi-system involved families. This process allows for a struggling family, government entities, local schools, mental health providers, and out of school resources (like Boys & Girls Clubs) to sit down and create individualized action plans to help improve a family’s outcome. Families who participate in this process have shown increased positive outcomes, and are less likely to become more deeply involved with the Justice System, Law Enforcement, or Human Services. These outcomes are not possible without the challenging, messy and thoughtful collaboration of Park Family Connection partners. Each partner/organization is approaching the youth or families’ needs from a different perspective based on the organization’s mission, talents, expertise or access to resources. By sharing these views, all service providers are better able to understand needs and approach solutions from a micro-holistic understanding of a client’s situation rather than attempting to build siloed solutions, which has been shown to lead to fractured and ineffective service delivery. This also streamlines the service process for families, and facilitates natural pathways for future collaborative projects.

From these examples we see that when a path is cleared for cross-sector collaboration, communities win. They become more resilient, more healthy and oftentimes use funding/resources more effectively.

April-Dawn Knudsen
Chief Executive Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of the High Rockies
Park Family Connections, Vice-Chair
Candidate for Park County Commissioner

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