More Collaboration Profiles

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Learn more about the lessons that Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development (ICYD) has learned while working collaboratively.

It is important to have a way to educate members due to turnover on the council

While director-level leadership can be helpful for ensuring that the highest level of leadership supports and understands the value and benefit of ICYD, turnover at the director level can impact the sustainability of the group. Because directors are appointed by the governor, political changes can impact the stability of ICYD. For example, when a new governor was elected in 2010, the council membership changed dramatically with new directors being appointed to six of the ten ICYD agencies. To ensure that the work of ICYD continues despite these changes, ongoing education has been essential. The lead staff member of each respective agency who supports the work of the ICYD results team has had to spend time one-on-one with the new directors to educate them about the importance of the collaboration, how their agencies’ work fits into the work of the collaboration, and how the collaboration can support their interests. Developing a core goal of having all youth in Iowa graduate high school by 2020 has provided a clear message that can be translated to—and unite—all new directors. See best practices for more information on the benefits of developing a common goal.

A strategic plan with lofty goals may not provide enough direction

The strategic plan that was established for ICYD provided four strategic goals to drive the effort. These goals were very broad and included aligning policies, involving youth, building the capacity of youth-serving organizations, and mobilizing Iowans to increase the demand for better community supports for youth. All of the members on the council agreed that these goals were important, but they found that getting something done toward any of them was difficult. Over time, ICYD came to the conclusion that it needed to find a common goal that all of the agencies were able to embrace. Members also recognized that it had to be a tangible goal—one they could act on and hold themselves accountable to. See best practices to learn more about the importance of a common achievable goal.

Over time, it is important to adapt the structure of the collaboration

In the early years of the collaboration, individuals who worked in youth development from across the state were invited to participate in quarterly meetings to support the council. While the youth development specialists provided a wealth of knowledge, the format lost energy over time and did not involve a standardized group of members. The results team was established to provide a consistent team carrying out the work of the collaboration. Despite the addition of the results team, youth development specialists continue to be invited to provide input and participate in the work of ICYD. See collaboration structure to learn more about the results team.

The collaboration also recognized that having monthly meetings for the leadership council led to low attendance. They decided to switch from monthly meetings to quarterly meetings. While this can result in a more lengthy decision-making process, it helps to ensure that more members are in attendance and able to participate. See collaboration structure to learn more about the meeting structure.

You don't have to do it all right away

One of the key lessons that ICYD has learned over its tenure is that you don’t have to do it all or try and do everything at once. Through its efforts, the council realized that, as the collaboration becomes more established, there are opportunities to expand the focus of the work. Members found it is important to get started in an area where there is interest and expand as time and energy allows. Rather than trying to do everything at once, small victories and accomplishments can lead to more investment and success.

For example, in working toward the goal of increasing graduation rates by 2020, ICYD found that for youth placed in juvenile courts and the child welfare system, a lack of communication with schools can negatively influence their opportunities and become a barrier for graduation. Therefore the council is working to enhance communication between schools and placements to make sure that when changes occur all relevant parties are informed right away and the youth are able to transition more positively with fewer obstacles.