A key rationale for collaboration in It's Your Future (IYF) is that each of the partners lends a unique capacity. Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD) has an internal process and structure for managing the IYF project, but it would have limited success by itself in developing the relationships with the schools that are necessary for implementing much of the IYF programming. One of the reasons why IYF has been so successful in scaling up programs in local schools is because HSPHD has developed close relationships with community-based organizations, and these community-based organizations, in turn, have longstanding relationships with the schools in which much of the IYF programming occurs. (Schools in Hennepin County have a history of partnering with community-based organizations to implement prevention programming.)
IYF leaders use a co-facilitation model to scale up evidence-based programming, especially when working with teachers in schools. Community-based partners (trained health educators) work with teachers to co-facilitate implementation of evidence-based interventions in schools. Often, teachers have not had opportunities to facilitate pregnancy prevention programming or sexuality education, and many of them are uncomfortable, to some degree, doing so. Working with a trained health educator helps teachers to develop comfort over the course of implementation. More broadly, this is an example of how IYF draws support from existing partnerships to develop a competency that young people need.
IYF leveraged its partnerships to overcome an important structural barrier to healthy youth development. One of the clinics implementing Safer Sex Intervention (SSI)1 could not provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to young women under its current funding structure. LARC methods (including subdermal implants) are effective in preventing teen pregnancy because they require minimal action on the part of youth, thus reducing the risk of noncompliance2. To address this barrier, IYF leaders brokered a relationship between the Brooklyn Center Community Clinic and the Annex Teen Clinic (a community clinic). As a result, staff from the Annex Teen Clinic visit the school twice a month and provide LARC to young women at the school-based clinic.
Communication between project partners (including school districts, community-based organizations, and clinics) is essential. Communication should be ongoing and truly bidirectional. Thus, instead of simply “pushing” information out to partners, IYF leaders listen carefully and respond appropriately to what partners have to say about their needs and concerns.
IYF leaders also expend significant efforts to clarify deliverables and expectations. Role-blurring and confusion can be a part of any collaborative activity. But this can be prevented by having continual conversations about who is doing what. Some of the communication about responsibilities happens informally (e.g., a conversation that occurs during a meeting). Other communication is more formal and can occur in the context of revising progress indicators for contracts or addressing budgetary issues.
In 2014, IYF leaders engaged in a fiscal mapping exercise with assistance from The Forum for Youth Investment. They reviewed funding sources for teen pregnancy prevention and healthy youth development in Hennepin County and concluded that many funding streams were available for prevention activities, but that the dollar amounts were small. (On the other hand, fewer funding streams were available for treatment services — e.g., case management, truancy interventions — but the dollar amounts were high.) This resource mapping process suggested that stakeholders in Hennepin County who are involved in teen pregnancy and other prevention efforts tend to chase small grants and have to report to many different funders (who have many different reporting requirements). Based on these findings, leaders are trying to find ways to work together with funders to better align prevention funding so that providers can spend less time chasing small pots of money and more time doing the actual work of prevention and healthy youth development.
It is human nature to want to celebrate something that is successful. Celebrations serve as collective occasions to acknowledge efforts, which can create a platform for sharing stories and creating a local history (Kelly, 2002). IYF celebrates regularly, both formally and informally. For example, end-of-grant-year celebrations are held annually with food and awards, and biweekly newsletters include success stories from each of the interventions (SSI and TOP). IYF also devotes special sections of its Facebook page to successes.
1 Brooklyn Center Community Clinic, located at the Brooklyn Center High School
2 Stoddard, McNicholas, & Peipert, 2011