The collaboration is intentionally structured to provide flexibility for members to act in concert or individually on issues as they arise. While there were discussions of developing MOUs or rules of engagement early on in the process, the collaboration realized that establishing these formal structures would be counterproductive. Because of the diversity of organizations involved, the collaboration recognized the need for flexibility in order to allow participating members to act both as a united collaboration and as individual organizations supporting diverse agendas. This has been critical, especially for advocacy groups that at times need to oppose district and city policies. Rather than have a formal structure, PYN acts as the intermediary that helps to coordinate with members and link the organizations together.
The collaboration structure is designed to accomplish the following:
Through a focus on relationships and trust, the collaboration has been able to sustain a core group of members with over 50 percent of the original partners continuing to actively participate. While in some cases the members of the organizations have changed, the organizations at the table have remained relatively consistent. The collaboration has also strategically added new organizations that embrace common goals and support the new efforts that the collaboration has undertaken.
The collaborative meets monthly. Prior to the meetings PYN, as the intermediary, ensures that all members of the collaborative are aware and comfortable with what is going to be discussed and understand the realities of collaborations. For example, PYN staff might call a member prior to the monthly meetings when the topic to be discussed is something that is politically difficult or uncomfortable for that member. PYN staff work with the member to provide strategies for addressing the issue. By addressing issues prior to the meeting, it ensures that the group meetings run smoothly and that partners are able to have open and honest communication.
Approximately every two years the collaboration works together to update its workplan. The workplan is extensive and acts as a wish list and map of what should be done. The plan includes objectives and issues for each goal, e.g., which items need funding, if there is funding on hand, and who might be involved in that item. The collaboration recognizes that all organizations might not be working on all areas of the workplan, and that many of the items in the plan do not demand that organizations do additional work outside their scope.
Based on the workplan, every six months the collaborative updates its key priorities and structures its meetings around its priorities. It recognizes that the priorities laid out in the workplan may need to shift based on the current context (e.g., political shifts, opportunities available, and challenges). By reviewing priorities regularly, the collaborative is able to adapt as needed.
During the development of the workplan, the collaboration links items identified in the plan to funding. This allows it to identify which items need additional funding, come to consensus about which actions they will pursue, and be more strategic when funding and RFPs become available.