In line with the requirements of the STRYVE grant and mission, HDHHS has a strong interest in linking with other agencies and bringing them to the same table as partners. To facilitate this process, HDHHS has set up opportunities for partners to experience benefits associated with their participation, as seen with the experience of STRYVE’s Data and Evaluation Team (which consists of academicians from the University of Texas’ School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine, and other institutions). Partners on this team benefit from having new opportunities to disseminate or distribute their work outside of their academic fields and journals. Participation also helps to raise the visibility of these partners as important assets to the community. For example, HDHHS encourages people in the community to look at partners’ websites and endorses their work as being essential to creating better outcomes for youth. HDHHS and the broader partnership, in turn, benefit from the expertise and support of the academic partners in various evaluation activities, such as formulating surveys, analyzing results, and suggesting programmatic modifications based on this input.
Another way that HDHHS fosters win-win opportunities is by sponsoring cross-agency training workshops, allowing for capacity-building that is shared across partners and a more unified approach to addressing youth violence. For example, cross-agency training has occurred around YES. HDHHS brought staff from other agencies to a YES training, with the expectation that these partners would go on to serve as YES trainers in their respective agencies. HDHHS also sponsored participation of partners in training about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), after which they served as champions or task leads. Thus, HDHHS disseminates the STRYVE model in a way that is cost-effective for local partners.
The partnership has increasingly embraced a public health orientation, contextualizing violence as an issue that occurs on multiple levels: individual, relationship, and community or environment. For example, partners generally work on the individual and relationship levels when implementing youth mentoring and teaching the YES curriculum. Yet, the partners focus on a community level when opening up clothing closets or creating food pantries and when making environmental changes at the community level through such activities as clean-ups.
STRYVE partners continue to be involved in strategic programming, including collaborative planning, quality improvement activities, and efforts to prepare for sustainability. Time was devoted to strategic planning during initial STRYVE leadership meetings. Here, partners revisited MAPP (Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnerships), a four-phase community-based planning process that was used prior to STRYVE. Their familiarity with MAPP allowed for a firm footing and an informed entry into STRYVE-specific planning. Many of the original themes in MAPP were still relevant, but they needed to focus their collective planning efforts on youth violence prevention issues. In addition, CDC conducted a training about processing and visualizing data, which led to several strategic planning sessions specific to data.
Internally, HDHHS utilizes the Plan-Do-Check-Act process and has a quality improvement toolkit, which includes templates and forms that have become increasingly infused in partners’ efforts to take stock of quality and make improvements based on data. The Plan-Do-Check-Act process is used to plan and make improvements over time in the infrastructure for youth services.
HDHHS engages in efforts to promote sustainable partnerships, thus getting and keeping partners on the same page and supporting the collective work. When initially reaching out to build partnerships, HDHHS operates under the premise that it is necessary to find common ground in what people are already investing. Thus, if partners are already invested in youth programs, then their participation in STRYVE can allow them to infuse evidence-based strategies or programs into what they are already doing. A sizable number of partners will then come around the same table, using a common set of evidence-based strategies or programs and collectively evaluating their impact on young people in Houston.
According to a “Conversations in the Park” survey in STRYVE neighborhoods, many people trace rampant violence to an atmosphere where people think that violence prevention is not their job. This finding offered momentum for HDHHS’ early efforts around identifying what each agency could contribute to youth violence prevention, and how this work could become part of their jobs. This ambitious approach brought a broad set of partners to the table, not just a small group.
Incentives can facilitate commitments from partners. As mentioned previously, HDHHS sponsors trainings on evidence-based strategies or programs, including YES. Partners are very enthusiastic about participating in fully sponsored YES training, conducted by the University of Michigan, after which they can train others using materials from the training — including a print out and electronic version of the curriculum, a supply kit, and technical assistance. HDHHS continues to implement YES to reach partners that do not attend the first training. All partners participating in YES training receive funds for implementing YES or related youth violence prevention projects.
Ongoing communication between partners in STRYVE helps to maximize the extent to which collective efforts are coordinated, efficient, and conducive to reaching outcomes. HDHHS takes a variety steps to implement frequent communications between partners:
- Regular leadership briefings are held so (a) leaders from partnering agencies can stay abreast of current and future STRYVE developments and (b) HDHHS can stay up to date on what the partners are doing.
- HDHHS attends partner events and frequently reaches out to partners to compile materials for a quarterly newsletter that provides information about partners’ key tasks and accomplishments related to youth violence prevention. Overall, the newsletter is a forum for communication, serving to ensure that the partnering agencies are aware of each other’s efforts. This makes the partnership tighter and stronger.
HDHHS recognizes that others should play leading roles from time to time, so it shares some leadership functions with the other agencies. For example, the convener for one of the key interorganizational subcommittees rotates among members, thus giving partners opportunities for leadership. Sharing leadership is a way to get partnering agencies deeply engaged and more broadly sets up a norm and expectation for having the partners be accountable to each other.