More Collaboration Profiles

Best Practices

Best Practices

Learn more about the practices that have helped the USDA and the armed forces to be successful in working collaboratively and achieving results.

Open communication that breaks down cultural barriers

The USDA and the armed forces are systems with very different federal rules and cultures guiding their work. They also have different processes, paperwork, acronyms, and reporting systems. These differences can make it challenging for these partners to work together. However, recognizing these differences and embracing a spirit of open communication has facilitated the breaking down of these barriers.

Having and encouraging crucial conversations that allow partners to get and remain on the same page has allowed the work to progress fruitfully. The key to overcoming differences for this collaboration has been addressing these challenges up front and then strategizing together for a solution. This is accomplished through conference calls, video conferencing, and face-to-face meetings with NIFA, DoD, and the Army, Navy, and Air Force. There are also annual meetings with the university partners who are working on the programs to share progress and new insights, and make any adjustments going forward.

See collaboration structure for more information on how multiple forms of communication encourage information sharing.

Involving experts who inform the research base of the work

The network of land-grant universities, supported by the USDA, has provided a crucial resource for the collaboration to utilize in its work. Faculty and staff at land-grant universities serve as positive youth development content experts and help to ensure that the latest thought and research in the field is incorporated into programs supported by the collaboration. In addition to positive youth development work, the land-grant universities are able to support curriculum development and trainings for military staff, youth, and families.

See collaboration structure and the about section for more information on the partners involved in the collaboration.  

Commitment to a shared mission and vision

A key strength of the collaboration is its commitment to a shared mission and vision. The collaboration’s adherence to its original MOU illustrates the pledge of the partners to serve military-connected children, youth, and families through effective programming and research and to ensure that service members are able to focus on readiness and the mission. The collaboration credits the sustainability of its mission in part to longstanding relationships among partners, all of whom share this vision. Through organizational changes experienced by many of the partners, as well as fiscal challenges that threaten funding, the strong relationships between partner organizations, as well as the trusted commitment to serving their population of focus, has kept this collaboration not just sustained, but growing.

See purpose to learn about the aims of the collaboration and collaboration structure for more information on how a memorandum of understanding and individual interagency agreements guide the work of the collaboration.

Collecting and sharing of Army evaluation data

In partnership with land-grant university staff, the USDA and NIFA are constantly collecting data on the outcomes of their programs. Data is not only collected from youth who have participated in the programs, but also from their parents, in order to capture the perspective of service members and their spouses. Some examples of outcomes that are collected include measures of:

  • the well-being of participating youth and their ability to make friends;
  • service members’ thoughts on what impact programming has had on their choice to stay in the armed forces; and
  • their spouses’ perceptions of how the services have impacted their families positively.

This data is compiled annually and shared among all partners via program-specific reports. The gaps and recommendations found in these reports help shape the collaborative work moving forward. The service members and their families also have access to many of these reports, something the collaboration hopes will encourage utilization of services and involvement in programs.

See collaboration structure for more information about the Military Liaisons and how they inform the work of the collaboration. Learn more about the accomplishments of the partnerships shown through their evaluations.