Thursday, May 19, 2016

Neither Collaboration, Nor Collective Impact

On May 15, for the first time in maybe forever, the Salem Urban Renewal Agency's Annual Action Plan was submitted to HUD with written comment.  As mentioned here, there were oral comments at the public hearing on May 9, but none addressed the  basic concern of the written comments, which was that the Annual Action Plan overstated the extent to which the City engages in any collaborative process with the community beyond what is needed to administer its federal grant program.

What difference will this make in the City's role in the collaborative process that, at present, does not exist?  Probably none.  As noted recently by former Salem Planning Commission member Rick Stucky,

One of the major hurdles in developing more [affordable] housing is limited federal funds, but also the city's urban renewal [development] department. The department over the 20+ years I was involved with SKCDC [Salem Keizer Community Development Corp.] went from an agency that worked with affordable housing organizations [to] help break down those barriers to one that was focused on HUD compliance. That is not to say the early years they were not looking at HUD compliance, it's to say the staff at that time had a vision and creativeness to work within the regulations and with the affordable housing organizations.  [Emphasis added.]

Mr. Stucky's right of course, collaboration requires vision, creativity, knowledge and skill, of the sort that turned Dammasch State Hospital into the Villebois Community in Wilsonville.  You know, the one that integrated 73 housing units for the seriously mentally ill.  

Salem's new director of urban development was working as a project director, urban renewal manager and economic development manager for Wilsonville during the time Villebois was being built, so maybe things will be different under her leadership. But if she has a creative vision for Salem, it's more likely to concern her areas of expertise than coordinating and collaborating with social services.     

Shangri-La Staff at May Meeting
We recently attended a meeting called by the Youth and Family Services folks from Shangri-La for the express purpose of having a "strategic conversation about coordinating efforts and reducing the duplication of [parenting classes and home-visiting support] services."

To find out what the barriers are to providing services, they divided us into two groups, rural and urban.  The answers were much the same, and not surprising.   

Barriers to Providing Services
  • not knowing where to send/refer someone for help
  • program limitations (e.g., age, gender)
  • not knowing or being able to find out program limitations prior to referral
  • lack of interaction/guidance with/from/for providers 
  • incorrect/out-dated information about programs resulting in a dead-end
  • wait lists 
  • systems trauma (trust)
  • lack of trauma-informed services
  • lack of transition services
  • literacy, language, and clients who just cannot comprehend what is being offered
  • depression and other mental illness 
  • criminal or eviction history
  • lack of ID, parental consent or funds (e.g., security deposit)
  • having to choose between needs (e.g., providing shelter and keeping a youth in school)
We noted that "not enough money" was assumed to be a barrier, and not what this discussion was about.  We also noted that the group was aware of 211info.org and lamented the demise of CRN, which 211 more or less replaced.  (Allegedly, Marion County intends to resurrect CRN, but it hasn't happened yet.)  We also noted that, while there was some frustration with the lack of effective collaboration between providers, there was also a lot of acceptance that this is the way things are.

The group briefly discussed implementing in Marion County the service integration team and co-location models that Polk County uses.  (Yes, they are effective as far as they go, but others have tried to implement the SIT model in Marion County and been unsuccessful, which doesn't mean we shouldn't try again.)  One participant suggested collaboration might occur through Salem's network of neighborhood associations.  (However, most NAs are focused on protecting private property interests, parks, and other quality-of-middle-class-life issues.)  Where will they go from here?  No idea.

The sad thing about such efforts is that collaboration isn't even where it's at any more, and hasn't been for some time.  These days, what you want is collective impact.  Collective impact is like, collaboration plus.  It's like, working smarter.  And it's like, you know, we're getting dumber even though we're just doing things the way we've always done them.  But hey, gotta get that grant!

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