Creating collaborative community youth development partnerships: Part 2

Objectives, benefits and challenges to community collaboration in youth development programming.

Communities often function with an assortment of valuable but often disconnected programs, services and agencies. With budget reductions and limited resources available, interagency collaboration is becoming increasingly important. However, true collaboration involves a more formal and sustained commitment from agencies and organizations and needs to have established, on-going relationships for the good of the community.

In 2006, the Sierra Health Institute Foundation began the REACH Youth Development Program, which identified the benefits for communities using a community youth development strategy or framework. Campbell and Erbstein (2010) reported their observations of a range of benefits resulting from these programs:

  • Having a visible, recognized “place to go” for youth issues and concerns which helped keep these issues on the agenda of community leaders.
  • Supporting better cooperation and communication and serving as a “hub” and common resource for youth related issues and opportunities.
  • Establishing meaningful opportunities for youth to be involved in community service, policy advocacy and personal enrichment.
  • Providing a context in which meaningful youth adult partnerships can flourish and allow youth to exercise responsibility and leadership.
  • Spreading knowledge of quality youth development practices and modeling those practices in the coalition work and activities.
  • Establishing the local community as one in a network of broader youth development networks.

When creating a successful community youth development effort, the initial objectives of collaboration should include:

  • Assessing community conditions
  • Building community capacity for change
  • Implementing strategies that increase meaningful supports and opportunities for youth

During the development stage, it is also important to note communities have lifecycles. These life cycles have predictable phases. Successful community youth development should follow a community of practice framework. The coalition of partners should work together to be aware of these phases and develop a clear plan for these phases as the community evolves. The Community of Practice Design Guide explores these phases and provides some of the necessary questions a community should explore as they develop their action plan in each phase of their community’s life cycle.

As they continue to grow, community collaborations can face numerous challenges. These challenges may include establishing a strategic focus, anchoring collaboration in institutions, developing social mobilization strategies, dealing with conflict and emotion, and staffing the coalition (Campbell and Erbstein ,2010, p.3) Partners should be mindful of avoiding over-extension of goal-setting and competing priorities among stakeholders. It is important for collaborative community partnership to consider narrowing down the list of innumerable youth development outcomes to a manageable set of priorities that meets the goals and mission of the partnering agencies (Connell and Gambone, 2002,p.7).

Another critical step to remember during the community collaborative development stage is a good evaluation plan. This should be created at the onset as it is essential to grow and sustain a community youth development framework. Youth Development In Community Settings: A Community Action Framework provides some examples of how to manage a collaborative community framework and measure the outcomes for youth development in a community setting.

For additional Michigan State University Extension articles on collaborative community partnerships, view Part 1 of this series.

References:

  • Campbell, D., & Erbstein, N. (2010). Benefits and challenges in building a community youth development coalition. REACH Issue Brief Series,1,1-8.
  • Connell, J.P., & Gambone, M. A., (2002). Youth development in community settings: A community action framework (draft copy). Youth Development Strategies, Inc.

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