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Comprehensive Community Initiatives, Improving the lives of youth and families through systems change, a toolkit for federal managers
How the toolkit was created What is a CCI? CCI Tools for Federal Staff
Develop your CCI Project
Guidelines to form Federal Partnerships
4. Develop collaborative working relationships among Federal partners to model the collaboration you want to encourage among CCI partners in communities.
How can Federal partners model collaboration?
To model collaboration…
  • Begin with a foundation of common goals.
  • Build a high-performance team; consider TA to do this.
  • Work at the partnership–-just as you are asking sites to work on their own.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to model collaboration.

Begin with a foundation of common goals. Bring all funding partners together to discuss the issue or problem that you want to address with a CCI. Use a consensus process to conceptualize the initiative and guide its work. Partners who participate early on to establish goals for the CCI are more likely to feel a sense of accountability for its results. Early involvement will also make it easier to build trust among the partners.

Build a high-performance team. Share a common vision, involve everyone, meet regularly, communicate effectively, solve problems together, make decisions collaboratively, share resources, stay flexible, respect deadlines, celebrate successes, and step back periodically to review the quality of work and make adjustments. Even though sites may not witness your collaboration, it will impact them. If necessary, get technical assistance to help with building the team.

Work at the partnership—just as you’re asking sites to work on their own. If partners are working at cross-purposes, this will quickly become apparent to sites, and you’ll lose credibility. You need to walk your talk by practicing collaboration.

Take advantage of opportunities to model collaboration. For example, during break-outs at initiative meetings, meet as Federal partners in your own group (while sites are meeting) and report back to the large group. See example from Shared Youth Vision (page 23).

How can we ensure that Federal partners have up-to-date information about CCI sites and issues impacting the initiative?
To keep partners up-to-date…
  • Find out from each partner what information it needs, in what timeframe, and how the information should be communicated.
  • Designate an official communicator.
  • Clarify language and terminology.
  • Establish a secure Web page.
  • Orient new partners.
  • Coordinate communication with sites to avoid confusion.
  • Make sure agency reps report back to their agencies.
  • Meet regularly for strategic planning.

Find out from each partner what information it needs, in what timeframe, and how the information should be communicated. Be sensitive to each agency’s unique constraints and try to accommodate them. Keep partners up-to-date on TA providers and other sub-contractors working with sites, new developments at sites, how Federal resources are being shared, and recent decisions. Sharing this information is important not just for smooth operations, but also so that partners can speak to agency decisionmakers with a common voice.

Designate an official communicator for the partnership—someone who assumes responsibility for gathering information from all the partners and compiling it in a form that will meet the reporting needs of each agency. (To make this possible, the group may first need to identify the common data elements among agencies.)

Clarify language and terminology to avoid confusion for both partners and sites.

Establish a secure Web page with updates on the initiative and information for the Federal partners. The site can become a repository for CCI materials and a clearinghouse for work on the initiative.

Orient new partners to the history, vision, and current operations of the project.

Coordinate communication with sites to avoid confusing them with duplicate or mixed messages.

Create norms for reporting by agency representatives. Agree that representatives will take responsibility for reporting back to their agencies by attending meetings, reading meeting reports, and relaying information to decisionmakers and colleagues.

Convene regular strategic planning meetings. Use these meetings to strengthen trust and relationships through both formal and informal activities. For example, the Safe Kids/Safe Streets Initiative brought everyone together annually for strategic planning and a shared lunch where partners and sites could talk informally and bond.

How do I determine what written agreements will be necessary to formalize the partnership?
To determine what written agreements are needed…
  • Consult your agency’s counsel or contracts office to find out what paperwork is required.
  • Review authorizing legislation for expectations about interagency coordination and collaboration; spell out details in a supplementary document.
  • To codify goals and responsibilities, consider MOU/MOA.
  • To procure services from another agency, consider an IAA/IAG.
  • When decisionmaking will be shared between agencies, consider a cooperative agreement.

Each partner should consult its agency’s general counsel and/or contracts office to determine the appropriate document. Determine what paperwork is needed as early as possible.

Review the authorizing legislation to see if it lays out expectations for collaboration and coordination. For example, the budget allocation language for Safe Schools/Healthy Students stated: “It is intended that SAMHSA will collaborate with the Department of Education to develop a coordinated approach.” Even so, the partners needed to develop another document to spell out what this coordinated approach would look like.

Consider using an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) or MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) to codify goals and responsibilities and to delineate shared responsibilities. (See the example of a MOU.)

In the MOU/MOA, state:

  • Goals.
  • Oversight responsibilities.
  • How resources will be shared and coordinated to avoid duplication (including in-kind supports).
  • How barriers between agencies will be reduced.
  • How partners will be involved in decisionmaking and problem solving.
“As Feds we decided we could fund demonstration sites. There wasn’t one agency who could do this on their own. We went around and asked other agencies if they had any money to contribute to this. We ended up getting eight agencies to 'pony up' money. Some agencies gave money for the demonstration sites. Others provided money for evaluation. And others still gave money for TA. Some agencies gave money for more than one area of the initiative. It was clear what each agency could and couldn’t offer money to fund. An MOA shared between all agencies was created.” –-A funder for The Greenbook Initiative

An MOU/MOA is sometimes titled or referred to as an IAA/IAG (Inter Agency Agreement) or a cooperative agreement.

An IAA or IAG (InterAgency Agreement) is the document used to procure services from another Federal agency - to "transfer" funding from one agency to another when this is in the best interest of the government. Each agency uses its own forms, all of which contain certain common elements like the funding authority and budget codes. Like the MOU/MOA, the IAA can document goals and responsibilities shared between the two agencies. (See the example of an IAA.)

Determining the right document

When HHS staff developed agreements for the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, they used an IAA with most agencies because it was required for program funding. However, when they established a partnership with the Department of Education, DOE’s internal processes required that an MOU be used—even though funding was involved.

–-A Federal manager

Some agencies also refer to or title the document describing the federal agency partnership as a cooperative agreement. (Here is such an example.) However, this can be confused with another use of the term Cooperative Agreement. A Cooperative Agreement is the legal term to denote a type of federal grant in which the funding agency documents its interest in having a significant role in the funded project, including sharing in the decision making. A grant "becomes" a Cooperative Agreement by including a Special Condition in the Award document. Here's an example of language used in a Special Condition.