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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 structure TA
2. Begin the provision of TA with a comprehensive assessment so that services can be tailored to the unique needs of each site.
What is a comprehensive assessment for TA?
A comprehensive TA assessment is...
  • A process to determine a site's unique issues and make a plan for how TA will address them.
  • Interactive and community-driven.
  • Based on targeted questions to facilitate discussion about the site's capacity.
  • Revisited over time.

A comprehensive assessment is a process to determine a site's unique issues and make a plan for how TA will address them. Sites vary widely, so one size TA cannot fit all. It's even possible that a site may not need TA. The comprehensive assessment looks at a site's readiness to deliver program services and to undertake systems change. The assessment instrument should align with the initiative's logic model to make certain that TA prepares the site to carry out the activities necessary to reach the desired results.

A good comprehensive assessment is interactive and community-driven. It engages leaders, stakeholders, site coordinators, and program staff. The TA provider will need to spend time onsite, observe how work is done, and learn about the community. Even though you may be able to predict some TA needs, the TA will be more effective if it is community-driven. While on site, the TA provider can also educate the site about TA, how it might be helpful, and how to be a discerning consumer of TA.

The assessment instrument uses targeted questions to facilitate discussion. It helps the community examine its past and current efforts to address the issue at the center of the initiative, as well as its capacity to implement the CCI. To find out more about the components of a comprehensive assessment for TA, see the assessment instrument developed by the SmartStart National Technical Assistance Center.

The assessment is revisited over time. Conduct the comprehensive assessment after funding has been awarded, and revise it periodically as the site's needs change.

How can I ensure that TA providers develop strong relationships with communities?
To ensure strong relationships between providers and sites...
  • Make sure the TA provider uses the assessment process to open dialog and establish trust.
  • Provide concrete help early on.
  • Engage the site in strategic planning.
  • Clarify expectations about TA.

Make sure the TA provider uses the assessment process to open dialog and establish trust. The comprehensive assessment is an opportunity to build relationships. Allow time for the TA provider to meet with stakeholders, listen, observe, and establish her/himself as a supportive professional. (Some tribal cultures think of this as asking permission to become involved with the community. Skipping over this step would be considered a sign of disrespect.) See Relational Worldview Model Part 1 and Part 2 for information about a tribal community approach to assessment and TA.

Provide concrete help early on. There is a balance to be kept between coming in with a know-it-all posture, and letting the assessment drag on too long before providing help. Community members need to feel that their time is respected and well used. Structure the assessment so that, early in the process, the TA provider can give specific guidance or information tailored to the community.

Engage the site in strategic planning. Confer with the TA provider to consider strategic planning as a way to validate the community's vision, build coherence between the community's plans and the funder's solicitation, and agree on performance measures.

Clarify expectations about TA Make clear, to both the site and the TA provider, how you expect the site to access and use TA. Sites make best use of TA when they have a say in the TA they receive and know exactly what the funder expects, what services are available, and how they can draw on them. Some sites may have had negative experiences with TA; these experiences need to be talked over in order to build a positive relationship.