Form a Partnership and Make It WorkForm a Partnership and Make It Work

How Do You Form a Community Partnership?

Consider the groups and individuals who should be members of your community partnership. It should include members who represent the diverse areas that influence youths’ lives, including:

  • Two men and two women are conversing while seated at a table. They are dressed in business attire.Local teens and families
  • Schools
  • Community organizations (especially those that serve youth)
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Health care providers (includes physical and mental health care as well as substance abuse treatment)
  • Public health departments
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Juvenile justice system
  • Human services agencies
  • Cooperative Extension offices
  • Parks and recreation departments
  • Libraries
  • Businesses
  • The media
  • Elected or appointed officials
  • Other individuals involved in defining community policies that affect youth

Together, these groups and individuals should address the different contexts in which youth live and develop. Members of your partnership should also represent the different racial, ethnic, and cultural characteristics of your community. These cultural perspectives will help shape the decisions that are made and ensure the initiative’s success with the whole community. Tribes can read additional thoughts about community partnerships here.

Based on your community’s resources, determine the most feasible group size. It might change over time. Convene a small steering committee to formally consider the membership of the group. This committee can define the skills and resources needed for the group’s work and then develop a list of individuals and organizations that can contribute those skills and resources.

The table below provides an example of such a list.

What Skills or Resources are Needed

Where Can We Find Those Skills/Resources?

Who Can Contribute Those Skills/Resources?

Community leadership

Community coalitions and existing community systems

Heads of community groups and associations, faith-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and businesses

Funding strategies

Community foundations, hospitals, colleges, business roundtables, and service organizations

Grant writers, business leaders, development professionals, foundation officers, and religious leaders

Designing community assessment, collecting and analyzing data

Colleges, public health department, school district, human services agency, and community planning agency

Social scientists, statisticians, and program evaluators

The following questions can help you determine the composition of your community partnership:

  • What skills, information, and resources do we need?
  • What resources already exist in the community?
  • How can we reach stakeholders?
  • What expertise and services can other groups and organizations contribute?
  • What members of the community can help bring credibility to our cause?

The steering committee members should consider whether they have existing relationships with people they would like to recruit or whether they will need to forge new connections. Natural partners include individuals and organizations that are already working on youth issues. One such partnership in your community is a Local Workforce Investment Board.  The Workforce Investment Act requires that all communities establish a local Board.  The Workforce Investment Boards, in partnership with state and local elected officials:

  • Have subcommittees, often called Youth Councils, which focus on issues specifically impacting the young people in the community.
  • Plan and oversee the state and local workforce investment system;
  • Have at least 50 percent of their members as representatives of private industry and business;
  • Include representatives of education, labor, community organizations, and others appointed by the local elected official; and

These Councils involve many community stakeholders and are responsible for planning youth workforce activities and selecting educational and training providers that may receive Workforce Investment Act funds to provide services to youth. Some communities have used the Youth Councils to increase awareness of important youth issues and work to motivate individuals, agencies, and communities to improve the quality of youth services.

Think about how the specific issue you are focusing on affects different sectors of the community, and invite representatives from those sectors to join. For example, if your goal is to prevent teen smoking and tobacco sales to minors, recruit members of your local business association. Recruiting elected officials, business leaders, and members of local philanthropic organizations will help increase your credibility and may enhance your potential for sustainability.

Be creative in maximizing the time and resources that different people bring to the community partnership. Keep a list of potential members and maintain regular communication to involve them at different stages. E-mail project updates periodically to interested and relevant parties to keep them involved.

Once specific people are identified to participate in the community partnership, consider the following questions:

  • What can each potential member contribute (e.g., staff time, money, work space, data, media relations, credibility, skills)?
  • Do the individuals represent a variety of different constituent groups or cultural perspectives? Are any groups or perspectives missing?
  • Will certain organizations or individuals need incentives to join? What will they gain by joining the effort (e.g., increased skills, networking, access to policymakers)?
  • What constitutes membership within the community partnership? Are there different levels of membership or membership dues?