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Mel Gravely

Fostering Collaboration in Head Start Partnerships

partnershipThe Performance Standards have requirements around partnerships that require Early/ Head Start programs to partner with community members. Partnering is one thing. Developing the relationship with a partner and making it really substantive is the true goal.

A program can say they have a partnership on paper, but it’s the quality of the relationship that they develop with that partner that matters for the children and families of your program. Without doubt, your program is already involved in community partnerships of varying levels. Some of those partnerships may be at the communication or networking level, where staff exchange information about community programs and services.

Others may be at the coordination level, where staff work with other community agencies to avoid duplication of efforts or to fill gaps in services. Cooperation is yet another level of community partnership where two or more programs conduct joint activities to meet their individual goals.

Collaboration, however, is the most intense level of community partnership. It involves programs working together toward common goals could not be achieved by any program acting alone. Resources, information, and activities are shared by the collaborative partners to turn the goals into reality.

Strong Head Start and Early Head Start programs are anchors for the community in which it serves. The Performance Standards require programs to assess the needs and strengths of their service area, and to forge partnerships between families and service organizations. Early/Head Start agencies are in a unique position to help parents and caregivers better meet the needs of their families through community partnerships. Creating community partnerships to support the growth and development of children and families is a key focus in Early/Head Start organizations.

For Head Start programs across the country, collaboration poses both an opportunity and a challenge to get people and organizations to work together in new ways. The road to collaboration is neither straight nor easy. When people collaborate, they move from competing to consensus building, from working alone to including others, from thinking mostly about activities, services, and programs to thinking about the “big picture,” and from focusing on short-term accomplishments to achieving long-term results.

The Gravely Group believes in the quote from Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Partnering with the community simply supports the future of our children in your programs.

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