National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care.
Essential Elements of Interagency Collaboration
To achieve strong interagency collaboration, communities should develop mechanisms that engage stakeholders and support their involvement in all aspects of the design, implementation, evaluation, and change of the service delivery system. While interagency collaboration suggests a focus only on public agencies, family members and community-based organizations also should be included. In addition, effective interagency collaboration should be based on a shared vision, hold common goals, and be of mutual benefit for collaborative stakeholders.
To build and maintain interagency collaboration, a number of structures and functions are useful, including:
- Governance structures that focus on visioning, strategic planning, policy and practice changes, monitoring, and financing. While each community shapes its system of care differently, a governance or organizational structure must emerge to address these issues and clarify the roles of authority, responsibility, and mutual accountability. Agreeing on core values, common goals, and strategic plans allows partners to develop a common language, appreciate the knowledge and experience of others, assume the best intentions, and respect diverse perspectives (De Carolis, Southern, & Blake, 2007).
- Management structures that promote interagency collaboration at administrative and frontline levels both within and between organizations. At these levels, strategic plans are implemented, training and cross-training are coordinated, and interagency protocols for information sharing and case coordination are established.
- Monitoring and evaluation processes that ensure partners receive regular and relevant information regarding the impact of their efforts. This allows collaboration participants at governance, management, and practice levels to assess their effectiveness and adjust their plans based on outcomes.
- Communication that creates an open and credible process and identifies and addresses challenges to implementing collaborative processes. When collaborations develop clear and regular channels of communication at all levels, partners can exchange information, perceptions, and feedback, and work as a cohesive team (De Carolis et al., 2007).