With constant changes in the economy creating greater needs and an increased demand for better services, there are several driving forces in place requiring agencies to reexamine themselves for ways to improve. Today’s human service workplace demands creative approaches that will ensure the best use of available funding, and one such approach is increased collaboration.

Collaboration is fast becoming a strategy used in both for-profit and not-for-profit industries to ensure the successful provision of services to clients. It allows clients to receive services in an easier, timelier fashion, and collaboration encourages consolidation that, in turn, saves money to be used for other needs.

For the human service industry, it’s becoming more and more evident that it isn’t cost effective to serve numerous clients—and sometimes the same clients—with several separate and independently run programs from several different agencies, which often create a duplication of efforts. In addition, collaboration can also lead to the creation of new, much-needed programs because partnering relationships can be built upon existing services and resources.

Often, nonprofit organizations and human service agencies lack a process or the readiness to solicit broad input and share ideas with each other. Changes in staffing can also lead to a loss of information. Add to that the constraints of time, and both lead to a breakdown in the communications process. It becomes evident the first step in collaboration is to create a channel for the open sharing of ideas and information.

Locally, the human service industry has successful collaborations in place for programs such as educational and GED training, teen pregnancy prevention, child advocacy, and homeless issues. These programs strive to share information and resources to better serve the community’s ever changing and increasing needs.

Finding new ways to deliver services will be at the forefront as we begin a new year with less funding to go around. Cuts in state and federal dollars are making a major impact here at home. Our agencies are facing challenges of serving more clients with dwindling resources. By working together, now more than ever, agencies must create actions that will increase operational efficiency, provide collective savings to their operational budgets, and enhance client services.

Immediate avenues of collaboration include sharing resources such as professional staff, consolidating services and programs, creating joint curriculums, sharing transportation, utilizing central facilities, and creating a co-op structure for the purchasing of general supplies.

The ultimate goal in any collaboration, whether it’s for-profit or not-for-profit, is to find the means of leveraging funding and resources to gain greater economies of scale. For the human service industry, this means a move that will shift the emphasis from qualitative performance measures to a quantitative business process. IBI