Planning a Regional Partnership Meeting

Once the coordinator is more familiar with the workforce development needs in the community, a suggested next step is to organize a larger meeting with local community partners and stakeholders.

 Plan for a two-hour meeting at a convenient, central location. Based on information gathered though local interviews, questions and preliminary meetings, put together an agenda that gives people plenty of time for discussion. (Sample agenda is in the Resources Section).

Suggested Meeting Agenda

  • Welcome & Introductions: take time to go around the room for everyone to introduce themselves and their agency affiliation.
  • As an ice breaker, the facilitator may want to ask people to share any current or planned workforce strategies:
    • What current workforce or training programs do you have in place, or are planning? Does your agency offer internship programs?  From the Collaborative’s experience: some individuals come to meetings with a specific concern or personal agenda to share. Collaborative staff has found that using a meeting structure that allows time for individuals to share those thoughts—briefly—and then move on, is beneficial to the entire process.
  • Update on local planning/implantation of regional WET plans.
  • Overview and history of MHSA Regional Partnerships. Included in the Resources section is a PowerPoint presentation that you may use as a foundation for your presentation. This could also include slides that highlight specific needs/challenges identified from several counties’ WET plans in your area.
  • Presentation (optional). This may include an educational/training portion of the meeting to stimulate ideas and thinking. Ideally any presentation links to the work and role of Regional Partnerships. Examples:
    • A local community college Human Services Certificate program.
    • A presentation from consumer leaders about progress/challenges in consumer employment.
    • A presentation from one of the local MHSA State-funded graduate level internship programs: CalSWEC, MFT programs, etc.
    • A presentation from a local community based organization on their training program.

(See section 5 for a more detailed discussion of meeting facilitation.)

Including Consumer and Family Members

As discussed previously, one of the requirements in the MHSA WET guidelines includes: “Promotion of the meaningful inclusion of mental health consumers and family members and incorporating their viewpoint and experiences in the training and education programs.” Consumer leaders need to be included in Regional Partnership planning and implementation. Work with local CBOs, county and State and local consumer and family member organizations to help recruit individuals.

As discussed previously, one resource is the Working Well Together (WWT), one of the state-funded WET strategies. The regional WWT coordinator can help access resources and provide a consumer and family member perspective. WWT’s Technical Assistance Center (TAC) is designed to provide a clearinghouse of knowledge about consumer and family member employment. WWT TAC also supports the development and dissemination of strategies to further preparation, recruitment, hiring, training, support and retention of consumers and family members within California’s public mental health workforce. The WWT website includes sample job descriptions, training materials, frequently asked questions and several links to additional resources.

Offer an orientating prior to the meeting to discuss group process, roles and expectations. This will be helpful to all participants, including consumers and family members. Make sure everyone is familiar with the materials and subject matter. When planning Regional Partnership meetings, make sure the facilitator includes all perspectives and understands the role of consumers and family members in this process.

In the Greater Bay Area, the Collaborative holds orientation sessions 30 minutes before all regular meetings for any new attendees to learn about the work and mission of the group. This has proved to be a very useful technique.

Working with Educational Partners

Educational partners are a critical part of Regional Partnerships and include:

  • High Schools
  • Community Colleges
  • 4 year Colleges and Universities
  • Graduate and Professional Schools

From the experiences of the Collaborative, it is not always easy to get educational partners to the table for meetings. Most instructors are teaching during business hours and/or evenings. Many administrators do not have time for additional meetings. But that does not mean they should not be invited! Make time to go to their office/campus to meet and learn about their work.

This is an area where work outside of meetings is also important to building Regional Partnerships. In the Bay Area, the Collaborative convened a short-term Community College Task Force to explore Human Services programs. As a result of these meetings, several relationships were formed that were nurtured/developed over time. Some of these partnerships have led to the development of new CASRA certificate programs and other projects. County mental health systems have also benefited from relationships formed with graduate programs.

Additional areas for regional collaboration with educational partners include:

  • Distance learning. This includes the universe of eLearning. Colleges and universities have significant experience in distance learning, and can be a beneficial partner (and may be decades ahead of the public mental health system in this arena!). For example, the Superior Regional Partnership is partnering with CSU Chico for a Social Work distance learning program.
  • Articulation Agreements: This is a term used when working with community colleges. It relates to how specific coursework transfers or articulates to either the State University or UC System. There is a great deal of difference in courses and articulation agreements depending on the college and academic program. This becomes important if your Regional Partnership is trying to develop a new/revised human services certificate program in a community college. Students may want to transfer to a four-year program and need to know if their course(s) will transfer.
  • Clinical Internship/Clinical Supervision strategies are another interest of education and a prime pipeline strategy for developing new staff. While many county and CBOs have existing internship programs, consider how the program meets the needs of students and the consumers. Are there academic programs that want to grow their programs?

Regional Partnership is up and Running – Continuous Progress

A. Recognizing Different Needs of Counties and Organizations

Based on the experiences of the Collaborative, counties, educational partners and other participants in Regional Partnerships often have different needs and priorities. For example: small counties have far fewer resources than large counties; consumers may have different needs than family members; contracted providers have different resources than counties; educational institutions may have different needs than training coordinators, etc. These different needs may become quite apparent in meetings; conflict is part of any collaborative process. Keep this in mind especially around the planning and facilitation of Regional Partnership meetings. Strong facilitation skills are critical. Keys to good facilitation:

  • Before a meeting:
    • Agenda has relevant topics that are given reasonable amounts of time to review/discuss.
    • Materials are prepared well in advance and participants are given adequate time to review.
    • Distribution lists are updated.
    • Time and location for meetings/trainings are convenient to a majority of participants. Consider rotating meetings if necessary.
    • Consider multiple sites with teleconferencing capability for large geographic regions.
  • During a meeting:
    • Everyone signs in and has a name tag/tent that others can read.
    • Everyone has a packet of materials for the meetings.
    • Introductions occur at every meeting.
    • Everyone has an opportunity to voice an opinion.
    • No one monopolizes the discussion.
    • There is an outcome or focus to the meeting: identifying a training topic, reviewing materials, etc. This topic is clearly stated on the agenda and during the meeting. Be mindful that Regional Partnership meetings are not designed for self-promotion (or consultant promotion).
    • Adequate minutes are taken and distributed/posted.

B. Prioritizing Projects for the Regional Partnership

What Happens in Between Meetings?

Meetings are just one part of Regional Partnerships. The Coordinator will need to continue to engage people through emails/information sharing. This may also include the formation of short-term workgroups for a particular issue or project. The Coordinator should be in ongoing contact with the Chair, county WET/Training staff, educational representatives and others. Start developing a workplan to organize work for the year, developing priorities and projects based on regional needs. The Steering committee/leadership group should help develop and ratify the workplan.

The Coordinator should become familiar with each county’s WET plan and the community needs identified in the planning process. Review the planning processes and documents.

  • What are the identified hard-to-fill positions?
  • What are some common themes throughout the plans?
  • Are there strategies that would be more effective if planned regionally?
  • How do CBOs fit into the picture?

From CIBHS’s experience over the past year helping counties develop Regional Partnerships, some stakeholders may have voiced ideas during the WET planning process that did not make it into the plan for a variety of reasons. Review WET planning notes (usually available on the county’s website). There may be an idea or concept that may be more appropriate for a regional approach.

As a workplan is developed, consider:

  • Is this a one-time or ongoing project or strategy?
  • How does this fit in with Regional Partnership goals?
  • What are the measureable outcomes to achieve?
  • How will the Regional Partnership measure outcomes? Who are other stakeholders that need to be involved?
  • What is the budget?
  • What groups or consultants will need to be involved? Are there resources available through DMH/Department of Rehabilitation Co-op Program?

Regional Partnerships may also want to consider formal criteria for including a project or strategy in a workplan. Example: “Project meets the needs of at least 50% of counties in the Regional Partnership” or similar.

From the Collaborative’s experience: The advantage of having a workplan developed with a Steering Committee and made public to all partners means that a strategic, thoughtful direction exists. Decisions about projects and priorities are  intentional, as opposed to having a partner/participant try to push a personal agenda that may not fit with the group’s overall goals. It also supports and prioritizes the Coordinator’s (and consultants) workload.

This said, sometimes projects come up that need to be considered quickly and may not have time for a formal review, either due to local circumstances or events.   Example: foundation funding becomes available for a special project that fits within scope of the Regional Partnership’s priorities.

Making Programs Sustainable

As discussed previously, Regional Partnership funding is currently available for three fiscal years Funding for future years (beyond fiscal year 2010-11) will be determined by the overall effectiveness of each Regional Partnership as determined by the MHSA government partners: DMH, CMHDA, the Planning Council and the MHSA Oversight & Accountability Commission. This will include the accomplishment of specific objectives as identified in each Regional Partnership’s application to DMH. Regional Partnerships are also strongly encouraged to procure outside funding for ongoing sustainability (grants, contracts, etc.).

Regional Partnerships should consider how to sustain projects and programs over time. Sustaining programs can be viewed in several ways. For example:  the Regional Partnership provides seed funding at a local community college for the CASRA curriculum. The new courses are successful and the program continues, but no longer needs Regional Partnership Funding and has become self-sustaining. 

Another way to sustain programs is to seek outside funding, either through grants or contracts through private foundations, State or Federal sources. Pursuing outside funding is another way to collaborate with other systems. Different parties in the Regional Partnerships may have relationships with foundations and other funders. Depending on the funder, the applicant may need to be a public entity, or a nonprofit.

In the Bay Area, the Collaborative built relationships with local foundation staff over time. A staff person from a local foundation serves on the Collaborative’s Steering Committee.

The following groups traditionally have an interest in workforce development:

  • Workforce Development Boards
  • Local community foundations
  • Community Action Agencies 
  • Department of Rehabilitation
  • Regional Health Occupational Resource Centers (RHORCs), a project of the Community College Chancellor’s Office.

Research funders with a history of grantmaking in workforce development in your community. Here are some links to research funders:

  • Federal grants 
  • Private foundations
  • Local community foundations