This article by PI's Alisha Somji originally appeared on the Build Healthy Places Network’s blog on February 12, 2018
Collaboration for safety and optimal child development
It’s clear why collaborating with other sectors can be beneficial: Collaboration can help expand available resources, strategies, and capabilities to achieve outcomes that would be difficult to accomplish alone. With that in mind, Prevention Institute (PI) and the Center for the Study of Social Policy brought together violence prevention and early childhood partners from across the country for the Cradle to Community project. Through this Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded project, partners explored intersections between the two fields. After collaborative place-based work arose as an area of interest, Build Healthy Places Network joined a conversation on how the community development sector could be part of the mix. Using the Collaboration Multiplier tool and framework for fostering impactful partnerships, a new PI report, summarized below, explores what multisector collaboration could look like between those in violence prevention, early childhood systems, and community development.
Phase One: Gather key information about each sector
Collaboration Multiplier helps identify strengths and opportunities so that sectors can fully realize the benefits of collaboration. In the first phase, each partner provides a snapshot of their sector by sharing goals, expertise, activities, audience and more.
- Community Development: Improve the living conditions for underserved communities by changing physical/built, social, and economic environments.
- Early Childhood: Ensure all young children and their families are thriving, healthy and ready to learn.
- Violence Prevention: Promote community safety and reduce violence (including shootings and killings) by addressing risk and resilience factors, particularly at the community level.
With expertise in leveraging funds and a commitment to improving conditions in communities with the greatest needs, the community development sector is well-primed to address underlying issues that relate to both safety and early childhood development. Recognizing that neighborhoods help shape people’s health and other outcomes for young children and families, early childhood and violence prevention practitioners increasingly see how housing affordability, economic opportunities and social connections, for example, intermix in residents’ lives and can be strengthened in holistic ways.
Phase Two: Collaborative Multiplier analysis – Determine shared outcomes, partner strengths, and joint strategies
Once sectors have a better understanding of one another, partners can discuss and analyze shared outcomes, partner strengths, and joint strategies. Improved economic conditions, for instance, is a shared outcome of interest for early childhood, violence prevention and community development. Community developers aim to provide affordable housing, community facilities, and infrastructure for small businesses, while early childhood systems work to decrease parental financial stress and increase parents’ ability to provide for their children. As for safety, neighborhood poverty and diminished economic opportunities increase violence making economic development a goal that violence prevention practitioners also prioritize.
What is the added value of coming together?
Early childhood, violence prevention and community development as sectors collectively bring skills and approaches to holistically meet community needs.
- Community development offers resources and strategies that can impact the look, feel, and use of an entire street block or neighborhood.
- Violence prevention practitioners offer insight into what it takes to keep neighborhoods safe.
- Early childhood practitioners understand what is needed to minimize Adverse Childhood Experiences and long-term impacts across the life course.
After deciding on shared outcomes and which partner strengths to leverage, sectors can explore joint strategies. In the Castlemont neighborhood of East Oakland, First 5 Alameda County (F5AC) is focused on place-based strategies to strengthen families and community environments for both optimal child development and community safety. Through a partnership with Castlemont Renaissance, a Purpose Built Community focused on community development, they bring their early childhood programming together with Castlemont Renaissance’s housing, career opportunities and educational links to connect families coming into F5AC’s system of care with housing resources and career opportunities. F5AC also partners with other local agencies to support neighborhood-based, resident-led initiatives such as Youth Uprising, a group focused on developing youth leadership to create a healthy and economically robust community, and Best Babies Zone, an initiative dedicated to supporting parents and engaging community in improving neighborhood conditions. F5AC is committed to building multi-sector partnerships and increasing capacity for place-based efforts as part of its strategic priorities moving forward.
Laying a foundation, Collaboration Multiplier offers a framework and tool to help sectors understand each other’s strengths and work toward comprehensive, multi-sector efforts. In an environment where efforts are often fragmented and prevention is not a focus, bringing together resources and expertise can help efficiently and effectively achieve optimal outcomes for young children, families, and communities.
Interested in collaborating with sectors in your community? Take a look at the Build Healthy Places Network’s Partner Finder, a collection of directories to find new community partners including local Community Development Corporations and health departments.
To learn more about how community development, violence prevention, and early childhood development practitioners can collaborate, read PI’s new report, Multiplying Outcomes in Place-based Initiatives.
Cover photo credit: First 5 Alameda County
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alisha Somji is an associate program manager on Prevention Institute’s injury and trauma prevention team. She applies a public health approach to violence, and supports strategy development to create safe, healthy and thriving communities. Alisha supports cities across the country through the UNITY City Network, and plays an active role in facilitating PreventConnect web conferences focused on sexual and domestic violence prevention. During her time at Prevention Institute, Alisha has contributed to research and co-authored work on multiple forms of violence, early childhood development and health equity. She has a Master of Public Health from the University of Toronto.