Skills and staffing
At the beginning of the Making Connections initiative, the organizations and coalitions involved had to set up the staffing and infrastructure necessary to carry out their work.
To staff their initiatives, they needed positions such as program coordinators or program managers; outreach specialists who would recruit and engage with community members; and mentors, including peer mentors.
The Making Connections sites also needed the skills to administer the grant they received from Movember. That meant they needed a staff member who could create a budget, track spending, and produce financial reports. They also needed to be able to do other administrative tasks like hiring, managing staff, and reporting on their progress toward achieving the goals they set out in their work plans.
That doesn’t mean that each Making Connections coalition hired a large number of people. In some cases, they hired new staff, but in other cases, they shared the work among different organizations in their coalition by sub-contracting with organizational partners who already had staff qualified to meet these needs. Several of the coalitions built on the principles of this work by hiring community members to work on the initiative or provided them with stipends to compensate them for contributing to the effort (see below for more information).
- 253 Making Connections in Tacoma subcontracted with coalition partners and made expectations and deliverables explicit in their agreements. “The scopes of contracts were transparently designed and assigned to partners. An overlap in the deliverables of each contract created a degree of equity and ensured that each partner was responsible for attendance and participation in coalition efforts, completing both national and local evaluations and committed to continuing grassroots organizing efforts to support and advocate for the community of focus,” said Tomas Madrigal, the site’s former program coordinator.
Orientation and training
Because the Making Connections coalitions are based in communities that have experienced many different types of trauma, including poverty, violence, and racism, they found it valuable to provide their team members with training about how to apply a trauma-informed approach in their work. Click here to learn more about what it means to take a trauma-informed approach to community engagement.
They also discovered the importance of orienting and frequently re-orienting team members and partners to the Making Connections philosophy and approach. This helped when there was staff turnover, which is a normal occurrence at community-based organizations.
By repeatedly revisiting the initiative’s philosophy and approach with team members as well as preparing and mentoring them to take on additional roles and responsibilities, the coalitions reduced the disruption that naturally happens when a team member moved on.
- At the San Diego Making Connections site, the original program coordinator began early on to mentor one of the more junior staff members in the program so that he would be prepared to step into the coordinator role at some point in the future. When the program coordinator moved on to another job, the staff who had been mentored was able to step in with minimal disruption to the work.
- At KVIBE in Hawaii, leadership development is an integral part of the work with young men who joined the bike exchange. Some young men become mentors, others become interns, and others become Americorps volunteers. At every step, the young men take on increasing levels of responsibility. For example, some of the young men have participated in interviews of prospective new staff.
Read the Facing Challenges and Finding Solutions section of the Backpack to learn more about overcoming the challenge of staff turnover.
Program administration as a value statement
Making Connections is guided by a set of principles and values that include health equity, taking a gendered approach, upstream prevention, community-level systems change, and authentic engagement. The coalitions incorporated these principles into their administrative infrastructure through their hiring and budgeting practices.
Many of the Making Connections coalitions prioritized hiring staff who were members of the communities they were working to improve. By doing this, they acknowledged the value of the expertise that community members themselves can bring to understanding, connecting with, and communicating the experiences of their peers. For example, Resilience Grows Here in Canton, Connecticut focuses on improving mental health for veterans, so they hired staff members who are military family members or veterans.
Beyond hiring staff members who are grounded in the communities where the work was being done, some Making Connections sites also provide stipends to community members for their contribution through activities such as attending coalition planning meetings, program development meetings, or evaluation sessions. This shows participants that the people leading the initiative value their time and talents and understand how difficult it can be for community members to dedicate their limited free time to a community improvement project.
Making sure some part of the budget goes to community members and community-based organizations also sends a message to the community that the initiative wants to reinvest in the community and support its financial health.
- To enable community members to fully participate in the initiative, the Chicago Making Connections coalition formalized employment opportunities within Sinai Health System. “Men and young men within the communities we serve are expected to help contribute to their household finances. If our program was not able to pay community members to participate, it would limit our pool of volunteers to only those with the financial means. Those without financial means are experiencing scarcity and trauma in a more acute way. Our being able to pay members has meant their being able to participate in our programming. Paying Mentors, Youth Coaches, and Youth Board Directors for their role also demonstrates their value in our community, as our culture currently uses money to demonstrate the worth of work,” said Rebecca Krauss and Art Shanks of Sinai Health Systems.
- MC:ID in Albuquerque included a statement and requirement in their partner agreements to highlight the importance of positive youth development in their work. The statement says: All MC:ID partners agree to adhere to the following values in order to provide a foundation for working together to ensure that individual and collective efforts are equitable, effective, and sustainable. These same values are also at the center of what we want young men of color Youth Partners (YPs) who are part of MC:ID to experience.
- Young men of color at the center
- Racial and social justice
- Positive youth development
- Community engagement
- Capacity building for both youth and adult
- Healthy masculinity that is fluid and on a spectrum
- Relationships built on transparency, trust, dignity, respect, integrity, cooperation, compromise
- Moving forward together with commitment to shared understanding and language
- Strengths and assets based, with culture as a source of strength
- Shared leadership
- Ecological thinking and lens
- Systems thinking
- Long-term commitment and focus on sustainability
- Using data to inform decisions
- Fair wages
As these examples demonstrate, the administrative infrastructure of an initiative—rather than being separate from the initiative—can itself reflect the initiative’s values and priorities the way the initiative’s on-the-ground work does.
Sample administrative forms and templates
Sample memorandum of understanding 1
Sample memorandum of understanding 2