Getting to Maximum Impact: Align all resources

Submitted by Sydney Rogers, AUSA Consultant

How do you get people to give up their own agenda and contribute their resources (time, talent, facilities, technology, money, etc.) to a common agenda and then actually do the work to make it happen? To be successful at real alignment, organizations will need to shift what they do and must be willing to give something up for the greater good.

Shifting, or aligning resources, increases the impact of collective work. Aligning resources happens when organizations shift their resources to focus on a common agenda rather than their own agenda.

This was a great idea in concept about twelve years ago when Alignment Nashville started. Over time we have found that people and organizations gladly contribute resources when they also participate in the planning and when they see positive results for their efforts. This is the idea behind a two-stage planning process that allows all potential partners in an initiative to propose what they can bring to the table to contribute to the vision defined by the working team (A-Teams as we call them). Ultimately, partners begin to bring their organization’s resources to the table.

There are many examples of how this works. Here is one example.

In most communities, there are dozens of efforts aimed at providing information and educational opportunities for parents. These efforts can be found in school districts, pediatric offices, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities and many other places. And, this type of programming is usually of excellent quality as it is developed and delivered by people who are experts in the subject.  How can we align these types of resources around a specific need?

Let’s think about it from the perspective of a school district. They desperately need to reach parents in a way that does not take resources away from the schools and the children.

Alignment Nashville’s Parent University A-Team used the two-stage design and engagement approach to design a series of events aimed at providing information and educating parents. These events are primarily  held on weekends so that many parents can attend. The day is filled with session after session on a wide-range of topics from childhood nutrition; accessing their children’s grades, help with behavioral issues, and many other subjects. The presenters are community organizations that responded to an Invitation to Participate and are bringing their already developed sessions to an audience of hundreds of parents. The sessions are repeated all day and parents can attend sessions on many topics in one place and at one time.  

One result of this process might be that a non-profit that focuses on bullying already offers a class on “How to know if your child is being bullied and what to do about it.”.  This non-profit might now respond to an ITP to provide this workshop as part of a larger effort to bring resources to parents.  In an effort to truly ‘align’, perhaps they update their class resources to address specific issues that have been identified by the school district.  They might even partner with other non-profits to offer a more robust set of classes that addresses various issues that families have requested.

In this example, resources have been aligned because community partners have aligned what they are already doing to a strategic objective of the school district. This helps the school district and it also helps the providers reach more parents in a targeted way. The providers still conduct their own versions of educating parents in their own ways, but they have aligned some of their resources to achieve greater impact.

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