Folks, here is my presentation from the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) conference held in New Orleans, January 2015.
Understanding the Process of Interagency Collaboration and Its Long-Term Effectiveness
Abstract: Background and Purpose: Charlestown Connects was an interagency collaboration in the neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The Charlestown Connects program was an ongoing, formalized partnership between the City of Boston, neighborhood agencies, and other community agencies to improve community outcomes via interagency collaboration. In response to a request from the Office of the Mayor of Boston, the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work (BCGSSW) agreed to provide guidance on the evaluation of the program. This Phase I evaluation documented the structure, process, and implementation of Charlestown Connects. Phase I data collection was completed in 2008 and the evaluation itself was completed in 2010.
While limited social work research has explored interagency collaborations, there remains a persistent gap in the literature in terms of assessing interagency collaboration processes, outcomes and long-term effects. Building on the Phase I evaluation, this poster on the Phase II evaluation helps address these research gaps by expanding our understanding of interagency collaboration in terms of inputs, processes, and long-term community outcomes. This study informs social workers and others who contribute to community well-being infrastructure of the benefits, if any, of developing interagency collaborations. In addition, given the current economic climate, this research may provide important and timely interagency collaboration guidelines for social work practitioners.
Methods: Interviews with the original eight Charlestown Connects program stakeholders were conducted and observations of community meetings sponsored by Charlestown Connects were observed. Interviews explored stakeholder relationships to Charlestown Connects, program success and areas to improve, and program impact. Meeting observations tallied interagency collaboration processes in accordance with the study’s theoretical framework. Both interviews and meeting observations were transcribed and coded using HyperRESEARCH qualitative software using theoretical clustering framed by the study’s theoretical framework, thematic analysis, recurring themes from the first evaluation, and long-term factors that have emerged from the current evaluation..
Findings: This study has shown that Charlestown Connects enhanced communication infrastructure for community agencies while positively impacting perceptions of quality of life among Charlestown residents who were aware of Charlestown Connects. In the short-term, Charlestown Connects made noticeable, positive changes in service delivery issues with the City of Boston. In the long-term, it helped rebuild the communication infrastructure among participating agencies in Charlestown.
Conclusion and Implications: This study provides guidance on improving interagency collaborations for social workers and others engaging in community work. Evidence from the previous evaluation and the current study suggest that the program coordinator took on functions and responsibilities of a community social worker in his role coordinating Charlestown Connects, thus reasserting the important role macro social work may play in leading community infrastructure rebuilding efforts in the future.