Supporting families through collaboration : an analysis of Oregon Even Start partnerships Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v692t8938

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  • In recent years interorganizational collaboration has increasingly been emphasized as an important step for addressing inefficiencies in the delivery of human services. Among the many benefits of collaboration described by human service authors are the creation of a more consumer-friendly service system, more efficient use of available resources, and avoiding service duplication. During the Spring and Summer of 1996, six focus groups were conducted in Oregon to assess the quality of collaboration between local social service providers and Even Start, a federally funded family literacy program. The federal Even Start legislation required that all Even Start programs collaborate with social service providers in their local communities to improve services for families and avoid duplication of services. This study examined data from the Even Start focus groups using a three-level hierarchical model to determine the approximate level of collaboration that existed in each of six Even Start communities. Results of the analysis indicated that collaboration in three of the six Even Start communities was at or near coordination, the middle level of the three-level model. Collaboration in the other three communities appeared to be somewhere below the lowest level of the model, cooperation. Although agencies at such a minimal level of collaboration may consider each other partners, they are likely to have limited knowledge about each other's operations and clients. Because three of six Even Start communities fit below the lowest level of the model, the model had limited utility for this analysis. However, for interagency relationships at higher levels, the model was effective in helping to find the approximate intensity of collaboration. Although the primary focus of the model used in this analysis was on collaboration intensity, a comprehensive evaluation of collaboration would include numerous additional variables, especially outcomes related to the purposes of the interagency relationship. Several lessons learned during the course of this study have implications for future research. First, by creating data sets that are amenable to examination from multiple perspectives, qualitative methods offer unique flexibility for data collection in secondary circumstances such as the present study. Second, it is likely that collaboration in occurs in varied patterns, few of which resemble the highest levels of collaboration advocated by authors in the field. Finally, rather than broadly encouraging human service organizations to move toward the highest levels of collaboration, researchers need to provide answers to basic questions about what forms of collaboration are most helpful, in which circumstances, and why.
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