Collaborations that WORK! February Master Minds Circle

Coalition members from Durango and Ignacio representing business, parents, government, health, law enforcement, youth serving organizations, schools, civic and religious sectors attended the February Master Minds Circle.  Master Minds Circles are informal lunch-time meetings designed to share knowledge and address the challenges Coalition members face in their community building work.

This month's theme was the challenge of building collaborations which strengthen requests for funding and better address needs. Here's a little of the dynamic conversation: 

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How do you get out of your silo and know what other organizations are doing?

Attend Celebrating Healthy Communities meetings (third Tuesday of every month, location rotates). ~ I include people I want to connect with on my calendar- scheduling it is now I make sure it happens. ~ When starting a new project, I do my first round of research on the web by reading missions, goals, plans, etc. on different organizations' websites. ~ By continuously connecting with people in new venues(at events, in the grocery store, ect.), exchanging ideas and possibilities.  ~ Social media is a good way to keep up and get a feel for community. Also, traditional media like the Durango Herald's volunteer opportunity sections and letters to the editor.

What pearls of wisdom do you have about finding connections that really work?

Several of years ago, a meeting was called for partners considering applying for an Office of Behavioral grant.  During meeting some partners decided to apply together and others decided to apply different components of the five year funding cycle.  This meetings reduced feelings of competition and made the applications more successful.  

Avoid mission creep by looking to others who are already doing the work.  Partner so grant application makes sense. La Plata County Government has had recent success with a private business, nonprofits and government collaboration. By simply getting partners in the same room we were able to look at an issue and decide who/how we could solve the problem. All three partners had a shared project and each had its own area of expertise.

Keeping up your connections with other similar groups in the region and ask for help when your organization needed it.  You never know where help may come from.

Keeping your story out there is so important to keep people invested. For example, Faith Formation at Unitarian Universalist Church is collaborating with Rainbow Youth Center and has reached out to La Plata Youth Services to make sure they know an inclusive youth group exists.  

Radical Possibilities, SOS, Check and Connect, and Big Brothers Big Sisters are collaborating currently to create a mentorship continuum of care.  Each mentor program reaches slightly different population but by working together they can better meet the goal of connecting youth to caring adults.  

The best collaborations are when your goals are aligned because it brings wider net to goal. San Juan Basin Health and Celebrating Healthy Communities collaboration on substance use prevention related to youth with separate funding sources. Very prescriptive grants require partners to do comprehensive work.

There are so many events, maybe our community can start to think about shared events to increase impact of fewer, really good events. 

A clearly stated mission is key to avoiding mission creep.  Know your organizations different strengths and be willing to let go of total control when collaborating.  Open and honest conversation before starting new initiatives can't be overstated. 

Ignacio library received grant from National Endowment for the Humanities and went to grantee conference not knowing Bayfield also got grant.  We talked and later modified the Ignacio grant to accommodate Pine River Library initiatives as to not duplicate efforts and time frames.

Focusing less on organization and more on the cause can help eliminate competition and focus on what is important. For example, New Mexico has monthly meeting for all NM groups working on HIV.  People come from all across the state and further each other's work.  

Who is the best funder you have ever worked with?

Centers for Disease Control. The Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Department of Education and wealthy local donors.  EPA provided great technical support in a grant with Four Core.  

Federal grants seem to be a more dialed in their expectations and support for grantees.  

Gutsy Girl set up to be benefit corporation and is currently trying to find ways to support local efforts which have impacts in the community. 

Last thoughts: 

The group discussed CHC's next Master Mind Circle on Tuesday April 19th being in a sort of Speed Dating for Collaboration format allowing partners to quickly share what they are currently doing, goals for the future and ways to support each others work (promotion, referrals, requests for funding...) . 


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