Coalition & Capacity Building

When service providers unite, they can tackle shared priorities and common challenges, leverage each other's strengths, break down silos, avoid overlap, and pursue funding together.

  • Build a human services coalition for providers to collaborate in core service areas, like education, housing, and more.
  • Reduce redundancy in client management and modernize record keeping to simplify applicant management.
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    There are over 1,000 individual service providers working to improve residents' lives in the 12 communities studied for Numbers in Need. Insights from both residents and providers show that many organizations face challenges when trying to collaborate and connect residents with service providers outside their expertise. Provider coalitions can encourage coordination, cooperation, communication, and partnerships that strengthen human service delivery systems. Coalitions can enhance the landscape of human services through programming, fund development, training on selected issues, and learning opportunities for executives and employees of service providers.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Use Numbers in Need Community Reports to identify priority issues and go after funding.

    Build upon smaller existing, successful collaborations to establish a larger coalition of human services providers with a unique mission and objectives. Ensure broad representation on the coalition from media, economic development, grant making, elected officials and other stakeholders in addition to community service providers and residents from at-risk neighborhoods.

    Meet regularly to share information and strategize development in areas of need.

    Explore partnerships with area colleges and universities to support the coalition's work by leveraging student skills, talent and expertise.

    Leverage the coalition to conduct provider training and raise awareness in the community of what providers are doing both individually and collectively.

  • Potential actors in the Community

    Local, county and regional government leaders
    Youth service providers
    Housing and homeless service providers
    Employers/chambers of commerce
    Workforce development representatives (K-12, colleges, BOCES, WIBs)
    Health providers (nonprofit, hospitals, community health centers)
    Existing task groups

Models to Consider

  • Seattle Human Services Coalition

    Seattle, WA

    The City of Seattle’s Human Services Coalition may be one of the strongest and most successful alliances of human service providers across the nation, by garnering a large amount of public funding and advocating on behalf of its members. Officially formed in 1987, the coalition’s advocacy efforts catapulted the amount of annual public funding for basic human needs to $83 million from the city’s general fund, in addition to locally levied funds. The coalition has also been instrumental in shaping policy, budget priorities, and forcing decisions that consider impacts on the disenfranchised. With over 270 members, the group has sub-coalitions formed around topics of member expertise and interest: health, youth development, food, senior services, capacity building, and more.
  • Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan (NFLAP)

    Niagara Falls, NY

    Created by the Healthy Food Healthy People work group of the Creating a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative, this 2018 report is a roadmap for improving the entire food system, from production to consumption, in the City of Niagara Falls. The plan is the result of a year-long, resident-driven and -informed planning process. It provides a framework for examining and addressing the issues that contribute to inequalities in access to fresh, affordable food, such as poverty, underemployment, and unemployment. NFLFAP outlines specific actions that can be implemented by stakeholders like service providers, community organizations, and government bodies that could help improve food security in Niagara Falls.
  • Community Coalitions

    Community Coalitions

    Various locations in Western New York

    The Mobile Safety Net Team facilitated the creation of Community Coalitions of service providers in four Western New York communities. These coalitions, made up of service providers in each community, were formed as a way to improve collaboration between providers, identify gaps and overlaps in services, and discuss future opportunities to streamline and enhance services for their clients. The success of Community Coalitions can be seen in how member agencies collaborate and share resources. The Mobile Safety Net Team holds events to bring together various community coalition members together to promote networking and information-sharing.
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    Insights from providers describe how it can often be difficult to find out which services and organizations a new client has previously accessed. Although many government and non-profit agencies require much of the same information from clients, very few share data with each other. Centralized client management in a digital database can eliminate a lot of the paperwork required by the client and the case workers who otherwise have to track down information for case management. Keeping client information in one place that is accessible to all providers can make it easy to know what services are already being provided to a client. This limits redundant services and increases the chances for collaboration between service providers in providing holistic care for clients.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Create a consolidated assistance application for all assistance programs in the county that operates out of a central database, which is used for determining eligibility for housing, food, utility, and cash assistance.

    Combine physical offices for assistance programs, with a single point of contact for each client who processes paperwork, answers questions, and refers clients to third party services such as non-profits.

    Explore options for using electronic health records to track not only health care utilization and outcomes but also the social determinants of health such as whether someone is living in affordable housing, educational attainment, food access, transportation, neighborhood safety and other factors. This would generate a centralized database of information that health providers and insurers could share with community-based organizations as they partner to improve outcomes.

  • Potential Actors in the Community

    Housing and homeless service providers
    Health service providers
    Utility assistance providers
    Public school districts
    Cash assistance providers
    Food assistance providers

Models to Consider

  • Boulder County Housing and Human Services

    Boulder County Housing and Human Services

    Boulder County, CO

    In 2009, Boulder County Colorado was the first county in the US to merge housing and human services into a single agency. Human and health services such as SNAP and Medicaid are directly related to housing services (Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers), so combining agencies could improve the quality of services for residents by supporting whole-person, whole-family services. Relationships between separate agencies in the past were disjointed at best and adversarial at worst, but after the merger, service providers found stronger, collaborative relationships between housing service providers and social service providers. Combining agencies also provided logistical benefits; all information about clients is now stored on a single database, streamlining the process of identifying need and eligibility and reducing the amount of work needed by both the client and the service provider. Overall, the merger has reduced costs for the agencies, while enabling the providers to serve the community more effectively and efficiently.
  • Hennepin County Human Services

    Hennepin County Human Services

    Hennepin County, MN

    Hennepin County Minnesota, home to the city of Minneapolis, recently decentralized the human services office from downtown Minneapolis into regional offices across the county. The county's $41 million plan to close the downtown central offices and expand into six separate locations began with the opening of the first regional hub in Brooklyn Center in 2012. Over the course of two years, the other hubs were opened with the goal of improving access to services by bringing them closer to where people live. Each center provides access to the full range of financial, social and public health services the county offers, such as access to medical, emergency, food assistance, child care, and homeless services. In addition to county-provided services, some hubs also include on-site services from non-profit partners specific to each community. The old central office was sold by the county to a private developer, helping offset some of the costs required to create regional hubs.

Over 200 human service providers and leaders use Numbers in Need to find information, build partnerships, pursue funding and advocate for their community.

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