By Michael Warren
President of the Board of Directors
Recently I read a tongue-in-cheek article that talked about the various buzzwords commonly used in organizations. It included terms like "granular," "robust," "circle back," "value proposition," "move the needle," and "collaborate." I know I am guilty of using one (or more) of these on a daily basis. When words like this become so commonly used, it can be easy to assume that we all mean the same thing. A couple of years ago, a colleague shared a paper with me that made me question the way I used the word "collaborate." I think it is particularly fitting topic, given the focus of this month's edition of Pulse on aligning resources and collaboration across MCH.
The paper, written by Arthur Himmelman, described four strategies for working together: networking, coordinating, cooperating, and collaborating. These four strategies represent a continuum along which partners work together, with networking being the most basic level. Each successive strategy builds on the characteristics of the previous strategy.
Himmelman describes the levels as follows:
- Networking: Exchanging information for mutual benefit
- Coordinating: Networking plus altering activities to achieve a common purpose
- Cooperating: Coordinating plus sharing resources to achieve a common purpose
- Collaborating: Cooperating plus enhancing the capacity of another to achieve a common purpose
As you move across the spectrum of working together, the stakes get higher; there's more "skin in the game," if you will, for the two parties. But the potential return is also greater. At the collaborative level of interaction, you are not only working toward a common purpose, but you are building capacity to do so in a way that will likely have benefit beyond your current effort. In this way, your efforts become more sustainable over time.
Working together with partners is not a new concept to state maternal and child health (MCH) programs. Maybe it's because we want to be inclusive and consider diverse perspectives, or because we want to achieve synergy with other like efforts. It might even be because we are resource-poor and we need the help of others to achieve our goals.
In this edition of Pulse, you'll find excellent examples of how MCH programs work together with partners across the continuum of strategies outlined by Himmelman. MCH and children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) programs are engaging families, MCH programs are connecting with sovereign tribal nations, and state and federal partners are working together to respond to the threat of Zika virus disease and its consequences on the MCH population. All of these stories provide great examples of how Title V agencies can work with partners in a variety of ways to impact the health and well-being of infants, children, and families.
There is no one "best" way of working together. The best approach will depend on the particular situation, partners involved, and the desired outcome. I hope you enjoy the examples of working together highlighted in this month's Pulse, and that you will take an opportunity to take stock of how your own team is working together with partners to move the needle on outcomes for the MCH population.