Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success. —Henry Ford

Governance provides infrastructure for decision-making. It also helps balance power, enhance diversity, and increase accountability. Important governance issues for collaborations to consider include:

When it’s time to implement system change, the lack of diverse perspectives—particular from families—will limit the collaboration’s ability to create change. There could also be pushback from people who felt left out of decision-making, or the solution could fail because it doesn’t meet users’ needs. That’s clearly a key point, so keep this question in mind: When it comes to governance of the collaboration, how does this value hold up?

If you want to fully understand the problem and implement effective solutions, your collaboration must “get outside of the building” and include diverse perspectives in decision-making.

Think about the extent to which each of the following points of view are represented in decision-making:

    • Those experiencing the problem (i.e. family members, youth, residents)
    • Those providing services (i.e. front-line staff at early childhood programs, program administrators, service providers)
    • Those supporting at the local level (i.e. faith communities, neighborhood networks, businesses)
    • Those deciding on how resources are used and what changes are made (i.e. funders, policymakers)

Once we connect and engage diverse perspectives, it will become important to strengthen collaboration skills around meeting facilitation. Good meetings bring clarity of purpose, provide members an opportunity to raise concerns, and offer space to celebrate small wins. The Art of Hosting World also offers guidance on hosting conversations that matter, while Open Space Technology is another tool for driving impactful conversation among diverse partners.

Engaging parents through councils or one-on-one meetings at play-and-learn sessions can help bring their voice to the collaboration table. Learn more from Michigan’s Great Start Collaboratives and the Center for the Study of Social Policy about the power and practice of community decision-making.

Being intentional about how decisions are made is crucial in making sure diverse voices are heard. First, learn about different methods for decision-making based on what type of decision needs to be made. Here is a comprehensive tool that can help the process of complex, inclusive decision-making.

Consensus decision-making may not the quickest method for achieving group agreement, but it is typically the most effective. An important point: Consensus does not mean “unanimity.” Rather, it means that the all members agree that they can live with the decision. Coming to a consensus agreement means that collaboration members must discuss issues, listen to each other, and work to resolve differences. In the end, the decision should reflect the viewpoints of the group’s diverse perspectives.

Learn more about considerations for decision-making here. Ten Steps to Effective Meeting Management is another great resource.

Clear accountability supports the collaboration by encouraging excellence and accomplishment. Your collaboration’s vision statement and target outcome help to focus your members on common language and purpose.

    • Work plans are a great starting point to plan meeting agendas. They provide a clear direction for the group’s work, and are particularly useful when created collectively. Very effective meetings use the work plan to guide the conversation and set action steps for the next meeting. For example: Here’s what we said we’d do. How did it go? What can we learn or adapt going forward? This excellent tool can help you learn more about meeting management and work plans.
    • Data shared in meetings is essential for results-based accountability. For example: If the collaboration is working to increase enrollment of very high need children in early learning programs, examining vacancy rates can help provide details about how to offer support. Data also guides the conversation toward solution planning. Learn more about measuring and evaluating outcomes.
    • Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined for all members, including—but not limited to—the core leadership team and work group subcommittees. Regular opportunities, clear channels, and transparent mechanisms should be in place to communicate within and among members of these groups.
At the end of your meetings, each collaboration member should leave knowing: Who will do what by when? Each activity should be discussed in terms of: 1) Clear and specific tasks, 2) The person responsible, and 3) The timeline for which the tasks are to be completed. End the meeting with action steps based on the work plan, and begin your next meeting with those defined action steps.

The collaboration should also discuss ways to routinely follow-up on tasks. This can be done through regular meeting updates or shared technology, such as Basecamp, Google groups, Google Drive, phone, conference call, webinar, or other source.

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