A number of toolkits have been developed expressly for building and strengthening community-based, cross-sector early childhood collaborations. Here are a few of our favorites:

Transforming Early Childhood Community Systems (TECCS) Created by United Way Worldwide for TECCS pilot sites, the Coalition and Community Engagement Guide (and accompanying tools) offers a concise view of how to build collaborations.

The Community Systems Development Subcommittee of the Illinois Early Learning Council has compiled an extensive collection of reading material, tools, sample forms, MOUs, and more in this extensive resource guide.

Collaboration Toolkit Click on the corresponding links below:

    • Why Invest in Early Childhood? – Reviews the importance and research of investing early.
    • In Our Own Backyards: Local Initiatives That Change Young Children’s Lives - A Zero to Three Policy Center article that discusses building early childhood systems in communities and learning from communities involved in building these systems.
    • Life Cycle of the Community Partnership – Is an overview of the presentation given at the Early Childhood Partnership Summit: From Networking to Building a Comprehensive System in September 2008. It provides a critical framework of the varying levels/types of partnerships and provides examples of how they all exist on a continuum. The toolkit utilizes this framework throughout its tools.
    • How to Use the Toolkit: Description – Provides a brief introduction on how the toolkit is organized
    • How to Use the Toolkit: Examples – Provides examples of how two types of partnerships (formal and informal) may use the tools

Section I: Setting and Resetting the Stage
A. Identify Members – These tools help to identify new members and/or help review and assess your current membership
1. Self-Assessment/Self-Identification Tool: Pre-Partnership Organizational Assessment – Use this tool to give your group an opportunity for self-reflection, to encourage discussion, and to brainstorm ideas on how to further cultivate an organizational culture amenable to partnership.
2. Identifying Members for your Collaboration – Brainstorm categories of organizations/groups that you’d like in your partnership and who to contact.
3. Team Skills Profile: Areas of Expertise and Spheres of Influence – List each member’s unique area of expertise – both personally and within your partnership that can contribute to the overall success of your partnership.
4. Prioritizing Potential Partners Based on Partnership Goals – Rank the usefulness and ease of recruiting partners to prioritize outreach.

B. Commit to Work Together
1. A Resource Balance Sheet for Commitment – Review current resources (money, work hours, know-how, in-kind, etc.) and determine what is needed and what individual members can give/commit to.
2. Sample Commitment Form – Use this form to allow partners to clearly define their role in the partnership and the resources they are committing to the partnership.

C. Set Ground Rules
1. Setting Ground Rules – Determine what needs to take place at each meeting (i.e. meeting place, time, member roles, create organizational structure, etc.)
2. Developing a Plan for Building Leadership – Offers suggestions for building leadership skills in your partnership and within your community

D. Establish or Review your Decision Making Process – Once members have discussed expectations, these tools help create a concrete framework for how members can participate in the collaboration
1. Establishing or Reviewing a Decision-Making Process – Use this tool to brainstorm potential types of decisions that will need to be made (i.e. budget decisions, hiring decisions, etc.) and then discuss relevant questions for each decision (what are the politics of the decision? who understands the issue best? etc.)

The following are samples of bylaws and an operating procedure that you may want to consider constructing for you partnership;
3. Sample Bylaws of Positive Parenting DuPage
4. Sample Bylaws of DuPage Health Coalition
5. Sample Bylaws of the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education
6. Sample DuPage Child Abuse Prevention Coalition: Operating Procedures

Section II: Creating and Sustaining a Shared Vision
A. Learn About Each Other – By recognizing each member‘s strengths, the collaboration can function as a team. Because members often bring shared experiences to the collaboration, the partnership can grow from existing personal relationships among members. Coming together, members can help recognize and remedy gaps, services and expertise. These tools are designed to help begin or continue an ongoing dialogue between members that will grow over time.
1. Information to be Shared by All Collaborative Members: Organizations – Asks each partnership to share information on their organization (mission, programs/services, supporters, decision making body etc.) and also what they hope to gain from the collaborative.
2. Information to be Shared by All Collaborative Members: Individuals – Asks each individual organizational representative to share information on herself/himself (mission, programs/services, supporters, decision making body etc.) and also what she/he hopes to gain from the collaborative.
3. Team Building Activity – The Balloon Game –Learn about the leadership styles of members.

B. Develop A Communications System – These tools provide some methods for internal and external communication within and outside the collaboration.
1. Collaborative Newsletter – Example of a newsletter
2. Spreading the word: 40+ ways to reach people – Lists a number of creative ways to reach your target population
C. Assess Community Needs – Effective planning begins with a solid assessment of the communities’ resources, strengths and needs. These tools provide guidance on how to plan, develop and conduct a community assessment.

1. Is a Community Assessment Needed? - Lists some key questions to consider before conducting an assessment
2. Community Assessment and Reassessment of Early Childhood Needs and Resources - Helps partners gain a better understanding of how young children and their families are faring and where assistance is needed. This assessment is separated into two main sections;
I. Condition of Young Children
II. Condition of Our Community

3. Programming Inventory – Complete a resource map of programs/services, by listing barriers, needs, and challenges.
4. Community Description Worksheet – Lists questions/criteria to include in providing an overview of the member organization and/or overall partnership.
5. Building Blocks Online Community Assessment Tool – Overview of and link to this web-based interactive tool. This tool helps communities assess their need for child care and early education services.
6. Conducting Focus Groups – Provides general information on how and when to use focus groups and includes a bibliography of focus group resources
7. Conducting Public Forums and Listening Sessions – Provides general information on when and how to use public forums and listening sessions.
8. AOK Networks: Report Samplings – Includes an example and list of their completed assessment.

D. Develop A Strategic Plan – These tools give examples and provide guidance on how to create and implement a strategic plan.
1. Writing Outcome Measures – Defines and provides an example of an early childhood outcome measure.
2. Action Plan Worksheet – Develop an action plan based on the desired outcome.

Section III: Taking Action
A. Coordinate Activities and Services – These tools provide guidance on common forms that reduce duplication of services, cut costs, prevent families from filing out endless amounts of paperwork, smooth the process of sharing information among agencies, and help in the process of designing new services

1. Partnership Agreements
a. Sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from Neighborhood Networks RTAP
b. WeGo Together for Kids Memorandum of Agreement (MOA): Example MOA
c. Positive Parenting DuPage (PPD) and DuPage County Department of Community Services: Example MOU
d. PPD and DuPage County Health Department: Example MOU
e. PPD and Central DuPage Hospital: Example MOU

2. Brainstorming Tool
a. Referral Brainstorming Worksheet – Brainstorm available referral options in your community.
3. Referral Forms for Use with Families
a. Referral Form for Families – Referral forms to be completed by partners for distribution to client families.
b. Early Childhood Community Screening Tool – Screening tool to assist with intrapartnership intakes and referrals
c. Sample Partnership Referral Form: AOK Networks
d. Sample Screening Tool: Teen Parent Connection
e. Sample Referral Form: Healthy Families Florida
f. Sample Referral Form: Healthy Families DuPage
g. Sample Screening Tool: Preschool for All Program

B. Develop a Financing Strategy – These tools provide guidance on how to develop a shared budget and the rules and governance that surround utilization of funds.
1. A Collaborative Budget – A worksheet to keep track of all member contributions which may be monetary, hours donated, expertise, in-kind, etc.
2. Internal Audit Sheet – A worksheet to calculate amount of funding against amount of expenses
3. Example of a Joint Funding Agreement – An example of how a partnership and organization can create a joint funding agreement
4. What Donors Want From You – A list of desires that are typical of many groups of donors, such as government agencies, foundations, and individual donors.

Section IV: Assessing Progress
A. Developing and/or Redeveloping an Evaluation Plan – Tools in this section support collaborators in evaluating goals and creating opportunities for the community to provide input into the feedback process. Accomplishments should be reported to stakeholders regularly. These tools provide guidance on how to measure if the collaborative is meeting the established goals and realizing its vision.
1. Logic Model Worksheet – Lists key components of creating a logic model
2. Performing a SWOT Analysis –A tool for reviewing an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
3. Partnerships and Collaboratives: Diagnostic Tool for Evaluating Group Functioning – Partners rank and share functions of the collaborative
4. Purposeful Partnerships in the Community Interest – A flow chart to discern if the organization and community interest are included in the overall partnership’s efforts
5. Local Collaborative Assessment of Capacity – This self-assessment asks a series of questions about ten elements of collaborative capacity as a way of helping collaborative members determine how far they have progressed
6. Keeping Fit in Collaborative Work: A Survey to Self-Assess Collaborative Functioning – Assess a collaborative’s organizational functioning as well as progress in strategies, projects or activities
7. Collaborative Self-Assessment – A survey to assess experiences with a School Readiness collaborative and to find out how useful the collaboration is
8. Self-Assessment/Self-Identification Tool: Evaluation of an Organization in an Existing Partnership – A tool to evaluate your organization’s functioning in a partnership and to identify areas for improvement
9. Survey for Collaborative Members – A survey for individual members of the School Readiness collaborative and their experiences
10. Diagnosing the Health of Your Coalition Assessment Instrument – Provides a brief assessment of your partnership with a score sheet
11. Climate Diagnostic Tool: The Six R’s of Participation – Rate and score how well your collaboration functions
12. Evaluation Report Outline – A detailed general guide of what to include in each section of a formal written evaluation

B. Troubleshooting – Tools in this section support collaborators in addressing challenges that may arise.
1. Troubleshooting - Outlines common challenges, and provides examples of simple methods of continuous quality improvement to address these challenges
2. Resolving Conflict – Outlines the causes of conflict and how to address conflict


This is a free online resource for those working to build healthier communities and bring about social change. Though not developed specifically for early childhood, the Toolbox has a wealth of information, ideas, tools, and process guides that may be useful for your collaboration.

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