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Comprehensive Community Initiatives, Improving the lives of youth and families through systems change, a toolkit for federal managers
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How the toolkit was created What is a CCI? CCI Tools for Federal Staff
Develop your CCI Project
Guidelines to structure TA
1. Begin to plan TA as you conceptualize the initiative and develop the solicitation.
How should I plan for TA?
To plan TA...
  • Seek help early on from people experienced with TA for CCIs and systems change.
  • Engage a TA provider to help you plan.
  • Use your logic model to align TA with the initiative's theory of change.
  • Lay the foundation for a learning community.

Seek help early on from people experienced with TA for CCIs and systems change. From the beginning, make TA an integral part of the initiative. Convene a group to discuss the interests, needs, and history of communities targeted by the initiative. Invite:

  • Funders.
  • TA providers.
  • Evaluators.
  • Community or tribal nation representatives.
  • Other experts experienced with CCIs.

Engage a TA provider to help the group clarify its purpose, conceptualize the initiative, build a logic model, and determine how TA will support the initiative's goals.

Use your logic model to guide the group's decisions and to align TA with the initiative's theory of change. Make sure that TA supports the goals of the initiative. (See Using a Logic Model to Conceptualize a CCI.)

Lay the foundation for a learning community that you can draw on through the life of the initiative to gather feedback and build a body of knowledge. Encourage a climate in which learning and change are valued. Membership will shift as newly funded sites and TA providers join the group. At least once a year, convene the group to revisit your plan for TA, reflect on the past year, and make adjustments for the year ahead. (To learn more about creating a learning community see Imagine, Act Believe, The Power of Learning, and Learning Together.)

How do I determine the TA sites will need--how much and what types?
To determine the scope of TA...
  • Quickly scan the applicants to assess their levels of need.
  • Provide resources that go beyond problem solving to build community capacity.
  • Build in the ability to adjust the level of TA as needs change over time.
  • Seek out lessons learned from other Federal agencies and funders who have managed similar initiatives.

In the initial stages of planning for TA, quickly scan the applicants to assess their levels of need. Use site visits during the application process to gauge community readiness. Later on, conduct a comprehensive assessment (described in TA Guideline #2) to get a full picture. The amounts and types of TA will vary based on a number of factors including:

  • Initiative goals.
  • Community experience with systems changes.
  • The Strength and extent of community collaboration.

Provide resources that go beyond problem solving to build community capacity. Plan for enough TA to nurture strengths and build knowledge.

Build in the ability to adjust the level of TA over time as needs change. At the beginning, you may want to hold back some TA funds for unforeseen needs that might emerge later.

Seek out lessons learned from other Federal agencies and funders who have managed similar initiatives. This will help you gauge the best amount of TA. Often, CCIs build on pilot projects from foundations, institutions of higher education, or community-based organizations. You can draw on their experience as a guide for the kind and amount of TA to provide.

When should I provide TA?
Provide TA...
  • During the application process.
  • After the initial award.
  • At key transition points.
  • Prior to cessation of funding.
  • After funding has ended.

Offer TA throughout the grant period--from planning through the end of funding, with special attention:

During the application process to increase the likelihood of congruence between the funder's vision and the community's goals. Use TA also to make funding more accessible to applicants with fewer resources--particularly rural and tribal communities. These communities may have little experience with grant writing but significant needs and potential for success if given adequate support.

After the initial award. Contract with a TA provider to:

  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify the site's unique needs.
  • Help the site develop a logic model.
  • Work with the site to create a learning plan based on the logic model. Wherever the logic model specifies an activity, identify skills and knowledge the site will need to carry out the activity.

At key transition points:

  • During staff selection.
  • During the move from planning to implementation.
  • After a turnover in staff.
  • When a new partner joins the initiative.
  • At the time when the initiative's funding stream changes because of the receipt or loss of a funding source.
  • When you introduce a new procedure, such as a method of data collection.
  • When evaluation results suggest a need for improvement to ensure quality.
  • When a site is challenged by barriers or conflicts.

Prior to cessation of funding. Help communities plan for how to sustain their work after Federal funding has ended; this is critical.

After funding has ended. Continue TA to help a site sustain or refine its work--but only if it's needed. By the end of the grant period, some sites will be ready to continue the work without Federal help. The decision to end TA should be mutual--made by the TA provider, site, and funder.

What's the best way to manage TA services?
Manage TA through two roles...
  • A person or entity to broker and coordinate TA for all the sites (usually the lead TA Provider).
  • Someone assigned to each site to coordinate all the TA coming into that site (the site TA coordinator).

Manage TA through two roles:

A person or entity to broker and coordinate TA for all the sites who is responsible to:

  • Oversee and manage the provision of all TA.
  • Vet a pool of TA providers.
  • Ensure appropriate matches between TA providers and sites.
  • Monitor TA provision.
  • Review the work of TA providers.
  • Plan and implement cross-site meetings and trainings.
  • Host a Web site to post information about recommended TA and the pool of TA providers sites can select from. (For examples, see the Systems of Care.)

For larger CCIs, this role is filled by the lead TA provider or a Federal staff member assigned by the agency. For smaller sites, it may be filled by the Federal project manager for the initiative. If a TA provider is used, it's best to fund this role through a separate grant or contract.

Someone assigned to each site to coordinate all the TA coming into that site. The site's TA coordinator is responsible to:

  • Work with site staff and partners to develop a site learning plan that builds on the site's strengths.
  • Link sites to relevant resources.
  • Provide strategic consultation and mentoring.
  • Facilitate peer TA.

Be sure the site's TA coordinator does not become a monitor. To maintain trust, it will be important to separate TA (which you want sites to see as a supportive resource) from oversight and evaluation. (See TA Guideline #6 for more information about how to structure the delivery of TA.)

A learning community is a group of people united by common goals who are actively engaged in learning together from one another.