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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
5. Make available a diverse pool of TA providers so that sites can draw on expertise and experience suited to their unique needs.
What qualities should I look for as I assemble a TA provider pool?

Look for providers who are:

  • Proficient in their subject area.
  • Competent in guiding and supporting systems change.
  • Able to develop rapport, read community context, and respond to unique needs.
  • Respectful of communities' interests and circumstances.
  • Sensitive to racial, cultural, and economic differences.
  • Knowledgeable about the dynamics of power and how to help partnerships navigate power differences.
  • Objective, open-minded, and willing to engage in a fluid exchange of ideas.
  • Able to tolerate ambiguity.
  • Flexible in how they work; able to move easily between coaching, facilitating, and training.
  • Aware of the big picture--how their TA contributes to sites' goals for systems change and community building.

See Selecting the Right TA Provider (Page 13) from OJJDP's Core Performance Standards.

Lessons learned from the New Futures initiative have pointed the way toward improved approaches to TA, specifically: "More efforts at partnership between providers of technical assistance and evaluation and the sites they serve; emphasis on the functions of coach, strategist, and sounding board over "expert" in the provision of both assistance and evaluation" (Walsh, Eye of the Storm, p. 41).
How do I decide which TA providers to make available to individual sites?
To make the best choice of providers...
  • Match provider and sites based on subject area expertise.
  • Find a provider who understands the site's culture and is aware of the social, economic, and political issues that impact the community and the CCI.
  • Develop local and regional pools of TA providers.
  • Use experienced CCI sites to provide TA.

Match provider and site based on subject area expertise and need. For examples of provider directories, see the Central Contractor Registration and GSA's Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services.

Find a provider who understands the site's culture and is aware of the social, economic, and political issues that impact the community and the CCI. When site personnel have to spend time educating the TA provider, TA can become a burden rather than a helpful service.

Develop local and regional pools of TA providers. It may be difficult to find a TA provider who is familiar with the culture of a particular site. As an alternative, develop local and regional pools of TA providers who have worked with other CCIs in that geographic area.

Use experienced CCI sites to provide TA. The TA coordinator can support peer-to-peer learning opportunities by identifying good site matches and by handling logistics for peer interactions. Connect sites that share the same or a similar cultural background. (See the article about peer assistance.)

How do I coordinate the work of multiple TA providers?
To coordinate multiple providers...
  • Designate a lead TA provider.
  • Designate a TA coordinator for each site.
  • Make sure that all providers work from the same set of principles.
  • Establish a system of ongoing communication among the CCI's project directors, TA providers, Federal managers, and evaluators.

Designate a lead TA provider--a person or entity who pulls the TA provider pool together, matches TA to sites, and reviews the work of TA providers.

Designate a TA coordinator for each site to coordinate all the TA coming into that site. For small initiatives, this role might be carried out by the initiative's lead TA provider. For larger initiatives, these may be separate roles. (Refer to Guideline #1 for more detail.)

Make sure that all providers work from the same set of principles. Your TA providers should start out with a common understanding of what your CCI is, what makes it different from conventional programs, and what is meant by systems change.

Establish a system of ongoing communication among the CCI's project directors, providers, Federal managers, and evaluators. Task the lead TA provider with scheduling regular support meetings and with setting up a Web site or listserv that reports on provider activities, site progress, and updates from the Federal project manager. See the example of a Single Coordinated TA Plan developed by Systems of Care.

How do I ensure accountability when I use multiple TA providers?
To ensure accountability...
  • Create a feedback loop.
  • Put expectations in writing.
  • Use performance-based contracts and agreements.

Create a feedback loop. Work with the initiative's lead TA provider to establish a consistent and reliable process for getting feedback on the performance of TA providers. Build in multiple levels of accountability:

  • Each TA provider is responsible for the delivery and quality of TA.
  • The initiative's lead TA provider is responsible for overseeing TA delivery and ensuring quality.
  • The site is responsible for making it known when TA is not meeting its needs.
  • The funder is ultimately responsible for holding TA providers accountable.

Put expectations in writing. When you procure TA, make certain the grant or contract outlines your expectations for the provider. Include a detailed description of the scope of work and a set of customer service standards.

Use performance-based contracts and agreements so that you can link payments to quality of service. Also consider an independent evaluation of TA.

References

Walsh, J. 2005. The Eye of the Storm: Ten Years on the Front Lines of New Futures. Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation.