February 8, 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Is Collaboration Just a Buzzword?

Last week, the Center for Civil Society at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs released its tenth “State of the Sector” report on Los Angeles County nonprofits.  Entitled “Stressed and Stretched: The Recession, Poverty, and Human Services Nonprofits in Los Angeles,” the report contained several themes that have been echoed in similar reports in recent years. What I found particularly interesting about this year’s report was that four out of the six recommendations outlined contained the word collaboration.

This topic of collaboration is relevant for all nonprofits in the county, especially during a time when the sector is stretched on resources and funding. Is collaboration, however, enough to deliver results? And how has the nonprofit sector been collaborating with the government or even for-profit sectors?

My answer is yes and here’s an example of how:

The city of El Monte, like many lower-income communities in the region, is faced with higher incidences of chronic health conditions and higher rates of childhood obesity than in the county and state overall.  When faced with declining city revenues and no mandate from the federal or state governments to take on the responsibility of improving public health, this was a daunting task.

In 2008, El Monte applied for and received a three-year grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Health to develop policies to promote a healthier, more active and livable community. For three years, residents, nonprofit organizations, health providers, city and county agencies and volunteer networks collaborated to develop those policies. This resulted in the adoption of a Health and Wellness element to the city’s revised general plan in June 2011,  making El Monte one of only a handful of cities in California that have a formal health and wellness policy. These various sectors of the community continue to collaborate on implementing the policy. To date, they’ve established walking, biking and hiking clubs and engage residents in volunteering to maintain local trails.

Collaboration can be hard work and takes time, but it’s necessary in these times of scarce resources. I’d like to hear from others who have read the report, or examples of how collaboration is working or not working elsewhere in L.A. County.

Thank you for reading,
Vera de Vera
Director of El Monte Community Building Initiative, CCF

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