Plan for Collaboration Success

Any plan for the future should have clear goals and objectives that align with your vision and address the root causes of issues. It should also include achievable “short wins” that can be accomplished in three to six months. Effective collaborations engage diverse stakeholders at every step of the process to develop the most comprehensive strategy possible.

Explore the Problem

Understanding the problems your collaboration aims to solve begins with a discovery process. Collecting and analyzing data while getting to know your community is the foundation of this process. Numbers and stories reveal how the current system works. Data also helps the community see resource gaps, opportunities for change, and other community system building needs.

Collecting & Making Sense of Data

Getting to know your community through a data collection discovery process will reveal opportunities, resources, and unmet needs. By collecting data from a variety of sources, a collaboration should be able to adequately answer: “What does the early childhood care and education landscape in our community look like today?”

Analyzing this data allows you to see the bigger picture, focusing on key stakeholders, goals, and outcomes. Engaging a wide range of voices is essential for developing effective solutions.

Root Cause Analysis

While it’s tempting to jump right in and create change for families, you must explore root causes of the problems you’re trying to solve. If you can’t carefully examine and understand root causes, the effort or solution is likely to prove ineffective over time.

It’s important to explore the root causes of problems rather than just addressing symptoms. Asking “why?” repeatedly helps understand the fundamental reasons behind issues, which will influence the development of strategies needed to solve the problem, resulting in more successful outcomes.

Tools for Creating a Collaboration Plan

These 3 tools help the team plan ahead, establish checkpoints, and evaluate strategies for effective early childhood community systems development.

Create a shared agenda

A shared agenda helps partners level set expectations and workloads. A strong agenda needs the consensus of everyone involved. This ensures that all partners and members of the collaboration will support the agenda from planning through implementation and evaluation.

A shared agenda should include a shared understanding of community needs, agreed-upon targeted systems change efforts, common language, and commitment to shared work and accountability.

Develop a logic model

A logic model defines the goals of a collaboration and shapes its planning, design, management, accountability, and communication. It helps measure collaboration success and maintain accountability.

A solid logic model will provide a strong foundation for future evaluation of your work. Continue to engage diverse stakeholders in planning the logic model and work plan to ensure alignment, support, and shared understanding of project goals and approach.

Outline the work plan

The work plan is a management tool built from the logic model that ensures you complete the tasks necessary to carry out each strategy.

It helps your collaboration come to an agreement on outcomes, goals, and timelines. It also serves as a useful project management tool to help with planning and implementation.

The components of a work plan can include a problem statement, project goal, project objectives, activities, person responsible, timeline, and expected results.

Develop Community Systems Strategies


Once your community decides on a shared vision, gathers local knowledge, and explores and identifies the root cause of the problem, your early childhood care and education collaboration is ready to develop strategies.

1. Generate solutions

Involve all partners in brainstorming solutions, using a facilitator if necessary. Facilitators provide a more neutral position and can help mediate varying opinions.

2. Refine and prioritize solutions

Refine solutions by considering the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) and prioritize based on effectiveness and feasibility.

3. Evaluate solutions

Assess each solution for effectiveness and feasibility. If a solution doesn’t meet these criteria, revisit the previous step for refinement

4. Detail each solution

Break each solution into actionable steps, making tasks manageable and trackable. This helps collaborations celebrate small wins early and often.

Set Measurable Goals

Creating indicators to measure progress is essential for evaluating the effectiveness of strategies and keeping the collaboration on track. Outcomes should be tied to your collaboration’s vision and logic model.

If the strategies still feel unclear, consider using SMARTIE goals to transform abstract ideas into concrete ones.

SMARTIE goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound
  • Inclusive
  • Equitable
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Measuring collaboration outcomes is a continuous process part of ongoing evaluation and quality improvement efforts. Various methods can be used to understand evaluation and to measure outcomes for systems change initiatives. This comprehensive approach ensures that your early childhood collaboration is effective, adaptable, and aligned with the community’s needs, and is one more step closer to leading to meaningful systems change.

Community Systems Development Structure

The Community Systems Statewide Supports team organizes collaboration building into three categories of Partner, Plan, and Act. However, there is not one right way to partner, plan, and act. Community systems development work is ever-changing, and a collaboration may progress nonlinearly. A collaboration’s work is always fluid. It may jump between different areas and topics and that is okay.

Say you build a vision, develop strategies, and test your ideas to find that you missed engaging a key stakeholder. You may have to backtrack. All of this is part of a collaborations’ growth and development as the collaboration – and its community – are facing complex issues

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Ready to Continue Building Your Collaboration?

If you and your collaboration would like more support with collaboration building—whether you are in the Partner, Plan, or Act stage—our team is here and eager to help!

Get Collaboration Support

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