Network Success: Conversations are Key
Posted on February 11, 20165 Comments 7 Likes Like this post
Gail Leslie - NCDB Project Coordinator Information Management & Dissemination
On February 17th, NCDB will host a national webinar entitled Building Our Community and Network Engagement. This webinar offers an opportunity to continue conversations about our collaboration practices, to catch up on the progress of some of our “collective” accomplishments and consider additional efforts.
Why is it important to create intent for our collaborative work? After all, one doesn’t have to look too far to sense the buzz of shared activity taking place across state projects. The use of the NCDB website as a tool for engagement is growing, we have cooperated as a community to build the national OHOA modules, and states are actively participating in national initiatives. Aren’t we already changing the boundaries of how we work together? Are these the indicators of what “network”success looks like?
While OSEP has stated their vision for a deaf-blind technical assistance network, it is important to develop our network in ways that are meaningful to our work, that create pathways for sustainability and have the greatest impact on children. Those outcomes are central to the national center’s technical assistance.
OSEP’s directives, to utilize technology, create efficiencies, share resources, and develop tools collaboratively, make good sense. At the heart of those practicalities is an intent to equalize services for children who are deaf-blind across all states by addressing common problems and building national resources together.
These ideas changed the work of the national center, coaxing us to organize our work around national technical assistance initiatives. The initiatives create opportunities that encourage states to join in to share in both content and process. We need each other to do this work and so it is important to identify ways of working that are pragmatic and make us better at the job that we do.
Are We Making Progress?
the last couple of years, NCDB has sought guidance from state projects on
messages and activities that would inform investment in the network model. The Network Engagement Technical Work Group
(TWG) and sessions at Summit have helped to seed ideas and set direction. In the webinar we will look more closely at
how we have created structures and tools in response to these. Some of those suggestions have included:
a digital tool for states to share goals and activities
opportunities for a mentoring process
consistent language for describing ways of working together
an understanding of TA in our low incidence field
a vision statement for a national Deaf-Blind TA network.
In early January, NCDB launched the State Deaf-Blind Project Portal. This group on the NCDB website is open to project staff and offers a simple way for states and NCDB to share specific questions and resources around TA and project management. The portal also has some newly developed tools for states to use. One is the State Activities Database. More than 30 states have shared information about their goals and activities for this current grant cycle. Users of the portal have the opportunity to either find a mentor or become one. State projects will also find the working draft of the TA Implementation Guide ready for use in their work.
In July, at Summit, in the session on community and network engagement, the group of participants looked at a variety of approaches to defining collaborative behaviors for the DB TA Network. We identified collaborative practices that are familiar to most of our work, and we looked at ways that the federal government and other national TA&D projects are describing and measuring their collaborative work. NCDB has since used this information as guidance in organizing content for a new report to be published in March, Working Together for Families: State Deaf-Blind Project & Parent Center Collaborations. This framework and the collaboration activities reported by projects offer a way to conceptualize shared work, partnerships and technical assistance outcomes.
In the session at Summit we also acknowledged that the adoption of a network identity involves change. Creating change takes vision, incentives, skills, resources and an action plan. It was clear in our session that as a community we are rich in resources and assets. Identifying those makes understanding a network approach clearer, because so much is already in place. However, even though OSEP has given us direction, it is important that we have a coherent vision that drives our collaborative work. The graphic below summarizes the lists we generated in our group and includes preliminary ideas that might inform our vision.Assets of the National Deaf-Blind TA&D Projects
What Are the Barriers?
We weren’t just cheer leading at our Summit session. We identified the perceived barriers to change and a network approach. We all agreed that lack of time is a constant. Collaboration takes a lot of work. If time is a barrier for you and you can’t make it to our webinar, I will offer another suggestion that, again, came from the group. Let’s make sure we all know each other. Take a minute to edit your profile on the NCDB website to include a photo and a couple of sentences in the Personal Statement box. It may seem trivial, but new people are coming on to projects and into the network regularly. Even small things can contribute to the growing strength of our community. Sam Morgan and I hope that you will find time to come to the webinar to continue this conversation and share your ideas.