Advocates for Youth
As Advocates for Youth knows, building a strong collaboration of national organizations who engage in state policy work is difficult to manage. Debra Hauser, Executive Vice President of Advocates for Youth acknowledges that despite their collaboration with four other organizations, they were still tripping on each other when advocating for better sex education policy at the state level. So the five organizations decided to bring someone in from the outside to identify the level of collaboration, strategies, and mechanisms needed to improve the effectiveness of their policy work on the state and local level.
They chose MAG to facilitate this strategic planning process because MAG "understands the reproductive health field, policy issues, and youth, and are strong enough to corral the group to keep us moving along pretty well," according to Hauser.
Many organizations with common missions would like to work together towards their collective goals. However, in practice, these organizations also exist in a competitive environment where organizational interests, philosophies, and funding priorities may make such collaboration difficult. "MAG helped us to weigh the benefits and costs of collaboration to determine if working together was worth the effort it would take to do it right," Hauser notes.
Once the participants agreed that it was, MAG began to address the barriers to effective collaboration. "There were times when the discussions were difficult to have, but MAG provided boundaries, guidelines, and guiderails to having them," she remembers. "We could look beyond our organizational interests to find the commonality that brought us to the greater good."
Even though the process was quite difficult, MAG led them through it. "It was better than trying to hide the pink elephant and it laid the groundwork for moving forward," says Hauser. "The work is still challenging but we have a common sense of direction."
As a result of strategic planning process, the collaborators continue to work together in many states, are jointly funded, and hold a state summit for 50 representatives from 25 states.
"The whole initiative was very successful.
The five organizations are now all equal
partners in making decisions and moving
forward," Hauser says. "I'm not sure if we
would have gotten there if MAG had not been
there to facilitate."