Unit 1: Essential Elements
Unit 1: Essential Elements

Section 1. Partnerships and Planning

Organizing for Action

If the assembly can demonstrate sufficient passion and commitment to addressing the problem at hand and is willing to work toward the desired outcomes, formalize your common interest and organize into a coalition for action. Some members will want to get to the work immediately, but taking time to establish ground rules, agreeing on methods for making decisions, and defining roles and expectations in order to become a functional body will be time well spent. Such well-organized groups can then hit the ground running.

  • Ground rules. Ground rules help create a safe environment, keep people on track, encourage everyone to participate, and protect privacy. The single best way to prevent conflict is to create an atmosphere that is respectful of diverse viewpoints and conducive to open and honest discussions.
  • Find a process to make decisionsUse consensus to find common ground.
  • Document your work. Record attendance and the nature of the discussions held, which serves as a reminder of decisions made and keeps absent coalition members informed. In addition, funders often require minutes of past meetings to provide a history of the organization as a part of grant applications.
  • Define roles. Though consensus is lovely, establishing definite coalition leadership is a must. Nominate and elect a chair or better yet co-chairs who can support one another. Designate a secretary to take minutes and record the discussions of the group. Agree to evaluate the effectiveness of this leadership on a regular basis. Adjust as needed.

Planning the First Meeting

You have talked to people on the phone, written letters or otherwise gotten agreements from a core group of individuals to come to a meeting. You have talked about the perceived need. Now it is time to plan the first meeting.

  • Make sure you have a good idea of who is coming. Get commitments.
  • Share a draft agenda, after getting input from key individuals before the meeting.
  • Assign a note taker.
  • Talk about the benefits of coalitions. This is the beginning of the solution.
  • Use a flipchart to record responses.
  • Serve snacks and allow time for informal networking.
  • Set the next meeting, if appropriate, or talk about a regular schedule of meetings.

Sequence of Steps in the Planning Process

The planning process can be sequenced into steps of developing the needs assessment, vision, goals and objectives, and implementation plan, and assigning tasks. These various steps are not often accomplished in a concise, timely manner. Participants must listen, learn, understand and eventually build rapport and trust with one another. This only comes through discussion and dialogue. Most newly forming coalitions are not ready to tackle vision and mission statements at the first gathering. Take the time to lay a solid foundation of respect and trust; it will bear rich dividends in the future. These steps are outlined below:

  • Assess the current situation (needs assessment).
    • Develop an initial one-sentence thesis that describes the issue that you are seeking to address. The problem description worksheets in this unit may be a useful place to begin this work.
    • At the same time, assess the resources that team members and other stakeholders within the community may bring to the table to address this issue. These resources include human, fiscal, and advocacy assets.

  • Envision the desired outcome and what circumstances would support achieving it.
    • Vision statement. Through consensus, decide on a vision, which will indicate where you want to be in the future. It should be inspirational; easy to understand; and energizing in order to stimulate the skills, talents, and resources to make it happen. 
      • Example: To enhance oral health care and access for underserved people within our community.
    • Mission statement. Consider creating a mission statement, which is clear, concise, and easily understood, while defining who the coalition is and your reason for existing, as well indicating your primary constituencies.
      • Example: To create a high-quality, cost-effective, sustainable oral-health-care-delivery system for underserved populations in order to promote and integrate oral health within the community.

  • Specify goals and objectives to achieve the vision.
    • Goals. Once the vision and mission have been determined, establish goals, which provide a general direction in which to move, an idea of what the group would like to accomplish. These reflect the collaboration's priorities and should eventually be ranked as either long term or short term. This encourages ongoing collaboration and focus, while presenting the goals as achievable and sustainable.
      • Example of a short-term goal: To provide examinations and referrals for underserved children in a school-based health center.
      • Example of a long-term goal: To provide comprehensive oral health care to children and their families in the town of Pleasantville.

    • Objectives. Unlike goals, objectives should be specific and measurable and should include time-based achievements. Objectives serve as benchmarks to be attained on the way to accomplishing your goals. When determining objectives, be sure that your expectations are based in reality in terms of time and available resources. Setting unrealistic objectives can lead to failure and discouragement among your team. Your objectives, as well as goals, should reflect the priorities of the collaboration: 
      • Examples:
        • Expand the dental staff by hiring 1 full-time-equivalent dental hygienist by spring 2018.
        • Create and institute a sliding fee scale for oral health clients to be implemented by opening of the clinic.
        • Purchase two complete portable dental units for providing dental hygiene services by spring 2018.
  • Develop an implementation or action plan.
    • Action Plan. Your action plan details how your objectives will be accomplished with timelines and accountability. It serves as a road map for meeting the goals and objectives of the collaboration. A clear, detailed action plan encourages members to complete their tasks in an efficient manner by providing them with a clear understanding of what is expected, how it should be accomplished and a deadline for presenting results from the assigned task. 
    • Schedule regular evaluation of the action plan and its outcomes. This step is critical to ensure that you remain on task and are moving closer to your goals.
      • Examples
        • The Washington State Collaborative Oral Health Improvement Plan 2009-2014 defines this group's vision, process, goals, and objectives. The plan includes the following:
          • Summary of the group's vision and guiding principles
          • Strategic areas, with clearly defined goals and objectives
          • Acknowledgement of partners, and a graphic of responsibilities by strategic area
          • A glossary and definitions of acronyms
          • Appendices (state burden document and work force report, a matrix showing prioritization of strategic areas, measurement indicators, and Healthy People 2020 oral health goals and objectives).
        • In California, the Health Trust Foundation uses a community outreach model and sponsors a children's dental center, conducts oral health education workshops, and supports water fluoridation.
        • Watch Your Mouth is a campaign that began in Washington and operated in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire for oral health media communication, education, and advocacy.