Service Information Gathering, Coordination and Integration
It may seem odd that we have grouped these concepts into one heading. However, Service Information Gathering, Service Coordination and Service Integration are all about knowing your community and working within it. They are about supporting people in reaching their goals. This is something that all stakeholders – funders, partners, consumers (clients, learners, etc.) and our own organizations and staff – want to happen.
Earlier, we talked about the MTCU Requirements for Information and Referral. It is worth reviewing those that relate to Service Coordination, Integration and Information Gathering:
- ensure clients receive accurate and current information on the EO services relevant to their needs;
- help clients understand their program and service options from across the EO network;
- match clients with the service and provider that best meet their needs efficiently, accounting for culturally-appropriate service delivery;
- coordinate and integrate services to provide learners with supported access to other services that help them achieve their goals; and
- ensure that the LBS service provider’s information and referral services build on the results of the literacy services planning and coordination process and are complementary to other resources in the community
As LBS programs work to provide the best possible customer service, a shared awareness among community services is essential. Reciprocal knowledge is the key to
- appropriate referrals from other services
- supported access to needed services for LBS clients and learners
Here are five ways to gather and share information in your community.
Many communities have regular interagency meetings where various service providers get together to explain what they do, provide agency updates and share information. Some of these are held as brown bag lunch meetings, while others include speakers, workshops or presentations. These forums are a good way to learn about other service providers and keep informed about new initiatives and programs in your community.
Speed Networking Sessions – Community Development Information Sharing
During a lunch or as part of an interagency workshop or meeting, hold a “Speed Networking” session. This is based on “Speed Dating,” where people have short meetings with multiple potential dates. In Speed Networking, the people are agency representatives and the discussions cover rapid introductions, what each of the agencies do and how they can work together.
Learner Information Boards
The Literacy Council York-Simcoe conducts research on their local community referral services and transition partners. They post the information on a learner information board which is located where the learners enter their agency doors. This way, learners (and practitioners) can easily access the information whenever it is needed. Also, as learners see the information every time they come in, it becomes less foreign and intimidating.
Visits and “Field Trips”
For the PTP Adult Learning and Employment Programs, “getting out” was the answer. Several years ago, they made the decision to focus some of their professional development on improving staff knowledge of next-step destinations and support services for learners. PTP visited a number of schools (for example, Emery, Yorkdale, and Burnhamthorpe Adult Learning Centres run by the Toronto District School Board) and trainers (for example, The Ability Learning Network, The YMCA’s and the Daily Bread’s food services programs) to learn about admissions, programs, etc. Some of their most important learning was gained through visits to service providers. PTP practitioners aren’t the only ones who go visiting. PTP takes learners on field trips to visit other service providers and especially to transition partner programs. And, of course, PTP reciprocates by inviting and welcoming the service providers back for visits at the PTP sites.
As part of the Exploring Learner Pathways: Visualizing the Learning Journey project, MTML (Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy) launched the OKLearn.ca website. According to their Project Background information:
“The OKLearn.ca website is an online toolkit aimed at providing adult learners and the front lines of adult education in Toronto and York Region – teachers, intake staff and assessors – as well as others who refer adults to the broad array of education and training programs, with easy-access visual materials and information that can definitely enrich that all-important initial conversation about next steps along the learning journey.
The site houses pathway charts, information about publicly funded adult education programming in Ontario, and a host of other information pieces that raise awareness about common transition points, the complexity of learners and their needs and how to better navigate the information that exists out there about adult education options.”
Strengthening Ontario’s Adult Education System
MTCU research shows that clients want integrated service with effectual procedures for referrals throughout the employment and training system and between service providers from other ministries and the community. Clients want to be able to find services easily, with no hassle. They want staff to be aware of all their needs (not just one particular aspect, e.g., literacy) and for staff from different services to communicate and refer effectively and efficiently.
MTCU research shows clients want integrated service with effectual procedures for referrals throughout the employment and training system and between service providers from other ministries and the community. Clients want to be able to find services easily, with no hassle. They want staff to be aware of all their needs (not just one particular aspect, e.g., literacy) and for staff from different services to communicate and refer effectively and efficiently.
On December 1, 2017, the Ministries of Training, Colleges and Universities, Education, and Citizenship and Immigration, released a consultation paper, Strengthening Ontario’s Adult Education System. From December 1, 2017 until January 31, 2018, Ontarians were asked to share their feedback on the ideas, priorities and proposed plans for:
- finding information about the system
- improving how learners enter adult education programs
- supporting regional collaboration and partnerships
- recognizing individuals’ prior learning
- the development of a core competency framework
What They Heard
Feedback was received through 80 written submissions and 87 in-person regional focus groups held with adult learners. The adult learners and respondents provided creative and thoughtful responses. Report: Improving adult education is a summary of what was heard, categorized under the following themes:
- improved integrated information about programs
- better wrap-around supports for adult learners across programs
- clearer and more coordinated intake, assessment and referrals in programs
- better guidance and pathway planning supporting smoother learner transitions between programs and services
- enhanced regional collaboration among providers and support organizations
Integrating services does not mean that everything is provided by one agency or delivered in one place. It means managing services so that they are not disjointed, they are easy for the client to navigate, and they achieve continuity of service over time. Integration can mean working in conjunction with other Employment Ontario services, across sectors or Ministries to meet the needs and support the clients and learners.
Partnerships, coalitions, affiliations, alliances and collaborations are words to describe an arrangement in which all the parties agree to cooperate to further their common interests. Organizations may partner to increase their reach, achieve their goals and/or accomplish their mission. Publicly funded organizations are increasingly evaluated by the level and quality of their partnerships with other organizations, services and social sectors. As Employment Ontario partners, it is an expectation that we will partner within the EO network and within our community.
Benefits of Partnerships
There are many ways that partnerships can be beneficial to the collaborating parties. Although each individual partnership has its own unique advantages, some general benefits come about by:
- eliminating duplication and addressing gaps
- avoiding competition
- breaking down barriers between programs
- pooling resources
- gaining and sharing expertise and approaches
- providing varied perspectives to plan, evaluate, address problems, find solutions and develop strategies
- exposing partners to larger and more diverse markets
Challenges in Partnering
However, not everything is rosy when you are trying to “feed” a partnership. There are also some challenges that you need to be prepared for:
- Partnerships can take a long time to establish
- Considerable energy may be needed to build and maintain the partnership
- Staff time is needed to manage and support a successful partnership
- It can be challenging to come to mutually satisfactory decisions
- Things that need to be addressed and negotiated for agreement:
- Partnership and individual goals
- Areas of responsibility
- Lines of authority
- Information sharing and distribution
- How success is evaluated
Some give-and-take is required. You may not get everything you want, but is it enough to be advantageous? Will it benefit clients and learners? Will it be advantageous to the other partner(s)? If so, a partnership can be formed.
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