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How does developing the agency eco system start?

The next step may seem somewhat redundant, but its value becomes clearer as we proceed. Each service scenario developed above includes a client and the intervention focus for the client. It also includes the opportunities and resources the client accesses through the agency. These opportunities and resources are the agency interventions. The scenarios also include information about how the client is coping better, how he (or she) is better off for having received agency interventions. This part of the scenario is the intervention outcomes. We then see an agency client with a particular intervention focus receives agency interventions achieving specified intervention outcomes. For convenience, we will simply refer to the last two elements in the agency scenarios as interventions and outcomes.

The primary function of the agency eco system is to produce interventions achieving outcomes for agency clients. It is unlikely we only have a single intervention for all agency clients. Rather, we more likely develop an intervention array responding to the range of issues and difficulties clients experience as seen in the agency intervention focus. What should the components of the intervention array be and how should the agency provide them for clients? For example, should the agency provide them directly or contract with another entity to provide them on the agency’s behalf?

Focus is on two questions.

·       What should the specific components of the intervention array be?

·       What is the best way to deliver those components to agency clients?

Let me emphasize simply making these decisions by ourselves, without input from anyone else is both unnecessarily arrogant and a plainly bad idea. Human services agencies rarely and perhaps never provide unique interventions, interventions not already being provided by other human services agencies and organizations. There are people who have extensive experience delivering the same or similar intervention arrays to clients like or very similar to agency clients. They know how to do what the agency wants to do. Not to tap into this knowledge and experience is both shortsighted and unfair to agency clients who deserve our best effort.

Let’s tap into the available knowledge and expertise. We most assuredly review the related professional literature and consult with experts whose work is already familiar to us. Additionally, let me suggest another strategy I have found to be particularly helpful. It starts with identifying agencies, organizations, and private professionals who work with people similar to people with whom the agency expects to work. Further limit the list here to agencies, organizations, and private professionals who provide interventions or intervention arrays similar or related to the intervention array the agency expects to provide. The result is a list of entities or people who have experience and expertise clearly relevant to the expected work of the new agency. This is the knowledge pool we tap into as we establish the agency eco system.

For agencies and organizations, identify the CEO, Clinical Director, or Director of human services and for individual practitioners, identify their contact name and address. We are developing a mailing list for the knowledge pool. Additionally, include people from related organizations the new agency is likely to work with in the interest of its clients, e.g., schools, law enforcement, religious groups, and so on. Do not add more than one or two representatives from each of these related organizations. When complete, the mailing list includes a representative group of people with special knowledge and expertise potentially useful for establishing the agency’s internal eco system.

Send each person on the list a personal letter on the new agency’s letterhead, inviting him (or her) to help develop the new agency, its services array, and its intervention strategies. A brief explanation of what we want to do, why we want their input, and what our goal is engages the interest of most people on the list. Our goal is to develop a working model of a state-of-the-art system to deliver the expected intervention array to clients of the new agency.

Members of the knowledge pool are invited to a three-hour meeting where they share their knowledge and expertise to assist us as we establish the new agency eco system. They are our guests, so we are careful to make sure they are comfortable and feel valued. We use the first half hour to share with them a little about the history of how we got to the present point, who our Potential Clients are, what we think their issues are, and the types of intervention outcomes we hope to achieve. We do not discuss the intervention array developed earlier or how we think the array should be delivered to clients. Those are the points on which the rest of the meeting focuses.

Use the next hour for a facilitated discussion about the specific services and activities the intervention array should include. This is best done using small group discussion and other group process strategies. The result is a list of services and activities the people in the knowledge pool think are essential for achieving the outcomes we want to achieve.

During the next hour, focus the participants’ attention on the services and activities they have said are essential for agency success.

·       What do they think is the best way for the agency to make those services and activities accessible by and available to agency clients?

·       Who is qualified to provide the services or direct the activities?

·       How should the services and activities be organized?

·       What do they think the delivery system should look like?

The goal is to develop an intervention model most of the members of the knowledge pool believe represents a state-of-the-art approach to providing the services and activities suggested by the group.

Use the last half hour for recapitulation and future steps. Along with thanking them for their good work and valuable help, we want them to agree to another meeting. Many and perhaps most will not have the time and interest to meet again, but many will. They are not asked to commit immediately, but are asked to remain open to the possibility. Let them know we want to take time to understand and carefully consider the ideas they have shared and the tentative, delivery model they developed. We sincerely hope their experience and expertise continue to be available to and accessible by us as we develop the high quality agency eco system our clients deserve.

The delivery model the knowledge pool develops uses the services and activities they think are most appropriate for our clients. Our next step is to compare their set of services and activities to the intervention array we developed earlier. The likelihood is their list and our array are similar, but not identical. Merge their list and our array, not dropping any items from their list or our array. The result is an expanded array that gets our thoughtful consideration. Along with our consideration, we discuss the expanded array with selected stakeholders to get their perspectives and opinions. At a minimum, we discuss it with a few potential clients, Initiators, and Authorizers. Based on those discussions, we adjust our intervention array as appropriate.

We next focus on the delivery model developed by the members of the knowledge pool. They believe it represents the best way to provide the services and activities they are suggesting. Our goal is to modify their model to work with our adjusted intervention array. Through this process, we develop a working model for the intervention function within the agency eco system. This working model is consistent with our vision of how the agency eco system should function and compatible with the views and interests of our stakeholders.

Once we have our working model, we reconvene the knowledge pool, including those members willing to have a second meeting. This meeting should also be planned for three hours. During the first hour, we present our working model, including the adjusted intervention array and the modified delivery system. Take care to point out what has been changed, omitted, or modified from the model they developed. As part of the presentation, let the group know the steps taken to get to the working model and any perspectives or specific interests agency stakeholders have relative to the changes, omissions, or modifications.

·       What do we expect to do?

·       How is this different from what they suggested?

·       Why did we make the changes?

Use the last two hours of the meeting for the participants to discuss and share any reactions they have to the changes or to the process we used in making those changes. Additionally, invite them to think about and advise us relative to any problems or issues they think we will have with using the working model. Do they think the working model will be successful? If so, why? If not, why? Are there any modifications they think are critical for our success? Are there any questions or issues we should be raising, but simply do not know to raise? After the second meeting, we determine whether or not an additional meeting would be productive. If so, it should be scheduled. If not, we proceed with establishing the agency eco system, using the working intervention model.

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