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  • Michael Sattler

Social Collaboration: Four Things to Do Right Now

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For a long time now - maybe years - you've recognized that organizations in your community could do a better job in collaborating around the people they help. That conclusion may come from a need to cut healthcare costs or improve health outcomes, or from a desire to reinforce services one organization is providing with those from another, or just because the current system is so inefficient. You've imagined, read about, and studied experiments others have tried, sometimes with mixed results, and it seems complicated and a bit overwhelming.


How am I doing so far?


I'm not telling anything you don't already know: bringing community, healthcare, and social organizations together is tricky: from mission alignment to legal questions to technology to funding, assembling a 'community information exchange' or a 'social collaboration network' takes effort. That's the bad news.


The good news: It can be done. And it's never been easier.


Around the country, more work has been done in the past year or two in this area than ever before. Technology is improving at light speed, best practices are being established, real outcomes are being achieved, and people everywhere are recognizing the value of community collaboration. It's never been a better time to get a social collaboration network off the ground.


So here are four things you can do RIGHT NOW.


  1. Start small. Don't over-think, over-plan, or over commit. Make a list of the two or three organizations you already have a relationship with who might be good partners and get things off the ground. It doesn't have to be perfect - it just has to function. These networks grow naturally from small beginnings, and it's better to learn how to run things in a microcosm before you need to scale.

  2. Pick some off-the-shelf solutions. There are more high-quality collaboration platforms around than ever before, more validated intervention pathways, more good models of care. Take a quick look around, comparison shop, and make some selections. Don't reinvent the wheel or worry too much about your own personalized, customized processes or pathways - there will always be time to fine-tune things later based on what you learn. Iteration is the name of the game.

  3. Enlist some veterans. They're out there: people who have set up, run, or studied collaboration networks. They can tell you what works, what doesn't work, and generally help you bootstrap your way to your first effort. Again, don't reinvent the wheel or go it alone, and don't take a slick sales presentation from a software company at face value: real networks are more than just a referral directory.

  4. Start exploring COVID sources of funding in your community. The social impact of the pandemic is real, it's happening, and people know it. Many contact tracing and human-assistance programs are desperate for ideas around how to handle the needs that they're seeing, and there are foundations, government grants, and even healthcare and criminal justice organizations absolutely willing to make investments in coherent, credible solutions.

Because of the severity of these times, there has never been a better opportunity to get your social collaboration network off the ground. The most important takeaway? Don't wait. Start now.


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