It is interesting to note this apparent progression from cross-referrals that reflect simple communication to elevated interest in joint service planning and public education that requires greater coordination among organizations. This is a reflection of the benefit of information sharing and cross-training that was frequently commented on by respondents as one of the major successes of their coalition's work.
Lessons Learned About Coalition Building
Coalition members' insights and experience with coalition development express both the value and work required to build community capacity. Comments from coalition members indicate that agencies were able to push aside turf issues and work together. They also clearly state that change does not happen overnight and it takes time to build trust. The following highlight members' comments on their experience with coalitions.
"For a large group, we have been successful in sustaining energy over time — quite an accomplishment!"
"Just wanted to let you know that I have been able to direct people to services, inform them about funds available so as not to deplete all of their funds, and research resolution to life-threatening issues facing individuals referred to me, as a result of the connections I've made through the coalition meetings."
•"As part of a small committee which met recently, we wholeheartedly agreed that this coalition has become a vital part of our professional work and we feel a great need to continue our collaborative work on behalf of our elderly and disabled. "
Coalition members also shared their suggestions for areas of continued development in their community. In addition to the need for more transportation and service funding, other suggestions for further streamlining access for consumers reflected coalition members' concerns that intake information is redundant and lengthy. Central intake at individual agencies and the ability to share information between programs was identified as an area for development by each coalition. One of the coalition leaders stated, "This may be difficult at a local level, but intake staff can be encouraged to photo copy the completed form for the consumer so they have all of their information available for any other forms they may need to fill out."
Muskie School of Public Service35