Metro North Regional Employment Board:
Partnership and Collaborative Efforts
Grant number, name, and location: Metro North Regional Employment Board, Cambridge MA, #E-9-4-1-0078
Grant recipient: Metro North Regional Employment Board
Project lead: Metro North Regional Employment Board
Subcontractors and partners: Career Source One-Stop in Woburn, Career Place One-Stop in Cambridge, the Institute for Community Inclusion (training and technical assistance)
The Metro North Customized Employment project was based in two One-Stop Centers north of Boston. The Metro North Regional Employment Board (the Local Workforce Investment Board) was the grant recipient. Major partners included Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Mental Retardation, and the Institute for Community Inclusion.
- Knowledge of partner systems increases the fluidity and effectiveness of collaboration.
- Joint work with job seekers is a highly effective way to build lasting partnerships.
- Advisory meetings, or other group/partner planning meetings, can be effective tools if used correctly.
The Customized Employment grant took many steps to become a stronger partner with local agencies and organizations- a significant contribution in the effort to sustain the efforts of the grant. At the very least, the One-Stop and local workforce system will feel a lasting impact from the changes made through this project.
As part of its oversight, the grant convened an advisory board that met on a quarterly basis throughout the life of the project. Partners participating on the board included state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), mental health and developmental disability organizations, disability program navigators, One-Stop staff and management, and technical assistance providers. The advisory board was an ongoing forum for change and innovation, and members thought it would likely continue to push forward the grant's priorities even after funding ended.
This grant was one of many examples of the strength of collaborations that are built by doing. While the advisory board of the grant clearly was a source of significant positive change, many of the most meaningful experiences came from the collaborative projects the grant achieved Work that revolved around an individual participant allowed a profusion of good practices and the opportunity to test policies and resource sharing on a case-by-case basis. More than most work, this provided the model for future collaborative successes.
Through its work with VR, the Customized Employment project forged a lasting partnership with significant effects on service delivery in its One-Stops. The process began with a strong outreach to the VR system, which previously had little involvement in the One-Stop. In addition to the project's expressed desire to serve customers jointly, to the advantage of both systems' effective joint case management, this partnership provided greater resources to the individual. In one instance, they braided funds to assist a customer seeking to create self-employment. Various representatives of the regional VR offices regularly attended advisory board meetings.
Over the course of the grant, and through the coordination of project and NCWD/A training/technical assistance staff, VR agreed to station part-time staff in both One-Stops. All parties agreed it led to better understanding between staff in the various systems. VR also began to include the One-Stop in its orientation, and strongly encouraged its customers to register for WIA and partner services-for instance, they brought groups to the One-Stop and assisted them with registration.
As the project itself came to a close, staff foresaw that this partnership, in conjunction with the continued work of the navigator, would be essential to the One-Stop's effective service delivery.
Department of Mental Health
The project was also successful in building a stronger relationship with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). This was very helpful to both One-Stop and DMH staff, as it had clearly been shown that the two shared many customers.
In the early part of the project, One-Stop staff believed the myth that customers with mental illness were potentially violent or dangerous. Some of this concern was demonstrated through their requests for training centered on conflict resolution and personal safety, rather than customer service and job seeking techniques.
Initially DMH staff regarded the One-Stop as generally a poor fit to its customers' needs, and incapable of making the necessary accommodations to services for them. However, this partnership proved fruitful for both entities. One-Stop staff largely became more aware of the real needs and best practices involved in services to individuals with mental illness, and DMH found a new partner in its ongoing work to help consumers find jobs. Much of this progress was achieved in the setting of the regular advisory board meetings, along with a number of instances of joint case work.
Advisory and Management Boards
Throughout the project, staff convened both internal meetings including staff and other case managers, and advisory board meetings of various internal and external system leaders. These boards were to continue beyond the end of the grant.
Internal staff meetings were informal opportunities for staff to discuss strategies, best practices, and procedures, and to air their difficulties and questions. While this strategy was hardly unique, it proved to be an excellent forum for both developing skills and including other One-Stop staff in customized service delivery.
The advisory board meeting long included a range of representatives from multiple service agencies, including VR, the Department of Mental Retardation, and DMH. This became an important planning forum and led to stronger systemic ties between all agencies involved. Though initially not as closely involved in the project, DMH became a more integral partner on the basis of these meetings.
The advisory board meetings were slated to continue after the grant, though participants recognized the challenge of maintaining the group's focus and relevance in the absence of the project. Continuing goals included customer and staff surveys that had just been gathered to assess universal access and services in the One-Stop. The board also planned to focus on garnering further grants and opportunities for collaboration.