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Partnership and Collaborative Efforts
Grant number, name, and location: Project Inclusion, Napa, CA, #E-9-4-1-0077
Grant recipient: Napa County and the North Bay Employment Connection (NBEC)
Project lead: Napa County and the North Bay Employment Connection (NBEC)
Subcontractors: Napa Valley Economic Development Corporation, Napa Valley College Small Business Development Corporation, and Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire
- Joint strategic planning brought the community-based service providers to the table and ensured buy-in of all existing and potential partners through the creation of a shared vision statement, guiding principles, goals, strategies, and recommended actions.
- When implementing new initiatives, time needs to be invested in making community organizations and advocacy groups aware of how the initiatives will benefit them and assuring them that their own roles are not being usurped.
- The goals of initiatives should be clearly identified as collaboration and partnership, which are the keys to capacity building.
- By adding a requirement that One-Stop Career Center (One Stop) staff demonstrate competency in serving customers with disabilities as part of their annual performance review, One-Stop managers communicated the priority of serving this customer group.
Napa County and the North Bay Employment Connection (NBEC) were the grant recipients. North Bay Employment Connection is a regional consortium of workforce development organizations in the surrounding counties - Napa, Solano, Sonoma, and Marin.
For Project INCLUSION, the collaborative assigned the following roles and responsibilities to relevant partners:
- NBEC, in collaboration with the Marin and Napa county Workforce Investment Boards, led the strategic planning, partnership building, evaluation, subcommittee staffing, and overall project management, including contracting and reporting.
- The Sonoma One-Stop Career Center, referred to as Job Link, and its subcontractor, Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire, provided the lead in the marketing and outreach effort, chairing the Marketing subcommittee.
- The Marin One-Stop Career Center, locally named the Marin Employment Connection (MEC), and its partners piloted three customized employment strategies: individualized job development, job carving, and individual training accounts (ITA), coupled with personal budget strategies. Additionally, the Marin partnership was the lead agency in the capacity building work group.
- The Napa One-Stop Career Center, known as Job Connection, along with Napa Valley College Small Business Development Corporation led the performance-outcomes committee and piloted the following strategies: supported employment, use of a personal agent, and micro-enterprise development.
As a membership organization, NBEC had more than 50 partners, over 20 of which are community based. Prior to the grant, NBEC and the One-Stops had partnerships ranging from excellent to virtually nonexistent with Workforce Investment Act mandated and non-mandated partners. Most notably absent were specific organizations serving the disability community and persons with disabilities.
To begin implementation of the grant, NBEC conducted marketing analysis of its main stakeholders interested in increasing the employment of persons with disabilities through the One-Stop. Focus groups were conducted with three key customer groups: people with disabilities, employers, and employment and training specialists. The primary purpose of the focus groups was to hear directly from these individuals on issues related to the employment of people with disabilities, the benefits and barriers experienced, and assets and gaps in service delivery. A total of nine focus groups, involving over 200 community stakeholders, were held throughout the region.
A voluntary implementation workgroup was then formed, consisting of approximately 35 practitioners from organizations in the Napa County community who served a broad range of people with disabilities, including youth and adults, to develop a common vision. This workgroup was very interested in developing a system to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities; its members were willing to commit their time, energy, and ultimately, their resources to the effort. Until the formation of this group, what had been lacking was an "organizer" for such a system. The grant provided the leadership to convene this group and begin its implementation.
Results of Key Partnerships
Many collaborative efforts emerged to enhance the local workforce development system's ability to serve people with disabilities in greater number and with a comprehensive and more coordinated service offering:
Universal Access Assessments and Workgroups
The State Department of Rehabilitation and Access Ingenuity provided assistance in identifying facility, program, and service accessibility barriers and solutions for the One-Stop partners. Local service providers, One-Stop staff, advocates, and consumers make up the Universal Access Workgroup, which meets regularly to review accessibility issues and to develop services that are more coordinated and provide greater choice for people with disabilities. This group will continue to meet after the grant period, as it is seen as a valuable means of continuing the accessibility discussion.
Co-location of Services at the One-Stop
The One-Stop partnership was fortunate to have the State Department of Rehabilitation and community-based agencies such as Goodwill Industries, Deaf Counseling and Advocacy, Integrated Community Services, Becoming Independent, and Dreamcatchers co-locating services at a One-Stop facility. As a result of this project, partners that provide direct services to persons with disabilities have been brought into the One-Stops, a move that dramatically increases the capacity of the One-Stops to address the needs of people with disabilities. Prior to the grant, community-based organizations did not see value in the services offered through the One-Stops and were fearful that One-Stops were going to take referrals from them. Project staff reported some instances of deep resentment of One-Stops possibly competing with the community-based organizations. However, educating these organizations and involving them in strategic planning bought them back to the table (click here for more information about the strategic planning process). Staff were able to communicate to them that the goal of the grant was to build capacity at One-Stops by relying on agencies with deep-rooted ties to various constituencies rather than usurping them.
Capacity Building Through Training
A regional workgroup of One-Stop staff, partners, representatives of the Workforce Investment Boards, and Youth Councils developed a competency-based curriculum for training the One-Stop partner's staffs, WIBs, and Youth Councils to improve their capacity to serve people with disabilities (click here for more information). A major component of the curriculum is known as Legacy Training, an online training program, which is augmented with local training. In addition, staff performance evaluations were modified to include demonstration of disability competencies: All One-Stop staff are rated on their customer service skills in working with persons with disabilities as well as their general knowledge of the disability field as part of their annual review.