What is necessary to create an effective regional coalition? Members of the Greater Richmond Regional Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (GRRC) had been operating jointly for over a decade to provide resources to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault when they asked Communitas Consulting to assist their transition from an informal coalition to a collaborative organizational entity. Their goal was to increase access for clients, formalize their shared accountability, and achieve greater efficiencies as a group. The GRRC is an alliance of six community-based domestic violence and sexual assault resource providers, including the Goochland Cares, Hanover Safe Place, Quin Rivers, Safe Harbor, and YWCA Richmond.
The Communitas Consulting team spoke with Christine Elwell, the new GRRC manager, and Linda Tissiere, CEO and President of YWCA Richmond, to reflect on the challenges of the coalition development process, the engagement with Communitas, and the results of the transition a year later. In early 2018, through an interactive process engaging the current partners and their staff members, Communitas Consulting developed a playbook with participant responsibilities, guidelines for policies and procedures, a job description for a proposed coordinator, and suggested organizational relationships and agreements. The Communitas team worked with all the members. As host organization leaders, Linda and Christine shared their perspectives on the benefits and challenges of formalizing the partnership:
- Better managed and more accessible client services across partner organizations. Having a central manager supports productive leadership meetings and strong internal coordination of services, so clients can more seamlessly access the resources they may need.
- Expanded resources for each partner organization, supporting greater quality of services to domestic violence survivors regardless of client locations.
- Capacity for increased visibility and strategic action. Christine will gather data points across organizations to build the GRRC brand, expand programs and resources, bridge gaps in services, and better tailor needs to clients.
- Complexity and volume of the information involved in creating a partnership across multiple existing organizations. The initial length and scope of the documents used to determine a coordinating structure were overwhelming. With time, organizational leaders were able to digest and simplify the information to suit their needs.
- Lack of initial clarity of goals among the members. At the outset of the process to formalize the GRRC, partner organizations started off uncertain of the end goal and held varying expectations of what the coalition might look like. To agree on expectations internally in advance would ease the process.
- A surprisingly challenging part of the process, as Linda recalls, was to not lose the positive relationships built between members of the Collaboration. Because these groups have built relationships while working closely in the past, Linda recommended paying attention to protecting and nurturing the existing emotional relationships.
Going into the transition, the Greater Richmond Regional Collaborative to End Sexual and Domestic Violence had the key elements necessary for effective collaboration—mutual trust, shared history, and unwavering commitment to mission. With successful formalization of their coalition, they are now able to reach more clients and improve the quality of services provided, contributing to a higher quality of life of domestic and sexual violence survivors.