In the summer of 1989, Ohio formed a team at the state level to facilitate development of linkages between educators and human services staff. Originally composed of representatives from the Ohio Department of Human Services (ODHS) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the Ohio Common Good State Linkage Team has been expanded to include representation from the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services (OBES) Job Training Partnership Act Division and Employment Services Division; the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD); the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS); the Ohio Literacy Resource Center (OLRC); the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR); and two local linkage teams. The primary focus of the state team is to strengthen both the state and local linkages of programs and services designed to serve Ohio's at-risk families, including FSA program participants.
Recognizing the critical influence of family on the education and work life of all family members, the state team emphasizes a holistic approach to help JOBS and other at-risk customers become self-sufficient and build strong families. The state team is a synergistic forum where state agencies and local providers collaborate to integrate, innovate, change, and develop priorities for services and activities. The team's collaborative focus is on both state and local coordination and development of compatible policies, programs, and resources for education, training, and employment, Collaborative activities result in the elimination of duplicative programs and services and the development of high-quality, cost-effective customer services.
The statewide project, "For the Common Good: Building Linkages for At-Risk Families in Ohio," emerged from the efforts of the state team to strengthen local interagency linkages throughout Ohio. Since 1990, 41 local linkage teams have been formed under the state team's auspices. These local teams focus on improving services to at-risk youth and adults, including FSA program participants, through the development of collaborative interagency linkages. To encourage and facilitate local linkages of programs and services offered to FSA participants, the state team planned and implemented four workshops to train local interagency linkage teams.
Local linkage teams from throughout Ohio were trained during these 2-day workshops held in April 1990, October 1991, October 1993, and May 1995. The workshops were designed to provide sufficient planning time for teams to draft an action plan for guiding their activities during the following 12 months. Technical assistance in the form of round tables and state-level staff expertise was available to teams. Teams attending the workshops were required to have members representing the following areas: adult basic and literacy education, vocational education, Job Training Partnership Act, human services, and employment services. For the 1993 and 1995 workshops, teams were also strongly encouraged to have representatives from their local ODADAS boards and community action agencies. Beyond these requirements, each team filled its roster according to local community needs and preexisting linkages. Some teams included representation from such groups as the Urban League, postsecondary education, local literacy councils, and family development centers.
To sustain and encourage the local linkage teams formed under its leadership, the state team also planned and implemented three follow-up meetings for local linkage teams. During these meetings, held in June 1991, May 1993, and April 1994, teams reviewed and revised their action plans, networked with other teams, and shared successes.
Both the initial and follow-up training sessions have been evaluated very positively by participants. However, the success of these programs can be judged only on the basis of subsequent team activities. Did the workshops serve as a catalyst for launching and sustaining interagency teams? Were teams successful in following through on their action plans? Have they improved client services? In other words, were the workshops successful in stimulating interagency linkage teams that worked?
By far the most complete picture of team activities and accomplishments has been obtained from two local linkage team follow-up surveys, the first in 1992 and the second in 1994. In 1994, teams listed 74 items in response to the question, "What have been your team's major accomplishments?" The largest number (22%) of these related to improved communication among and between agencies represented on the team, followed closely by enhancing services to clients (20%) and improving and developing client programs and services (15%). According to 62 per-cent of the 1994 respondents, these accomplishments would not have been possible without the linkage team, with an additional 19 percent giving at least partial credit to the team. Some typical comments about the role of the linkage team in the reported accomplishments include the following:
All of these things happened because of the linkage team. We have a more positive outlook because we understand more about the other agencies and programs that are involved.
It takes time to learn to trust and spending meeting and planning time together can lead to a trusting partnership. It sure has.
The accomplishments are a group effort. No one person or agency could implement such things as a universal release of information.
Success of the local linkage teams has also been documented through the participation of teams in receiving funding to support their linkage activities. In Spring 1994, local linkage teams that had been formed through the project were given the opportunity to apply for JTPA state Education and Coordination Grant funds (8%). Through this grant, a total of $300,000 was made available with a maximum individual grant amount of $30,000. Twenty-two teams submitted proposals in response to a request for proposals sent to the 36 teams considered to be "active." Of these, 10 teams each received $30,000 grants for projects that enhanced their interagency coordination. The intent of the grants was to encourage system building, integrated planning, and promotion of systems change. Six of the 10 projects focused on establishing computer communication systems for service providers as a means of enhancing client services.
More recently-August 1995-OBES announced the first awards for Ohio Customer Service Centers. Four of the seven awards were made to areas with active Common Good teams, all of which participated in the development of the proposal.
In November 1995, the Common Good project will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a 2-day follow-up meeting to which all teams formed during the project are invited. The fact that Nancy Hollister, Ohio's Lieutenant Governor, has agreed to keynote this event is affirmation of the accomplishments of the project. However, the concrete documentation of the project's success can be seen in the many achievements of the local linkage teams located throughout Ohio. The process described in this guide is based on the experiences of the local linkage teams in Ohio as well as more general resources.