Some problems are best solved by a single agency. However, many problems or needs cannot be accomplished by an agency acting alone or cannot be accomplished as effectively (Bruner 1991). In such instances, a favorable environment exists for the devel-opment of interagency linkages.
Without a perceived need, interagency partnerships are unlikely to materialize. A problem may not be clearly recognized, or potential partners may be distracted by other concerns or may have preexisting negative relationships (Melaville and Blank 1991).
When the following factors converge, the time is ideal for collaborative efforts:
"The most supportive climate is one in which a problem with multiple causes and consequences . . . is a top priority of the community, key decision makers, and service providers, and where previously established working relationships exist among potential partners" (ibid., p. 20).
The existence of a less than optimal environment does not mean that work toward forming interagency linkages cannot go forward. You may use the time to begin (or improve) communication with potential partners. You may also use the period to work with other agencies on achieving internal objectives, waiting for a more opportune time to tackle broad-based, joint problems (ibid.).
Questions to Consider in Step One: Assessing the Local Need and Climate for Interagency Partnerships
2. How are we doing on our own serving these clients?
3. What is the nature of our relationships with other agencies serving the same clients?
4. How might closer relationships with other agencies help improve outcomes for our clients?
5. What problems or issues could be addressed more effectively through interagency linkages?
6. In our community, what is the history of interagency collaboration and coopera-tion and what can be learned from it?
7. What barriers to collaboration exist?