Synergy: An Unleashed Community Power; Learn How a Newly Established Nonprofit Organization, Urban Synergy, Uses a Seven-Step Process to Create a Synergistic Environment among Local Agencies That Fosters Improved Collaboration and Increased Educational Outreach for Children in Washington, DC

By Nazzaro, Miya | The Public Manager, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview
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Synergy: An Unleashed Community Power; Learn How a Newly Established Nonprofit Organization, Urban Synergy, Uses a Seven-Step Process to Create a Synergistic Environment among Local Agencies That Fosters Improved Collaboration and Increased Educational Outreach for Children in Washington, DC


Nazzaro, Miya, The Public Manager


Synergy is the simultaneous action of separate agencies which, together, have greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects; a combined or cooperative action or force. This is part of the answer to an effective community outreach program. But, how does the community create synergy?

Seven Key Steps

Creating and maintaining synergistic alliances is a skill set. Urban Synergy, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, provides the community with the needed skills to create synergy. Urban Synergy currently counts among its partners in Washington, DC, the YMCA Capital View, Kimball Elementary School, Sousa Middle School, Anacostia High School, LINK Linking Communities for Educational Success, and the Olympic Chess House. These partners are in the process of creating collaborative projects in accordance with Urban Synergy's project methodology. There are seven key steps in this process:

* Identify or create a collaborative project;

* Identify potential partners;

* Identify each agency's core competency;

* Identify and understand each agency's goals;

* Identify and understand each agency's needs;

* Create a network of relationships; and

* Work together toward the common goals.

Identify or Create a Collaborative Project

The first step is to identify or create a collaborative project. Break down the project into discrete parts such as phases or resources to determine what types of support would benefit the project and, therefore, which partners should be targeted. It is important to remember that a truly collaborative project includes the input and "touch" of all the partners. Therefore, a collaborative project should continue to evolve and gain strength and effectiveness throughout this process.

The following anonymous composite case illustration is based on an Urban Synergy collaborative project currently underway in the nation's capital and will demonstrate this process. A local high school has low standardized test scores and desires to provide its students with a quality after-school program that will provide tutoring support and supplement school classes. An after-school program will require, at the very least, students, school facilities, paper, additional textbooks or workbooks, curricula, teachers, and snacks for the students. The first phase of this project requires the school to outline the after-school program: on which days and times will the program be offered; how will the classes be structured; what type of training is necessary for the teachers or volunteers; how will the program potentially be funded; what types of curricula are needed; and what are the requirements in order to enroll in the program.

Identify Potential Partners

The second step is to identify potential partners for collaborative projects. Potential partners may include for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, or hospitals. While identifying potential partners, focus on what each partner could add to the collaborative project.

Continuing with the case illustration, the local high school identifies the Math Project as a creator of mathematics curriculum for high school students, Local University as a supplier of volunteer teachers through the community service center and federal work-study program, Local Bank's outreach program as a provider of curriculum for an elective course on money management and savings, and Local Grocery, which provides food to the community.

Identify Core Competencies

After identifying a list of potential partners, determine each potential partner's core competency. A core competency is a business concept; it is an organization's particular knowledge set, ability, or expertise in a specific area in which that business concentrates and excels. This is an important step because each partner should bring its core competency to the collaborative project.

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Synergy: An Unleashed Community Power; Learn How a Newly Established Nonprofit Organization, Urban Synergy, Uses a Seven-Step Process to Create a Synergistic Environment among Local Agencies That Fosters Improved Collaboration and Increased Educational Outreach for Children in Washington, DC
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