Community Partnerships: A Guide

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

As many of you may have noticed, our blogs for the last month or so have been somewhat thematic. In light of the incredible progress we have been making with out special needs community development projects in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia, everything we have been writing lately has focused on independent living, i.e. employment, living supports, creating integrated communities, etc.

Two weeks ago, we published a post on Community Partnerships, and how developing relationships in the community is important when creating an integrated community for your loved one with special needs. We also discussed the non-profit that M&L is in the process of creating, Integrated Living Opportunities, that will facilitate these community partnerships and help families access the tools and resources that need to develop communities for their family members with special needs.

Today we would like to continue with this theme, and publish yet another post on community partnerships. (Yes, they are that important!) Instead of talking about why community relationships are important, and how they help families create integrated communities for individuals with special needs, however, we would like to focus on something a little more practical – how to create and build these relationships.  Please join us!

Community Partnerships: A Brief Summary

The term “community partnerships” refers to the process of meeting and developing relationships with peers, other families with special needs, and community groups such as churches, non-profit organizations, disability service providers, and social services organizations, all with the joint goal of creating independent living opportunities (that are sustainable) for our family members with special needs.

Here at M&L, we feel that community partnerships are important for one simple reason: we can accomplish more together than we can alone. Through pooling resources such as time, funding, connections, etc., and developing networks of mutual support, we can work more effectively towards a mutual goal and hopefully reach success much more quickly.

Guide To Creating Partnerships in Your Community

M&L was first introduced to the concept of community partnerships in relation to independent living when we underwent the New Futures Initiative™ training with Center for Independent Futures.  In fact, the concept of  “community partnerships” was created by CIF, under their Community Living Option housing model that M&L, the core families, and ILO is replicating in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

For a comprehensive guide as to how to create community partnerships as a part of the special needs community development process, you may wish to undergo the New Futures Initiative training with CIF.  (Note: M&L is the East Coast Representative for CIF – click here for more information.). For today’s purposes, however, we have compiled a quick list of steps, including valuable advice, which can help you create partnerships in your own neighborhoods and communities.

Start Small: Get Together With Other Families.
The first step towards building community partnerships is to build a network of peer support. Look to your daily routine for inspiration; for example, are there other parents that you interact with regularly that may also be looking for partnerships? Support groups, playgroups, Special Olympics, etc. are all examples of group activities which may provide you with the opportunity to meet and network with other parents and caregivers. Bring these individuals together for conversations, ask questions, and organize information sessions. Get the ball rolling!

Build Trust  
Once you have identified a group of interested individuals, the next step is to invest your energy in building trust and community within that group. Keep commitments, be reliable, volunteer information and share concerns – avoid gossip and exclusion, and create an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation. Once trust is established within your community of families, then as a group you can begin to build relationships within the wider community.

Identify Community Assets and Resources – Brainstorm for Possible Partners
There may be individuals within your family group that can connect the group as a whole to potential partners. Brainstorm within your family community as to possible connections in sectors such as housing, real estate, support services, community life, etc. Create lists of potential partners within each sector.

Engage Working Partners & Create a Memorandum of Understanding
Once you have identified potential partners, make a point to meet with each person/organization on your list to see if you share mutual goals, visions, etc. Share this information with your family group. Once a decision has been reached, reach out to these partners and develop a “memorandum of understanding” which outlines expectations, actions, goals, etc. on behalf of each partner.

For a more comprehensive guide to creating community partnerships you may wish to participate in CIF’s New Futures Initiative training. For more information, or to join our community development projects in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C., please contact us.

Would You Like More Information?

As mentioned, M&L was first introduced to community partnerships through Center for Independent Futures’ New Futures Initiative™ training. For more information on this training, please click here to visit out blog on the topic, or check out CIF’s website. If you would like to begin the process of recruiting families to take the New Futures Training and develop special needs communities in your own neighborhoods, please contact us! We would love to hear from you.

As well, if you would like information on any special needs related topic, please let us know! We offer a wide array of services, financial and life planning, and would love to help you secure a happy, stable future for your loved one with special needs.

Thanks for dropping by today – please join us next week!

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