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Creating a Cohesive Implementation Team

Kelli Hoekstra, Puget Sound Educational Service District
Fife, WA

The Puget Sound Educational Service District (ESD) set the stage early in their grant to create a sustainable coalition of diverse partners. Puget Sound ESD enlisted over 30 leaders from law enforcement, schools, and mental health to implement the six elements of the SS/HS grant, over a three year period. With so many people involved, it was important to create a cohesive team. Their theory was if a strong understanding was established at the onset, it would create strong partnerships that would exist well beyond the grant's end.

To accomplish this, Kelli Hoekstra and her colleagues at Puget Sound ESD, and members of the Working Committee, organized a cross-training conference in May, 2003. Based on a model by P. Berry, Chestnut Health Systems, 2001, their Cross Professional Decision Making training aimed to illustrate and examine the different approaches and concerns that the various professionals brought to the mix. Scenarios were developed that replicated real issues, such as violence prevention, that cuts across the professional disciplines. Groups made up of members from different professions were asked to discuss issues, problems and approaches regarding the scenarios and report out to the whole group.

This day-long conference and 90 minutes plus exercise allowed stakeholders to develop an appreciation of their colleagues' professional concerns, boundaries and approaches. This was the first step in creating a cohesive team that could problem-solve on many levels. The exercise worked so well that Kelli is planning the next level cross-training session for May, 2004 using the theme of threat assessment.

What can other grantees learn from Puget Sound's example?

  • Building coalitions requires a clear understanding of who is at the table and what are the guiding motivations and professional considerations at play.
  • A cohesive coalition is built on trust and mutual respect - both can be obtained by providing an opportunity to complete a cross-training exercise such as the one Puget Sound employed.
  • An exercise in cross-training can also be a prevention check for the health and sustainability of the coalition. By going through the exercise, underlying concerns, mistrusts, and/or misgivings may rise to the surface, allowing for appropriate action to strengthen the group.