Before coming to CAP Utah I worked several years as an afterschool program coordinator and spent a lot of time working directly with clients. In addition to working with children and their families I often worked with volunteers, teachers and other local organizations.
The demands for one’s time as a program coordinator or direct service provider are seemingly endless (whether as a social worker, food pantry coordinator, employment counselor or Head Start teacher).
In addition to ones core duties there are always phone calls and e-mails that need to be attended to, personnel issues to be managed, meetings or trainings to attend, special events, partners to coordinate with, reports to funders to be done, flyers to be made etc. The list of duties goes on and on.
Community Action Agencies know well the work loads and challenges associated with direct service and case management – challenges that are going to continue as budgets get cut and needs increase. Agencies are having to learn to do more with less.
So where do they get the time to plan, and innovate and come up with unique solutions to the problems they are facing? The reality is that often times planning time is very hard to come by, and managers and coordinators have to eek it out where they can. Sometimes this may be done by blocking out time in the normal work schedule. However it also comes in the form of keeping a notepad on the nightstand to write something down when it comes in ones sleep or working on a Saturday to get some planning done as it’s the only way to work uninterrupted.
As Community Collaborations Coordinator at CAP Utah, I play a very different role from that of a direct service provider. CAP Utah’ mission is to assist Utah’s nine Community Action Agencies (who run food pantries, HEAT programs, Head Start, employment assistance, emergency services, etc.) in their efforts to end poverty in their communities through training and technical assistance. I have no staff or facilities to manage, no board to coordinate, and no clients calling me late at night needing assistance.
The opportunity then is to assist Community Action Agencies (currently I am working with three) with some important planning activities such as:
Assisting agencies in planning for the future
Assessing community needs and resources
Helping agencies build strategic relationships with other comm. organizations
In order to effectively assist our partner agencies we need to demonstrate that we indeed have their best interests in mind – and show that we will first seek to listen and understand. If we can do this, the hope is that the resources we bring to the table can be utilized to help Community Action Agencies as they evaluate the needs and resources in their communities and support them in their ongoing efforts to implement strategies that will most effectively bring about positive change. This is my goal for the New Year!