Sustainability E-Learning Module

Introduction

Meaningfully and consistently supporting young people to become healthy and productive adults requires planning, leadership, and collaboration to facilitate sustainable impacts in adolescent health promotion and disease prevention. This E-learning module on Building Sustainable Programs teaches staff and leaders from organizations working with adolescents how to achieve sustainable impacts.  Based on information that is presented in the Office of Adolescent Health’s Building Sustainable Programs: The Resource Guide, individuals accessing this module will learn how to:

  • Assess how well your programs and services match your community’s needs;
  • Leverage partnerships in order to achieve sustainable impacts;
  • Develop a plan to secure diverse funding opportunities; and
  • Integrate policies and practices to guide sustainability efforts on an on-going basis.
  • Define what sustainability means for your program or organization.
  • Describe the connection between organizational mission and sustainability planning.
  • Summarize the eight sustainability factors.
  • Identify specific actions that can be taken to achieve sustainability.
  • Develop and implement a sustainability plan that is tailored to your organization’s needs.

As you begin to explore the eight sustainability factors, an important issue to consider will be how successes are measured. This section provides a list of measures for you to consider when thinking about how your organization will determine whether your program or service has been successfully sustained. 

How each organization defines success for its program or service will vary significantly. Some may measure their success by the diversity of their funding streams, while others will measure it by the number of participants they have or community coalitions they lead. Others will focus on whether they are able to maintain their current services or programs after a funding source ends. Many will also have some combination of success indicators that relate to each of the sustainability factors outlined in this guide.

You may want to think about which, if any, of the sample success measures apply to your program or service. As each of the sustainability factors are being explored, it is important to determine how success will be defined. You may want to refer to your program logic model and use the worksheets in the activities section to help you identify your organization’s measures of success and concept of sustainability.

POSSIBLE METRICS OF SUCCESS

  • Partners provide in-kind services and resources.
  • Key staff positions are integrated into partner agencies' core services.
  • Programs or services are an essential part of your larger organization or partnering agencies.
  • Numerous outside strategic partners have been secured.
  • The community seeks out and supports programs or services.
  • Program or service participants increase each year.
  • Programs and services are actively participating in community events, coalitions, and work groups.
  • Sound policies and procedures which support programs or services have been created.
  • Partners integrate policies and procedures into their respective organizations.
  • Programs or services have led to increased capacity and/or training opportunities.
  • Programs or services have changed public awareness and perceptions about adolescent health.
  • Aspects of the programs’ or services’ approach have been adopted by other organizations.
  • Programs or services continue as is beyond the federal funding cycle.
  • Revenue generating strategies are in place.
  • Additional funding to assist in sustaining programs or services has been secured.
  • There is a broad-base of funding.

Planning for sustainability can span a number of strategies from building internal capacity, to securing new funding, to incorporating effective programs, practices or policies into partnering organizations to ensure continuity. Sustainability also involves managing and leveraging resources (financial and otherwise), and focusing broadly on community needs, which may shift or change over time. Effective organizations and programs adapt to these trends and grow and change with the climate. The eight key factors that are presented below can influence whether a service or program achieves impacts that will be sustained over time.  Each of these eight factors will be addressed in greater detail throughout this module.  

We recommend that you take the time to complete the Sustainability Assessment before you move on to explore the eight sustainability factors. While it is helpful to review all eight factors, your assessment results will allow you to identify the factors that represent areas of growth for your organization so that you can prioritize those sections.   

EIGHT FACTORS OF SUSTAINABILITY AND YOUR KEYS TO SUCCESS

Factor 1: Create an action strategy

  • Start planning early
  • Create a shared vision with partners and community leaders
  • Incorporate sustainability activites into daily program operations
  • Create a sustainability plan
  • Incorporate measures of success into the sustainability plan
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Factor 2: Assess the environment

  • Embed continuous assessments throughout the life of the program or service
  • Identify focus areas for conducting an environmental assessment
  • Use the information gathered
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Factor 3: Be adaptable

  • Match services offered to community needs and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being implemented
  • Create opportunities for innovation and utilization of successful practices
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Factor 4: Secure community support

  • Formulate a communication approach and message
  • Promote the program and its services
  • Use program leaders, strategic partners, and community champions to share the program's or service's message

Factor 5: Integrate programs and services into local infrastructures

  • Streamline service delivery, policies, and practices
  • Integrate programs, services, and practices into the broader community fabric
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Factor 6: Build a leadership team

  • Identify strong internal leaders
  • Keep organizational leaders engaged and secure their commitment
  • Identify external community champions
  • Promote leadership development
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Factor 7: Create strategic partnerships

  • Develop strategic partnerships
  • Assess existing partnerships continuously
  • Establish a shared vision and commitment to sustainability
  • Engage partners to help market program successes
  • Leverage partner resources
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Factor 8: Secure diverse financial opportunities

  • Review the program budget to identify core activities and services
  • Identify and seek funding opportunities
  • Develop a strategy for securing funding
  • Create a budgetary line item
  • Build fundraising and grant writing capacity

The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about defining sustainability and measuring success. The activities are meant to help you think strategically about your sustainability goals.

  1. Defining Sustainability
  2. Measuring Success of Your Program or Service

Sustainability Assessment

Planning for sustainability is critical to positioning adolescent health programs and services to thrive and have continued impacts over time. This Sustainability Assessment from the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) will help you gauge your organization’s capacity and readiness to be sustainable.[1] The Sustainability Assessment is part of a several resources developed by the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH), which provides guidance to help programs and services that are dedicated to improving the health and well being of adolescents achieve sustainable impacts. 

Your assessment responses will identify your strengths and areas for greater focus. By assessing your program’s sustainability preparedness prior to working through the Building Sustainable Programs module, you will be better positioned to use the Resource Guide in a way that will optimize your sustainability planning efforts.

This tool includes statements relating to the eight key factors of sustainability. For more context and additional background on these factors, please review OAH’s Building Sustainable Programs: The Framework. By critically assessing your efforts, you may discover that there are strengths in some areas, but see opportunities in others.  Don’t worry! A low score for any particular factor does not indicate that you are unable to create positive impacts within the community. You should use this assessment as a stepping stone to identify areas for improvement and strengthen your sustainability planning efforts going forward.

How to complete the assessment

It should take approximately 45-60 minutes to complete this assessment. Respond to as many questions as possible. For each, indicate the number that best reflects your current practices. You will be provided with a score sheet that you can use in prioritizing your planning efforts. As you complete the assessment, you may want to jot down any additional information or data sources that support your response; such information may be useful to you later as you develop your sustainability plans. Consider completing this assessment periodically, at least annually, to determine what progress you have made towards reaching your sustainability goals.

Who should complete this assessment?

For some organizations, it may be appropriate to have the program director complete this assessment alone, but in many instances, the program director may consider convening the internal leadership team to reflect and complete the assessment together.  It may also be appropriate to ask different individual staff members to complete sections that are specific to their work or expertise. Some organizations may want to invite their external partners to contribute to parts of the assessment, as well.

Your sustainability readiness score

Before you get started, you should consider printing a score sheet so that you can easily document your scores for each factor.

After completing the assessment, an online score sheet will be displayed, which you can use to record your results on paper. Each response is weighted equally, but some questions may touch on areas that are of greater import for you and your program. You should take into consideration those areas that are particularly relevant or important to your work when prioritizing your next steps in planning for sustainability. You can use your results to help you determine how you will focus your sustainability planning efforts going forward.  You might also use your score sheet to help you prioritize the order in which you complete the various sections of the Building Sustainable Programs module.



[1] The assessment was adapted, in part, from two open source sustainability assessments:
The Finance Project. (2007). Investing in the sustainability of youth programs: An assessment tool for funders. http://www.financeproject.org/Publications/FundersTool.pdf; and
Center for Public Health Systems Science. (2012). Program Sustainability Assessment Tool. Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work: St. Louis. https://sustaintool.org/.

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We developed a sustainability plan early in the implementation of our program or services.
We have a shared understanding of what sustainability means for our program or services.
We have an individual or team to focus on sustainability planning efforts.
We identified our sustainability goals.
We identified ways to measure whether our sustainability plan is successfully implemented.
Our program goals and vision are shared and understood by our key partners and stakeholders.
We embed sustainability planning efforts into our everyday activities (e.g., board meetings, staff meeting, continuing learning opportunities, etc.).
We Have a long-term sustainability plan.
Our long-term sustainability plan contemplates how we will make sustainable impacts in our community, which may go beyond a single program or service.
We periodically revisit our sustainability plan and make modifications based on changing internal or external circumstances.
We have used the information we have gathered from assessing the environment to inform sustainability planning efforts.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We examined community needs to determine whether our programs or services remain relevant and useful to the community.
We revisit our assessment of community needs in relationship to our services on a regular basis.
We use data to improve our services with respect to community needs.
We assessed the environment within our organization and how it supports sustainability planning.
We revisit our assessment of our organization on a regular basis.
We assess our relationships in the community and how they help our sustainability efforts.
We periodically revisit our assessment of community partnerships.
We have assessed our current funding situation.
We identified new funding opportunities through our assessment of our financial environment.
We continue to regularly reassess the funding environment in which we work.
We assessed the political environment of our community and how it affects our programs or services.
We continue to regularly reassess the political environment of our community and how it affects our programs or services.
We used the information we gathered from assessing the environment to inform sustainability planning efforts.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
When seeing changes in our community’s environment, we explore how these changes may affect our programs and services (such as changes in demographics, the economy, etc.)
When considering a change in programs or services, we assess how modifications may affect the fidelity of the model or best practice we use.
We modify our programs or services to the match the community’s changing needs.
We stay abreast of relevant innovations, promising practices, and research that relate to our programs and services.
When appropriate, we strategize about ways to incorporate innovative and/or evidence-based and evidence-informed practices into our service delivery system.
We use data to inform whether to modify or discontinue certain programs or services.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We have an outreach plan that we follow to help strengthen our reputation in the community.
We develop strong and compelling messages for community members and partners about our program.
We include evaluation results and data to demonstrate our successes to key stakeholders.
We engage external partners and champions to share our message.
We engage current and former participants or clients in our community outreach efforts.
We increase community awareness of issues relevant to our work and demonstrate our value to the public.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We strive to make our operations cost-effective and efficient to seamlessly deliver programs and services to the community.
Our services and programs are well-integrated and supported in the operations of our larger organization.
Our programs or services are supported by our partners and outside community organizations.
Our programs or services are embedded in and used by other community organizations.
Local community organizations are committed to continuing to use our programs or services in their organization.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We have a well-defined leadership team to help us accomplish our mission.
Our organizational leadership is engaged in helping us accomplish our program or service mission.
We regularly provide organizational leadership with information about our successes and challenges.
Our organizational leadership is knowledgeable about our work and is able to promote it in the community.
Our external partners are a part of our leadership team.
We have external champions who help promote our program or services to the community.
Our pool of external champions is diverse and can speak to different audiences about our work.
We offer capacity building opportunities for staff, partners, and key stakeholders to build their leadership skills.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We have an outreach plan for developing and securing strategic partnerships.
We have a diverse list of strategic community partners who help promote our programs or services.
We involve a diverse group of community stakeholders in our work.
We regularly seek out new strategic partnerships in the community.
Our roles and responsibilities are clear within the partnerships we have established.
We communicate regularly with our strategic partners.
Our strategic partners are involved in program planning and evaluation.
Our community partners and stakeholders understand and support our work.
Our community partners are committed to the sustainability of our programs or services beyond the federal funding period.
Our community partners and stakeholders help market our program and share our successes.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

SCALE: 0 = Have not begun. 1 = Are in the planning phases. 2 = Have begun to implement this. 3 = Have made solid progress in implementing this.

0 1 2 3
We review our programs and services to identify additional funding needs.
We regularly strategize about securing future resources.
We have staff members who regularly dedicate time to search for private and public funding opportunities.
We leverage our strategic partnerships and other relationships in the community to help identify and secure funding.
We leverage our strategic partnerships and other relationships in the community to help identify and secure in-kind support and donations.
Our program is funded through a variety of sources.
We have a long-term financial plan in place.
We periodically revisit or adapt our financial plan to changing circumstances.

Results

Take a close look at the section discussing this factor to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue.

You are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this factor. Review the corresponding section of the module to help you organize and complete your efforts.

You have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability. Review the corresponding section of this module to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor's worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Overall Sum Score:

Use this score sheet to determine your next steps in planning for sustainability.  You can use your results to help you prioritize particular sustainability factors as you go through the Building Sustainable Programs module.

  Column A Column B Column C

Factor 1: Create an action strategy
Your score:

Less than 16 16-26 Over 26

Factor 2: Assess the environment
Your score:

Less than 21 21-31 Over 31

Factor 3: Be adaptable
Your score:

Less than 9 9-14 Over 14

Factor 4: Structure community support
Your score:

Less than 9 9-14 Over 14

Factor 5: Integrate program services into the community infrastructure 
Your score:

Less than 8 8-12 Over 12

Factor 6: Build a leadership team
Your score:

Less than 11 12-19 Over 19

Factor 7: Create strategic partnerships
Your score:

Less than 15 15-24 Over 24

Factor 8: Secure diverse financial opportunities
Your score:

Less than 11 12-19 Over 19
Column A Column B Column C
If your score falls below the score in column A, take a close look at the discussion of this factor in the accompanying Resource Guide to begin to develop your sustainability plan regarding this issue. If your score falls within this range of column B, you are well on your way to developing your sustainability plans with respect to this issue.  Use the accompanying Resource Guide to help you organize and complete the effort. If your score falls above the score in column C, you have considered many of the important issues necessary within this factor to strategically plan for sustainability.  Review the Resource Guide to determine whether you missed anything or whether this factor’s worksheets would help you further strengthen your current efforts.

Factor 1: Create an Action Strategy

Ideally, sustainability planning efforts would be incorporated early into everyday programmatic activities and a program or service implementation plan, but it’s never too late to start! These efforts may include the creation of a formal long-term strategic plan that is regularly revisited and helps programs and services anticipate and mitigate potential challenges. During this process, consider regularly monitoring policies, programs, and services to better address community needs. Define sustainability for the program or service, and identify shared visions and approaches with key partners, community leaders, and other stakeholders. A shared vision can serve as the foundation upon which a strong and community-supported sustainability plan can be built. In turn, a sustainability plan can serve as a road map for establishing benchmarks to determine whether the program or service is successfully reaching its goals.

Learning objectives

Upon reviewing this factor and completing the associated activities, you will learn the importance of developing a carefully thought out strategy for addressing sustainability. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Plan and conceptualize sustainability early;
  • Develop a plan that articulates goals, creates a shared vision between partners, and defines partner relationships and responsibilities;
  • Integrate sustainability activities into program or service operations;
  • Create a sustainability plan; and 
  • Develop indicators for measuring progress toward achieving the key goals outlined in the sustainability plan.

Why is it important?

By systematically approaching sustainability planning, organizations can be more effective in addressing and forecasting many future program and service needs.  Incorporating sustainability planning into the infrastructure and implementation work plan of an organization can help:

  • Secure buy-in and support from the community;
  • Define long- and short-term implementation strategies;
  • Document and organize data and evaluation findings; and
  • Attract and utilize financial and in-kind resources.

No two sustainability planning processes are alike. Your organization can tailor its plan to best meet its needs. These action steps will help you begin sustainability planning and you can use and/or adapt the questions and activities, thereby creating a process and plan that is appropriate for your program or services.

Start planning early

Sustainability planning can be considered from the start and woven into the larger program work plan. Begin by determining who should help define sustainability and create the sustainability plan. This may include the leadership team of your organization, its financial officer, communications staff and program implementation staff. As discussed below, it may also include outside strategic partners and community leaders with whom creating a shared vision and mission for programs and services will increase the likelihood of sustainability. This team can then help define sustainability and determine what the program’s or service’s goals are and what activities to sustain. You can consider the questions below to better understand what sustainability means for your programs and services.

Defining Sustainability and Setting Goals
  • What does sustainability mean for an organization’s programs or services?
  • What services or programs are priorities to sustain?
  • How can these programs and services be sustained and evolve over time?
  • What actions need to be taken to sustain these programs or services?

Discussions of sustainability can occur in tandem with overall program planning at regular staff, board or leadership meetings. Failure to incorporate sustainability discussions into regular program operations can lead to activities that do not reflect long-term priorities. 

Create a shared vision with partners and community leaders

Creating a shared understanding with partners of what sustainability means will make planning for it easier.  In the absence of a clearly articulated vision, achieving outcomes or sustaining partnerships will be difficult in the long term.  Defining a shared vision can be a part of your core efforts. In planning, consider answering the following questions:

  • With the help of partners and community leaders, what does your organization want to achieve from its program or services?
  • Do partners share your vision for the program or service?
  • What are the shared visions and goals?
  • What are the shared immediate and intermediate outcomes that your organization expects from the program?
  • What resources or support can partners offer to create and implement the shared vision?

Engaging partners and key stakeholders in answering these questions can be an effective strategy for facilitating sustainability. The collective perspective is useful in maintaining long-term focus; and, in engaging partners early, you may be able to secure a greater level of commitment to your efforts.

Incorporate sustainability activities into daily program operations

Embedding sustainability activities into daily program operations and program or service work plans will play a significant role in helping you include sustainability conversations and efforts in your regular practices. If you are in the development stage, you are well positioned to embed sustainability planning into your core program activities. As you develop your services, staffing, and financial plans, you can incorporate sustainability activities into your program design and budgetary outlays. Your organization can designate team members to lead your sustainability efforts and institutionalize an emphasis on funding diversification. At this stage, you can also build into your infrastructure regular efforts to identify and apply for alternative funding sources, as well as address staff development needs necessary to perform those functions.

Sustainability planning can also be introduced into the core program activities of more seasoned organizations. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as incorporating sustainability discussions into your regular organizational meetings or designating a team of staff members to focus specifically on sustaining core intervention services or programs.

Regardless of your stage of implementation, you can consider exploring:

  • Which staff members should be included in the sustainability planning efforts?
  • How can sustainability discussions be incorporated into regularly scheduled staff meetings?
  • How can sustainability be included as a core part of staff’s roles and responsibilities?
  • From where can you allocate resources to support sustainability planning and outreach?

As you revisit and revise your budget, you can assess whether sustainability planning activities can or should be a budgeted activity.

Create a sustainability plan

A sustainability plan should be actionable and achievable, and include a strategy for monitoring successes and identifying challenges. A sustainability plan can serve as a roadmap that outlines how a program or service will operate, how it will meet its needs, and what direction it will take.  Some of the key components required to build an effective sustainability plan are highlighted below.

Components of an Effective Sustainability Plan
  • Goals and objectives;
  • Description of services that will best address the needs of the community and the activities needed to achieve sustainability;
  • Timelines for implementing activities and achieving the goals;
  • Names of person(s) responsible and resources needed to accomplish goals; and
  • Measures of success and outcomes expected.

Think about how the program’s or service’s sustainability plan will incorporate the sustainability factors discussed in this module:

  • What is important to assess about the environment in which you are working?
  • How can programs and services adapt to changing needs?
  • What is needed to secure community and partner support?
  • How can you integrate your programs and services into other community organizations?
  • Who would be an essential member of a leadership team?
  • Who are key partners and stakeholders to include in sustainability planning efforts?
  • How will you identify and secure diverse financial opportunities?

You may want to begin your sustainability plan by first identifying your goals and defining sustainability and then working through the various factors in this module to help flesh out what action steps to take and record in your sustainability plan.

As you develop sustainability plans, alignment between your definition of sustainability and the specific action steps in the plan is essential. You may want to refer to the measures of success you developed when completing the Defining Sustainability and Measuring Success of Your Program or Service activities in the introduction section of this module to ensure that the action steps you have chosen help reach those goals. In assessing whether your sustainability plan adequately contemplates and addresses your success measures, you may consider: 

  • Do the goals and objectives in your sustainability plans match your concept of what it means to successfully sustain your work?
  • Are the programs or services discussed in your sustainability plans those that will help your organization achieve success, as it has defined it?

End of section summary

  • By systematically approaching sustainability planning, organizations can be more effective in addressing and forecasting future program and service needs.
  • Early planning is helpful to creating a sustainability plan. Organizations should clearly articulate a vision which is shared by their partners and community leaders.
  • Daily program operations should incorporate sustainability conversations and efforts.

A number of additional templates are available for creating a sustainability plan. You may want to explore some of the resources below and determine if these additional resources may help supplement the information in this section. This is just a small sample of additional resources available. You may have your own tools or know of others; please feel free to use them to supplement this module as you see fit.

For additional guidance on developing a sustainability plan and sustainability plan samples, consider reviewing the following resources:

For additional sustainability plan templates, you may want to consider the following resources:

The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about developing a sustainability plan. The activities are meant to help you think strategically about your own sustainability.

  1. Creating a Shared Vision
  2. Incorporating Sustainability Activities into Your Daily Program Operations
  3. Developing a Sustainability Plan

Factor 2: Assess the environment

Keys To Success

Embed continuous assessments throughout the life of the program or service 

Identify focus areas for conducting an environmental assessment

Use the information gathered

In this section, you will learn to assess the organizational, community, financial, and political environment in which your programs or services operate. Doing this, not only as a part of your sustainability planning, but also in your regular course of business, can help you understand:

  • What community needs your programs or services address;
  • Where your services or programs fit into the local network of service delivery systems; and
  • How your work adds value to external partner efforts.

Performing these environmental assessments can occur at any time--whether you are at the final stages of a funding source or at the beginning. Assessing where you stand in the community can also include ongoing reviews of internal, partnership, and financial capacities, as well as a review of the political environment and how it affects services or programs.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will assess the organizational, community, financial, and political environment in which you operate. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Embed environmental assessments into your daily operations;
  • Identify areas of focus for assessing your environment; and
  • Determine how to use the information gathered to move towards achieving sustainability.

Why is it important?

Conducting environmental assessments at various program stages and embedding those exercises into regular operations creates a foundation upon which organizations can develop a strong, effective and realistic sustainability plan. Whether this becomes a regular part of your internal meeting agendas or a separate working group or retreat focused exclusively on assessing the environment, this section will help you better understand how your services and programs fall within the community’s environment of needs. 

Every organization will assess how it fits into its community environment differently. The approach that you choose to take may relate to your existing resources, staff availability, and understanding of what your program’s or service’s current and future sustainability needs will be. When assessing the environment, consider the action steps discussed below. These action steps are meant to spark thinking and you can use and/or adapt the questions and activities included to create a process that is appropriate for your capacity and needs. 

Embed continuous assessments throughout the life of the program or service

How you choose to incorporate environmental assessments into your regular practice depends on your interests, resources, and sustainability plans. For some, this may mean including these discussions at regularly scheduled staff, leadership, or board meetings. For others, this may be a part of an annual retreat or an early step of a systematic sustainability planning process. In other cases, you may choose to identify appropriate staff members to participate in ad hoc workgroups, which focus your time-limited efforts on conducting an environmental assessment. Regardless of the approach you choose, you shouldn’t look at this effort as a one-time occurrence. As the financial and political environments of communities change, so do your demographics and service delivery needs. You can regularly consider how you continue to fit into the larger picture and whether your programs and services remain relevant, useful, and supported.

Identify focus areas for conducting an environmental assessment

Conducting environmental assessments of program’s and service’s greatest areas of concern helps you understand the necessary ingredients for creating a sustainability plan that fully acknowledges and addresses the current community, financial, and political environments in which you operate. When thinking about which areas an environmental scan should focus on, recommended questions to answer include:

  • What are the program’s or service’s current strengths and how do these relate to the environments in which you function?
  • What are the current barriers or challenges and how do these relate to the environments in which the programs or services function?
  • What may be the program’s or service’s future strengths?
  • What may be the program’s or service’s future challenges?

You may conduct a formal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. There are a number of resources available to assist SWOT efforts, some of which are listed at the end of this section.

By assessing strengths and weaknesses within the context of the community in which your program or service functions, you will begin to be able to pinpoint those areas where a scan of the current environment may be beneficial. In considering whether these or other topical areas should be the focus of ongoing assessment, always be cognizant of the purpose—namely, to identify existing relationships and structures that can support the program’s or service’s short- and long-term sustainability capacities and needs. When assessing these environments, consider:

Organizational environment. When you assess the organization within which your services or programs are provided, you may think about:

  • Does your larger organization share your program’s or service’s vision or goals?
  • Does the leadership of your larger organization understand and support your programs or services?
  • Are your programs or services a ‘core’ function of your larger organization?
  • Are your programs or services a part of your larger organization’s strategic plan?
  • How does your program or service coordinate with other divisions or units within your organization?

Community environment. When you look at your community’s needs, you may consider the services or programs you offer in relationship to your clients’ and outside organizations’ needs and services. You may consider:

  • The community’s needs with respect to adolescent health, teen/adolescent pregnancy, expectant and parenting teen resources, programs and services;
  • The urgency of those needs;
  • The evidence or data used to assess the community’s needs;
  • The services, supports, or resources you offer to support these needs;
  • The evidence or data you have to support your approach to meeting community needs;
  • Whether other community organizations offer similar services; and
  • What makes your programs or services unique.

When you assess your role in the community, you may also want to look at your external partnerships. See Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships for more information about identifying and using partners to support sustainability efforts.

Financial environment. When you examine your current financial environment, you may:

  • Identify current funding streams and determine the breadth of your funding sources;
  • Identify areas where current funding may change, including funding that may be lost, cut, or increased soon or in the future; and
  • Identify and assess the strength of current relationships with:
    • National, state and local government funders;
    • National, state and local foundations that have funding priority areas in adolescent health and/or expectant and parenting teens;
    • External partner organizations that may be appropriate with which to seek out joint funding opportunities;
    • Internal and external program champions who can help identify and capture future funding opportunities; and
    • Corporate or other stakeholders who may be able to offer funding, staffing or other in-kind supports.

Political environment. When you look at the political environment in which you operate, you may consider:

  • How the current political environment affects your program’s or service’s financial health;
  • How the current political environment affects your capacity to deliver services or programs;
  • Whether there are political changes on the horizon that may impact your financial stability or service/program delivery system; and
  • Whether you have or need individual or organizational allies in national, state, or local political spheres and the extent to which you need these relationships to support program or service goals.

Use the information gathered

Once you have completed your environmental assessment, you should decide how you want to use the information gathered in your larger sustainability planning efforts. In some instances, you may write up short informal reports that can be reviewed and commented on by your leadership or board members. In others, information gathered may become embedded into program or service implementation designs, marketing, outreach, and funding capture efforts. Whether you conduct formal or informal environmental assessments, you may use the information gathered to help:

  • Analyze the interrelationships between your programs and services, your partners, and the financial and political environments;
  • Explore how these relationships may positively or negatively affect one another; and
  • Identify recommended areas of focus for sustainability planning.

End of section summary

  • Environmental assessments are key to establishing a foundation upon which organizations can develop a strong sustainability plan.
  • You can conduct formal SWOT analyses to assess strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint specific areas that may benefit from an environmental assessment.
  • After completing an environmental assessment, you should use the information to analyze the relationships between your programs and services; your partners; and your financial and political environments.

The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about the organizational, community, financial, and political environments in which your programs or services operate. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively.

  1. Assessing your Organization
  2. Assessing Community Needs and Relationships
  3. Assessing your Program’s or Service’s Current Funding, Financing, and In-kind Resources
  4. Understanding the Political Environment

Factor 3: Be adaptable

Keys to Success

Match services offered to community needs and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being used

Create opportunities for innovation and utilization of successful practices

Achieving and maintaining sustainability is an ongoing process. It requires regular assessment of changes and monitoring of programs and services to ensure your organization remains relevant and appropriately responds to changing needs.  You can readily embrace change and create environments in which new interventions, programs, and services can thrive.

Regularly explore opportunities to implement innovative and/or evidence-based or -informed practices. Innovation can include incorporating new aspects of a program or service, such as a school-based prevention program or policy change that targets substance abuse or violence, or a new infrastructure element that provides support for current programs or strategies, such as an evaluation system, training curriculum, or administrative policy.

Learning objectives

How your organization adapts its services to the changing environment will differ, depending largely on changing community needs. You can regularly examine community needs and adapt your services where appropriate. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Match programs and services to community needs, and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being implemented; and 
  • Identify and incorporate new, innovative and successful practices into current programs and services.

Why is it important?

Your ability to adapt your services and incorporate new or successful practices will play a major role in determining the longevity of your work. The environment in which you are providing services is constantly changing, and it is important to be able to adjust programs and services to meet changing needs.

The action steps are meant to spark your thinking and you can use and/or adapt the questions below to create a process that is appropriate for your capacity and needs.

Match services offered to community needs and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being used

Adolescent health programs and services are not implemented in static, constant environments. Programs and services must be dynamic and flexible enough to adapt to new conditions and changes in needs and priorities, funding, and leadership.

Specifically, you can consider the following questions:

  • Are there high-need areas in the community you serve, and how are they changing, economically, socially, demographically?
  • How do these changes affect the programs and services you offer with respect to the manner, location, and type of service/program offered?
  • What are you doing to respond to these changes? What do you need to do?
  • Is there new research and/or evaluation data or information that identifies new approaches that you can or should use?

In assessing the effectiveness of programs and services and determining changes that should be made, you must strike a delicate balance between adaptation in light of changing needs and fidelity to a proven approach. Being aware of and responsive to environmental changes can create opportunities for appropriately modifying programs and services while still remaining true to the core principles of your approach.

Create opportunities for innovation and utilization of successful practices

Addressing adolescent health needs requires innovative and comprehensive solutions. You can regularly seek out innovative policies, interventions, and services that successfully address similar community needs, and explore opportunities for incorporating new elements into your service/program delivery system. You can identify these new and/or promising practices by utilizing your network of partners, engaging with similar organizations in other locales, and using the PAF Resource and Training Center and the TPP Resource Center. In learning about other programs and services, you may explore:

  • Whether your design, approach, or intervention is evidence-based or evidence-informed and appropriately targeted at improving adolescent health and addressing community needs; and
  • Whether your program or services have processes in place to identify and incorporate new research findings and knowledge into your work.

To improve programs and services more broadly, you may wish to consider adopting a process for identifying your own best practices. Doing so may also create opportunities to exchange information with similar programs, which can help to better address adolescent health needs more widely. You may want to collect the following to track your own best practices:

  • Participant success stories;
  • Positive outcomes achieved from your programs or services;
  • Administrative, programmatic, or service delivery practices that increase the likelihood of sustainability; and
  • How these practices were applied in different settings, and how they were adapted accordingly.

After identifying best practices, consider sharing lessons learned, tips, and/or suggestions with other similar programs and/or the community at large.

End of Section summary

  • Maintaining a sustainable program requires the ability to adapt services to changing environments and community needs.
  • You should regularly examine your particular community’s needs and match your services accordingly.
  • You should keep informed on innovative policies and services that address your community’s needs. Leveraging relationships with partners and similar organizations can help you keep abreast of new practices.

The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about becoming more adaptable and flexible to changing needs and available resources. These activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about adapting services and better utilizing resources.

  1. Evaluating Outcomes to Determine Need for Service Adaptation
  2. Creating Opportunities to Incorporate Innovation and Promising Practices

Factor 4: Secure community support

To obtain community support and buy-in, an organization should first understand the community’s needs in relation to the services and programs it offers. Tailoring outreach so that it is unique to the community’s demographics and utilizes community resources will increase the likelihood that each program or service will secure community support.

Keys to Success

Formulate a communication approach and message

Promote the program and its services

Use program leaders, strategic partners, and community champions to share your message

Securing community support and buy-in can take many forms--from creating a coalition of similarly situated service providers, to building relationships with individual relevant stakeholders. This may also include identifying and promoting program and client success stories that will cement your work into the local infrastructure (discussed in Factor 5: Integrate Programs and Services into Local Infrastructures) and increase client outreach and recruitment.

Establishing a broad base of supporters through creative and compelling messages and outreach strategies also helps facilitate community understanding and support for your approach and increases overall awareness about the program’s or service’s successes. Having a clear message and outreach strategy will allow you to use your internal leadership team, external champions, and strategic partners to voice your successes in the community and share how you are critical to addressing the community’s needs.

To support adolescent health programs, the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) developed the Collaboration Toolkit, an in-depth resource on collaboration, outreach, and strategic messaging. This toolkit serves as the foundation for this section and can be accessed online.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will learn the importance of gaining community support for your missions and services. Specifically, you will be able to:

  • Develop an outreach strategy and message;
  • Market your program and services to successfully motivate community engagement; and 
  • Identify ways in which you can use your staff and community partners to promote program/service successes.

Why is it important?

A key aspect of sustainability planning is to secure support from the community. Community support may come from a range of diverse entities and individuals, from both within and outside your organization. A diverse pool of champions, from local businesses to former program participants, to other community-based organizations, can help spread the word about your program or service to a range of audiences, including potential new supporters and funders. Crafting a clear, strong, and easy-to-replicate message can help supporters articulate it and share the program’s or service’s stories of success.

Each organization’s messages to the community and who it uses to communicate that message will vary. The resources and time that organizations devote to strategic communications, marketing, and outreach will also vary. When developing a communications strategy and identifying its messengers, you may consider the action steps discussed below and alter them as needed to fit your capacity and needs. These action steps are meant to help you think creatively about how you communicate your successes to garner community support and encourage you to incorporate outreach discussions into your sustainability planning.

Formulate a communication approach and message

Program outreach occurs any time a staff member or supporter speaks about the program or services you offer. You can help ensure the information shared about your work is accurate, consistent, and supports your sustainability efforts, if you take time to identify and train your messengers on an integrated and ongoing communications strategy. As discussed in more detail in the Collaboration Toolkit , community outreach is not always about having a fancy brochure or annual report. Instead, it’s about being able to clearly articulate the program’s or service’s mission, goals, and successes to distinct target audiences in ways that connect the audience to the program’s or service’s values and approach, while also using a variety of marketing activities to share a story (see Figure 1 for a sample of marketing activities). Done well, these communications can create new external collaborators, increase awareness and support for the program’s or service’s mission.

FIGURE 1: THE DELIVERY-POSSIBLE PROGRAM MARKETING ACTIVITIES
Information and referral
  • Information and referral hotline
  • Counseling hotline
  • Clearinghouse
Small-group interventions
  • Peer or non-peer led
  • Community, school, and work settings
  • Single sessions or multiple sessions over a number of weeks
  • Lectures
  • Panel discussions
  • Testimonials from peers/survivors
  • Video presentations
  • Live theater
  • Events (such as health fairs)
One-on-one interventions
  • Peer or non-peer led
  • Street outreach
  • Crowd or clique-based research
  • Event-based outreach
  • Counseling and referral
  • Other one-on-one interventions offered in community centers or other settings
Community mobilization
  • Endorsements, testimonials, involvement by opinion leaders
  • Coalition building
Mass media and “email” media
  • Paid advertising in various media outlets
  • PSAs in various media outlets
  • Media relations
  • Point materials such as pamphlets, instruction sheets, posters
Electronic media
  • Web 2.0
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Web sites
  • Cell phones
  • PSAs
  • Social networks

 

When reaching out to the community, you may consider:

The purpose. What do you hope to accomplish through your communications strategy? If there are multiple goals, distinct approaches may be required.

The audience. Who is your audience, what are they interested in, and what are the best ways to reach them?

The message. What will be the content of the message? What emotion or experience from the audience do you hope to evoke (i.e., educational, persuasive, inspirational)?

The delivery. What medium do you use to deliver the message (e.g., written, in-person, video, phone, social media, etc.) and is that the appropriate medium for the audience?

The relevance. Is the message relevant to the community’s needs and interests? Does the message and delivery change when new issues or needs arise?

Promote the program and its services

By promoting your programs and services, you can also increase community awareness of the issues relevant to your work and demonstrate your value to the public and to program participants. Program or service promotion can also become a regular part of your day-to-day business, whether attending a community meeting, meeting with a potential partner or revamping your website. Promotions may take many forms; ranging from a quick conversation about program or service successes with an outside organization to a large-scale, well-planned media campaign. When you promote your programs and services, in addition to having a clear and appropriate message or pitch, as discussed above, you may also consider:

  • Using data or evaluation results to demonstrate and support your successes, where possible;
  • Contacting stakeholders and other critical decision-makers who may affect your work, by phone, email, letter and in person meetings;
  • Using your supporters and external champions (discussed below) to share your story;
  • Maintaining a continuum of regular activities that promote your work;
  • Participating in public awareness events that offer easy opportunities for them to promote your work; and
  • Joining relevant coalitions, working groups, and/or local committees that address issues relevant to your program and services and may offer opportunities for you to showcase your work, while also creating new partnerships and learning about other community programs.

Use program leaders, strategic partners, and community champions to share the message

Program staff, leaders, external partners and champions at all levels can bring unique skills and perspectives that can enhance a community outreach effort. Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships focuses on helping you identify external champions who can support your sustainability efforts. These champions can also be used to carry the program’s or service’s message to different sectors of the community. When considering how and when to use external champions in outreach efforts, think about:

  • Identifying the sectors that each champion represents and the messages that will best resonate with your networks;
  • Determining each champion’s communication strengths and tailoring the delivery of the message to your capacities; and
  • Ensuring communication efforts are ongoing and change when community needs or interests change.

Community champions can participate in a range of outreach efforts to raise awareness and garner more support for your programs and services, including:

  • Making a phone call to key decision makers;
  • Speaking at a conference or symposium;
  • Writing a letter of support to a potential funder;
  • Signing a petition;
  • Participating in a rally;
  • Assisting with media outreach;
  • Emailing networks about program successes;
  • Contributing to program newsletters or press releases;
  • Supporting the program through social media, such as tweets, Facebook mentions; and
  • Sharing information about the program over relevant list serves.

End of section summary

  • Establishing community buy-in is essential for creating a successful sustainability plan.
  • You should focus on crafting consistent, clear, easy-to-replicate messages to establish a broad base of supporters within a community.
  • Promoting your programs and services can also increase community awareness of specific, relevant issues.
  • Community champions can enhance an outreach effort.

 The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about how you can develop a communications strategy.

  1. Creating a Communication Strategy and Message
  2. Using Community Champions

Factor 5: Integrate program services into local infrastructure

You can assess the internal policies and structures through which your services or programs are delivered to look for ways to streamline efforts. By streamlining policies, procedures, and services, you can increase your efficiency, freeing up resources for program or service needs. More efficient organizations are also more likely to serve as a model to be adopted and replicated by other organizations and to endure in the long-term.

Keys to Success

Streamline service delivery, policies, and practices

Integrate programs, services, and practices into the broader community fabric

You can try to integrate your successful practices and services within the larger community’s service delivery system when possible by encouraging community members to use your services and providing opportunities for other community organizations, such as schools and clinics to incorporate your curriculum or services into their own efforts. Once programs and services are fully integrated into larger service delivery efforts, they become routine and, as such, are more likely to endure.

Learning objectives

Streamlining programs or services and integrating them into the local community infrastructure will help you sustain your work. In this section, you will:

  • Learn to build more efficient programs and services to decrease costs and promote replicability within the community; and
  • Explore opportunities to integrate services into the community infrastructure.

Why is it important?

Looking critically at your service delivery may help you identify areas where your programs and practices can be restructured and simplified. Doing so may position your organization to provide programs and services more effectively and efficiently. Exploring opportunities to integrate program and services into the community fabric can help you garner support from the community and allow them to capitalize on the strengths of community partners.

Your organization is likely to identify unique ways to deliver its programs and services more effectively. Similarly, your organization will work with your own community differently to explore opportunities to integrate your services or programs into the larger health education and health promotion infrastructure. Your approach will largely depend on the relationships you have developed and the roles and responsibilities of your respective partners. When integrating programs and services into local infrastructures, organizations should consider the following action steps:

Streamline service delivery, programs, and practices

For programs and services to function efficiently and effectively, they must have the structures and capacity necessary to implement them. It is important for you to assess your programs and procedures and ensure that they capture your core principles and goals. If you do not, you may strengthen or revise your current policies and procedures or develop new ones that will promote the longevity of your programs or services. Formalizing policies has a number of positive effects, including creating a structure designed to sustain your work during staff turnover and solidifying the importance of its programs or services.

To streamline programs or services, you may assess your internal processes and consider exploring other similarly-situated organizations to identify successful practices.

In assessing internal processes, you may consider the following questions:

  • Do your programs or services align with your core principles, values, and mission?
  • Does your budget align with your core principles, values, and mission?
  • Are your core principles, values, and mission captured in your policies and procedures?
  • Have you identified your staff’s strengths and given them responsibilities that align with their capacities?
  • How can you leverage those skills to build the capacity of other staff and community partners?
  • What do you need to ensure that your staff has the capacity to implement your programs or services efficiently? 

In looking to external sources to identify promising solutions for streamlining your program or service delivery, you may consider the following questions:

  • How do your policies and procedures promote your core principles, values, and mission and address community needs?
  • How do your programs or services align with your outlined policies and procedures?
  • How have you built staff capacity to implement your programs or services, utilizing your outlined policies and procedures?

Integrate programs, policies and practices into the broader community fabric

Successful programs or services are ones that not only adapt to changing environments, but become so integrated into the community infrastructure that they provide long-term benefits to all relevant stakeholders – from partners to program participants. Integrating efforts into the community requires linkages with other programs and services addressing your target populations’ needs. The more successful you are at creating linkages in the community, the greater your chances for integrating your programs and services and facilitating long-term sustainability. To explore whether your programs or services have been integrated into the community composition, you may consider:

  • How are your programs or services being utilized within your community?
  • What opportunities are available to better infuse your programs or services into established organizations, such as school systems, community health promotion programs, etc.?
  • What key linkages are needed to increase the relevance of your programs or services to the communities you serve?
  • How can you leverage resources, such as supplies, materials, and equipment, from larger community efforts to continue implementing your program or services?

End of Section summary

  • You should identify opportunities to restructure programs that can result in increased integration with other service delivery systems in order to deliver services more efficiently.
  • Successful programs are integrated into the community infrastructure so that they provide long-term benefits.
  • It is important to develop linkages with other programs and services that are addressing your target population’s needs.

The following activity can be used to coordinate discussions about streamlining practices and integrating them into the community infrastructure. This activity is meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about accomplishing this.

  1. Assessing the Integration of Program Services

Factor 6: Build a leadership team

Keys to Success

Identify strong internal leaders

Keep organizational leaders engaged and secure your commitment

Identify external community champions

Promote leadership development

Having a strong, diverse leadership team is a foundational requirement for ensuring a program’s or service’s sustainability. Leaders may come from within an organization, but external champions can also help lead an organization towards its long-term sustainability goals. Building a leadership team, rather than identifying a single leader, can sustain organizational successes during transition and help you maintain connections with the community and critical external partners. You can support leadership development by creating opportunities for staff to build upon their strengths and participate in efforts to champion the organization’s mission, while also fostering peer-to-peer learning and career development opportunities.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will learn the importance of having a strong leadership team comprised of internal and external partners. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Build teams of leaders, rather than relying on an individual;
  • Engage your leadership team in your sustainability efforts;
  • Identify leaders and key supports from the larger community; and
  • Cultivate leadership development.

Why is it important?

Strong, diverse, and effective leadership can help sustain and grow programs or services, develop strong community ties, and secure reliable funding sources. Weak leadership can prevent a program or service from realizing its full potential. To maintain larger community support, seek out champions, whether board members or outside partners, who promote the importance of the program’s or service’s work within the community. You will need different types of people with varied skill sets to help lead and ultimately sustain your work, including youth and parents who benefit from your services. Promoting a feeling of shared responsibility and leadership among staff and supporters encourages individuals to invest your time, energy, and talents to foster the success of your programs or services.

Every organization will require different leadership skill sets to achieve sustainability. The approach you choose when assessing your leadership needs will relate to the strength of your organization’s existing leadership team, as well as staff availability, training, and support resources. When assessing and identifying leadership teams, here are some action steps to consider. These action steps are meant to spark thinking about potential champions and leaders and how they can effectively support your long-term sustainability. You should use and/or adapt the questions and activities in this section to create a process that meets your needs.

Identify strong internal leaders

Successful leadership teams share responsibilities and roles when leading a program or service. This creates a sense of shared ownership and also allows for continuity when individuals transition out of leadership roles. When assessing the current leadership team, you may think about what you already have and what you need to support your sustainability efforts. Do you have one or more internal leaders who:

  • Can articulate the program or service’s mission, vision and goals to potential funders, external partners, civic leaders and community members?
  • Can manage the day-to-day operations of the program or service, including budgets and staff resources?
  • Have strong knowledge of the program’s or service’s work, the research and data supporting the approach, and how the work meets the community’s needs?
  • Stay connected to the diverse community groups and agencies that your organization wants to be a part of?
  • Can identify new opportunities and help develop and modify approaches and goals as community needs change?
  • Can actualize and operationalize new approaches or ideas that meet community needs?
  • Can identify best practices and establish standards in relevant areas of your work to help improve outcomes?
  • Can offer adequate training and support to develop and sustain the above areas?

Leadership team members do not always have to be executive-level program staff. Leadership team members can also include individuals from various professional levels within the organization. Diversity in culture, age, professional background, and experience provides an important mix of ideas and perspectives that can benefit the program’s or service’s approach and relationship with the community and its external partners and champions.

Keep organizational leaders engaged and secure their commitment

Leadership of the larger organization within which your programs or services are offered should be frequently engaged to maintain their commitment and understanding of your work. This can be accomplished by regularly inviting organizational leadership to staff meetings and sharing with them promotional materials, as well as evaluation and data results. It also can be accomplished by making sure organizational leadership is aware of community events you participate in and spearhead, inviting them to participate and, in some instances, having them speak about the program’s or service’s contributions to the community. Seeking out leaderships’ thoughts and guidance on particular issues or challenges is another way to keep leaders invested in the work, feel ownership over successes, and driven to overcome its challenges.

COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS

  • Business leaders;
  • Civic leaders;
  • Faith-based leaders;
  • Community or government-based organizations working with the same populations;
  • Philanthropists; and/or
  • Current or former program participants, including youth and parents

Identify external community champions

An important component to a program’s leadership team is its network of champions who are outside the organization and program. In successful collaborations, leadership roles and responsibilities are distributed among all partners to foster a spirit of shared ownership and group cohesiveness. Cultivating these community champions can help build name recognition and support for your work in the community. It can also help improve external partnerships, reveal funding sources, and share your message and goals with key leaders, community advocates, and community and government-based service providers. You may look back at the environmental assessment from Factor 2: Assess the Environment and determine which external partners could be a champion for your program or service and specifically consider the following questions:

  • Who are the current external champions and what aspects of the program or service can they promote to the community?
  • Are there areas of your programs or services that are not being adequately promoted to the community?
  • Can current external relationships identify champions who can promote the grant?
  • Does the program have a diverse pool of community champions (see list above)?

Promote leadership development

Most leaders aren’t born, they are made. An important aspect to building a strong leadership team is providing its individual members the training and support they need to fully realize their leadership potential and enhance the strengths and skills they already have. Helping leaders learn new skills, develop their capabilities, and grow their knowledge benefits your programs or services as a whole, but it also helps motivate leaders to sustain their participation. Your organization may not have the capacity to support in-house professional development opportunities for leadership team members, but you can still consider outside community training resources or mentorship or shadowing opportunities between staff to bolster individual’s leadership skills.

Having strong external partnerships also creates opportunities for peer-to-peer learning between program leadership, external champions, and other external collaborators and partners. By conducting cross-training events between partners on different aspects of leadership development, you also create opportunities to build stronger relationships with outside leaders and potential program champions. When planning leadership development, you may think about:

  • Determining what leadership skills trainings may be useful to leadership team members and whether those trainings can be offered in-house or through a community training or conference event;
  • Assessing the value and organization’s capacity to create mentoring relationships for leadership team members to learn from each other; and
  • Identifying opportunities to build relationships with potential community champions through cross-training, peer-to-peer learning, or information sharing forums.

End of section summary

  • Strong, diverse, and effective leadership can help sustain and grow programs or services; develop strong community ties; and secure reliable funding sources.
  • Take advantage of strong internal leaders already available within your organization that can effectively articulate the program’s mission and manage day-to-day operations while remaining connected to the community.
  • External community champions should be considered an important component to a leadership team.
  • Leadership skills can be enhanced with in-house professional development as well as outside training resources and mentorship opportunities.

The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about building a leadership team. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about incorporating community leaders and partners into your leadership team.

  1. Identifying Internal Leaders
  2. Identifying External Champions
  3. Promoting Leadership Development

Factor 7: Create strategic partnerships

Keys to Success

Develop strategic partnerships

Assess existing partnerships continuously

Establish a shared vision and commitment to sustainability

Engage partners to help market program successes

Leverage partner resources

Promote leadership development

In this section, you are encouraged to take a critical look at your current external relationships to seek out and maintain true collaborative partnerships that are effective and lasting. You are also encouraged to be strategic in forging new partnerships and to use partners to help them promote your program or service successes in the community (see also Factor 4: Secure Community Support ). This section largely draws from the OAH Collaboration Toolkit, which provides an in-depth review of creating and establishing strategic partnerships

Learning objectives

In this section, you will assess your current and potential community partnerships. Specifically, you will learn about:

  • Developing strategic partnerships;
  • Assessing and cultivating current relationships;
  • Creating a shared vision and commitment to sustainability; and
  • Marketing your program or service successes through your partners.

Why is it important?

External partners are important sources of support, training, resources, and even staffing for many organizations. They provide meaningful opportunities for cross-training, peer-to-peer learning, and possible joint financial ventures or supporters when you seek out new funding. External partners can also be a link to larger community networks that can help market your organization’s work and reach new clients, funding, and resource bases. Strong external partnerships can also help you assess changing community needs and modify or tailor programs your services to changing community needs

Every organization will seek out and secure strategic partnerships differently and may have different types of partners in the community, depending on how and to whom its programs and services are delivered. The manner in which you forge new partnerships will vary depending on staffing and resources available to seek out and maintain new partnerships. When assessing current and creating new partnerships, you may consider the following action steps. You can use and/or adapt the accompanying questions and worksheets and create a process that meets your capacity and needs.

Develop strategic partnerships

You will have a wide variety of informal and formal relationships with various types of community organizations. This may range from long-term collaborative partnerships to memberships in coalitions, networks, or work or task groups. The Collaboration Toolkit has defined partnership as “a group of organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal.” The goal of each partnership will vary, some focusing on narrow time-limited tasks, while others will seek to achieve long-term, broader goals.

To identify new partnerships, you may look back at the environmental assessment in Factor 2: Assess the Environment with a focus on the gaps in your current partnerships. Discuss why certain types of partners might be missing and whether adding additional partners could facilitate sustainability:

  • Identify the skills and resources new partners could bring to help realize sustainability goals.
  • Establish goals and objectives for new partnerships.
  • Brainstorm ways to elevate and formalize new relationships that could help sustain the work.

FIGURE 1: TYPES OF PARTNERS

  • Public and/or private school systems;
  • Faith-based organizations;
  • Other community-based providers offering adolescent health services;
  • Other social service, health, and/or education community-based providers who serve the same population in a different capacity;
  • Policymakers;
  • Youth or parent-run advocacy organizations;
  • Relevant advocacy organizations; and/or
  • Government and school-based entities.

Keep in mind that whether a program or service is mature or new, at all stages, you can learn important lessons from each other about implementation, community readiness, and needs. For newer or smaller organizations, partnering with more established or larger entities may increase exposure to the community and provide opportunities for the smaller organization to create coalitions or strategic relationships it may not have otherwise been able to support or develop. Partnering with newer organizations could provide more seasoned entities with an opportunity to learn new and innovative techniques for delivering its programs or services.

Figure 1 provides a short list of the types of partners you may need to sustain services in the community. You may also consider partnership opportunities with nontraditional partners, such as local businesses or higher education institutions, to build relationships that stretch your program’s or service’s reach. Partnerships with a diverse group of organizations and individuals with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets increases the base of knowledge from which a program or service can draw.

Forging new strategic partnerships takes time and effort. You can incorporate partnership building into the everyday work of staff and board members. This may entail a range of activities that allow staff to meet and interact with potential strategic partners, such as participating in relevant coalitions and working groups, exhibiting or speaking at local conferences or symposia, or finding opportunities to participate in cross-training events with other adolescent health providers. It may also include taking extra time to build personal relationships with other social service providers with which the program works regularly or meeting with local civic leaders to discuss emerging or important issues relating to adolescent health.

Assess existing partnerships continuously

You may examine your current relationships as well as explore opportunities for new partnerships. You can look at your existing relationships to:

  • Assess the current strengths and weaknesses of your existing partnerships;
  • Examine which relationships are: (1) Informal, short-term without clearly defined missions or structure; (2) Based on a more formal arrangement, but relate to a specific goal or effort; or (3) More formal and long-term, with shared goals and commitments;
  • Identify the skills and resources each external organization could bring to help you realize one or several of your sustainability goals;
  • Identify goals and objectives for each new partnership; and
  • Brainstorm about ways to elevate and formalize relationships to help sustain the program or service.

Establish a shared vision and commitment to sustainability. When creating a formal strategic partnership, consider the following recommendations to help facilitate the partnership’s success and effectiveness.

  • A shared plan of action. Partner organizations should take time to define their vision and mission for the partnership and outline the goals they hope to accomplish together. By doing so, the partners will have taken their first step towards designing a realistic and useful plan for collaboration.
  • Shared leadership and responsibilities. Both partner organizations should have a sense of shared ownership over the goals and mission of the partnership. When creating a partnership plan, the partners should delineate duties between them, utilizing each partner’s strengths and capacities.
  • Clearly defined roles. The partnership plan should clearly state what each partner is expected to do and how and rely upon each partner’s strengths and abilities to delineate duties.

You may also find opportunities to regularly check-in with your partner organizations. Informal meetings to gauge progress, what concerns they may have, or what issues or challenges they may be facing can help strengthen and solidify the relationship.

Engage partners to help market program successes

Once you have identified those external organizations with which you want to partner and understand the goals you hope to achieve through these potential new partnerships, you can:

  • Identify program leadership, staff, board members, or, in some instances, existing partners to become your ‘messengers’ and help reach out to existing or new potential partners. In identifying which individuals to conduct outreach activities, consider the individual’s knowledge of the program, its mission and values and role in the community, as well as that person’s existing relationships with potential community partners;
  • Provide your ‘messengers’ with the resources necessary to communicate the importance of the program’s or service’s work and how potential new partnerships can help both organizations meet community needs and sustain efforts in the long-term; and
  • Create and use an outreach strategy and message that:
    • Is consistent and at the same time adaptable to the audience;
    • Is clear about its purposes, who its audiences are, and what matters to those audiences;
    • Clearly states the program’s or service’s goals and mission;
    • Aligns with larger marketing and outreach strategies and messages; and
    • Focuses on furthering the program’s or service’s mission in the community and increasing community awareness of its successes.

As discussed in Factor 4: Secure Community Support , each program or service needs a clear and consistent message to communicate to its target audience(s). That message should be a cogent and supported illustration of the program’s or service’s strengths, successes and value to the community. If the message is consistent and understandable, engaging partners to help share and spread that message will be easier. There are many ways you can engage your partners to market your successes, such as:

  • Asking partners to share with their networks written products or materials the program or service has developed;
  • Coordinating with partners to market to the community new services or programs offered;
  • Seeking opportunities to conduct trainings or learning sessions for partner organizations to inform them about the program’s or service’s work in the community and successes;
  • Inviting partners to participate, help build or lead workgroups or coalition to address relevant issues affecting the populations served; and
  • Finding opportunities to co-present at workgroups, conferences, and symposia with partner organizations to share the utility and success of the program’s or service’s work.

Leverage partner resources

In addition to having partners promote program or service successes in the community, there are other ways in which the partnership may be of benefit , including:

  • In-kind resources or supports your organization may receive from your partner organization; this may be in the form of staff time and expertise, donations, or facilities or space for events or trainings;
  • Opportunities to identify and seek out joint funding strategies and/or having partners help build relationships with potential funders;
  • Expanding your networks of community supporters through the relationships the partner has in the community; and
  • Helping you identify and recruit program or service participants as the partner organization works with you in some compatible or related capacity.

End of Section summary

  • External partners can be important sources of support, training, resources, and even staffing.
  • Environmental assessments can help your organization identify new partnerships.
  • You should examine your partnerships and relationships on an ongoing basis to better support your sustainability plan.
  • You should consider plans for engaging your partners, such as creating an outreach strategy and messages, and coordinating efforts to share those messages.

The following activities can be used and adapted by a program to coordinate discussions around building network maps and developing strategic partnerships. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about expanding your partnerships.

  1. Mapping your Individual Network
  2. Assessing Potential Partners

Factor 8: Secure diverese financial opportunities

Keys to Success

Review the
program budget to identify core activities and services

Create a budgetary line item

Identify and seek funding opportunities

Develop a strategy for securing funding

Build fundraising and grant writing capacity

Securing diverse funding streams is essential to establishing long-term sustainability and achieving successful programs and services. Relying on a single funding source may be workable in the short-term, but often cannot sustain a program or service for a long time. Continually explore diverse funding opportunities and secure a variety of funding streams when possible.

Securing diverse funding sources, particularly when resources are limited and state and local governments are facing budgetary constraints, is no easy task. First take a close look at what program activities are required to meet community needs and match funding requirements and opportunities to these needs. There are likely a number of opportunities available and you can devote both human and financial resources to exploring them. Not all of the options discussed will fit your needs or financial structuring interests. This section builds upon Factor 2: Assess your Environment; that section can help you in determining what funding streams or financial structures will work best for your programs or services.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will examine your own funding streams and explore alternative models to program financing. You will learn to:

  • Review your program’s or service’s budget against the core services needed to address community needs;
  • Identify alternative funding opportunities;
  • Develop a strategy for securing potential funding opportunities;
  • Devote a portion of program budget to sustainability planning; and
  • Build the capacity of your leadership team in fundraising and grant writing.

Why is it important?

Funding for programs or services can ebb and flow. Government, grant, and foundation funds will nearly always have time limits, so infuse financing research into day-to-day practices. By securing diverse funding streams, you are better able to adapt when some sources of income decrease or end.

Your organization’s approach to diversifying its funding sources will be unique. The following steps are provided to help you identify your community needs and to determine which programs or services are essential to meeting those needs. This section will also help you explore how sustainability planning and budgeting can be embedded into core program activities, as well as offer tools to help you identify potential funders and an action plan to seek alternative funding sources.

To begin, look at information gained by working through previous sections of this module (particularly Factor 2: Assess the Environment ) to understand local community needs and the financial environment in which the program operates. When securing diverse funding opportunities, organizations should consider the following action steps:

Review the program budget to identify core activities and services

A deep understanding of the community’s needs is required to determine what core programs or services are provided to meet this need. Look back at the information gathered in Factor 2: Assess the Environment regarding the community environment before moving forward with the suggested budgetary analysis in this section. Using what was learned from that assessment, you can align your core services with community needs and ultimately with each line item in your budget. By exploring the minimum activities or services required to meet the needs of the community, you will gain a better perspective on what aspects of your services are essential and at what scale those services are needed. Explore:

  • What services are currently being provided?
  • What are the current costs of implementing the current services and programs?
  • What components of these services are absolutely necessary to address the community’s needs and fulfill the program’s or service’s mission?
  • What resources are required to implement those essential programs or services identified through this exercise (e.g. curriculum, staff, trainings, other resources)?
  • What are the cost differentials between current service delivery and services deemed essential?
  • What changes can or should be made to the funding of certain programs or services to plan for sustainability?

Once these issues have been addressed, walk through each line of the program’s or service’s budget and answer the following questions:

  • Is this expense essential to provide the program’s or service’s core activities or interventions?
  • Is this expense scaled correctly?

Create a budgetary line item

You may consider adding sustainability planning to your core budget. Creating a budgetary line item devoted to sustainability planning can aid in elevating its status and importance across an organization’s programs and services. You will be better able to track and monitor your sustainability planning as it relates to your entire program or service funding.

Identify and seek funding opportunities

In Factor 2: Assess the Environment, you had an opportunity to explore the financial environment in which you work. Using the activities from that section, you may reflect on this financial environment and:

  • Consider the impact your programs or services have in meeting community needs and your capacity to sustain services in the long-term;
  • Identify funding opportunities through organizations that support services to your current target population, such as local community organizations seeking to bolster services to your adolescent populations or with missions that specifically address adolescent health, pregnancy prevention, supporting expectant or parenting teens, or other related social issues;
  • Strategize how to identify and secure funding from organizations that work in or finance related work, such as regionally-based organizations, community or national foundations;
  • Identify internal and external supporters who can help promote your program and services to potential funders;
  • Consider innovative funding alternatives to grant or foundation funding, such as social enterprise business models or impact investing (see the sidebars for more information); and
  • Consider alternative financing opportunities, such as in-kind support, outsourcing select services, moving services under another community organization, or using a fee-for-service model.

Develop a strategy for securing funding

Once you understand the funding environment and have identified potential opportunities, you may develop a strategy to seek out and obtain new funding. Specifically, you may consider the previous sections and determine which funding opportunities or financing model most appropriately fit your program or service needs. It is likely that multiple options are viable and even critical for securing stable financing and ensuring program sustainability. To develop a successful strategy, you may:

  • Conduct regular budgetary reviews;
  • Determine your goals for securing alternative funding;
  • Identify the tasks needed to accomplish those goals;
  • Assign a staff person to be responsible for implementing each task; and
  • Identify success metrics, a timeframe, and the resources needed to accomplish each goal.

Build fundraising and grant writing capacity

Ensuring that your team has the knowledge and skills to fundraise for its programs or services is critical. Organizations wishing to build their staff capacity may see the benefit of devoting resources to it. Building this professional acumen requires you to explore the following questions:

  • What fundraising skills trainings may be useful to your team and can these trainings be offered in-house or through a community training or conference event?
  • Are there internal mentors that can teach grant writing or fundraising techniques?
  • What opportunities are available for increasing your fundraising and grant writing capacity through cross-training, peer-to-peer learning, or information sharing forums by utilizing your relationships with partners?

End of section summary

  • By securing diverse funding streams, you are better able to adapt when some sources of income decrease or end.
  • You can use what you learn during an environmental assessment to gain a better perspective on aspects of your services that are essential while also considering innovative funding and financing strategies.
  • You should develop a strategy to seek out new funding based on a model that will most appropriately fit your program and service needs.
  • You should consider ways that you can further build your organizational skill sets to enhance internal fundraising skills and the capacity to write grants.

The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions around identifying alternative funding opportunities and how to secure them. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about securing diverse funding streams.

  1. Reviewing your Program Budget
  2. Identifying and Seeking Funding Opportunities
  3. Developing a Strategy for Securing Funding

Case Studies

The following case studies provide descriptions of some of the efforts that organizations across the country are engaging in to ensure that their programs and services are achieving meaningful and sustainable improvements in the lives of youth in their communities.  Reviewing these examples may help you to define the scope of your own effort and help you decide how to formulate your approach to sustainability planning.

New Mexico Public Education Department

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Securing community support

Creating strategic partnerships

New Mexico Expectant and Parenting Teen Program: GRADS+ Making Connections for Success

One of our program’s goals is to promote effective collaboration by creating “strategic” partnerships that support the GRADS program and expectant and parenting teens. We formed a GRADS+ leadership team that includes key state level partners who support the goals of our program. The statewide leadership team includes representatives from the attorney general’s office, teen pregnancy coalition members, the Department of Health and the forum for youth in community, among many others.      

At the local level, our GRADS sites continue to strengthen strategic partnerships with school and community providers that assist in increasing teen family access to a continuum of health, behavioral health, educational and social services. Each site has a local advisory committee/resource team that includes key school and community stakeholders who promote the GRADS program. Some key partners include: school-based health centers (SBHC), school nurses, counselors and social workers, early childhood home visiting programs, early intervention programs, health clinics, mental health providers, domestic violence organizations, local workforce partners, universities/colleges, WIC, and public health offices. In addition to the GRADS teacher, the GRADS team may include the child care director, a GRADS case manager, a GRADS fatherhood mentor, and a SBHC representative, all of whom collaborate to meet teen family needs. Key GRADS partners are also regularly invited to attend annual GRADS trainings, which support collaborative relationships and provide opportunities for interdisciplinary networking and resource sharing.

Local strategic partnerships have been instrumental in saving GRADS programs that were recommended for closure.  Two GRADS sites were able to effectively demonstrate the value of GRADS to their school administration through data and personal testimonies. The local GRADS advisory committee at one site sent letters from students and community partners to the superintendent and school board every day, calling for them to maintain the program.

Arizona’s Touchstone Behavioral Health

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP)

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) was established by Touchstone Behavioral Health in 2010 to address the growing need for awareness and education on teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. TPPP implements ¡Cuídate!, an evidence-based program designed for teens ages 13-18, to 1,000-1,500 youth each year. TPPP maintains a Local Advisory Committee (LAC), which consists of community members, various agencies, school officials, parents, and youth. The LAC’s goal is to increase awareness of teen pregnancy and create a sustainability plan for the program.

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Creating an action strategy

Securing community support

Integrating program services into local infrastructures

Creating strategic partnerships

TPPP made relationships with community partners, key stakeholders, and other invested parties a priority early.  With one elementary school district, TPPP began discussing sustainability when the program was first approved by the school board. The district served on our Local Advisory Committee, and we were able to build a network of community resources to support programming.

To equip the district to sustain our program, we took an iterative and collaborative approach regarding implementation responsibilities. During years one and two, teachers and staff observed Touchstone staff implementing the program and offered feedback. In year three, we began training school counselors as curriculum facilitators so they could co-facilitate with TPPP staff. In year four, two TPPP staff delivered the Training of Trainers (TOT) for ¡Cuídate!. TPPP provided a TOT for school counselors so they could train school staff to implement ¡Cuídate!.

We have worked to empower and equip the school district early in program implementation so that continuation of services would be achieved. Working within their infrastructure and training their staff helps sustain the program. A key to the success of this approach was to obtain community buy-in and involve stakeholders in the implementation, as opposed to telling them how our work should be ingrained in their systems.

South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

It's Your Game, Keep it Real SC

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Assessing the environment

Securing community support

Creating strategic partnerships

The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign) is working with middle schools across the state to implement “It’s Your Game, Keep it Real,” an evidence-based 24 lesson curriculum for 7th and 8th graders. The SC Campaign, in partnership with ETR Associates, is conducting a randomized control trial of the program, with 12 intervention and 12 comparison schools. Starting in 2014, the comparison schools have begun implementation of the curriculum. From the start of this project, the SC Campaign has talked with school partners about the need to plan for sustainability and has reviewed the research literature on sustainability. We have also collected considerable data; conducted focus groups with parents, interviewed principals; and surveyed teachers and students about their perception of the program to help inform our sustainability efforts. 

In the second year of the project, SC Campaign leadership began to visit every school district, whether in the intervention or comparison group.  Implementation schools receive more than one visit and multiple contacts each year to support high quality implementation. The SC Campaign frequently called upon the schools and districts to assist with data collection.  But, we realized that we needed to also contact schools when we did not need anything; creating opportunities to build deeper relationships, listen to the views of the district without an agenda, and identify obstacles. Therefore, each summer, when school districts are not as busy, we travel to partnering districts to meet with superintendents and other district leaders.

As a result, we have developed deeper relationships and are more responsive to the needs of the schools. In each case, we have learned more about the school environment, what is important to the school and how our program fits into the school environment.   

Oregon Department of Justice, Crime Victim’s Services Division

Safer Futures

Oregon’s Department of Justice, Crime Victim’s Services Division’s (CVSD) Safer Futures project supports seven non-profit victim advocacy organizations to place advocates on-site at Child Welfare branch offices, local Public Health departments, and other healthcare clinics. Each site offers: advocacy intervention, accompaniment, and supportive services by an on-site advocate; case consultation and provider training and technical assistance; and organizational and partner capacity building.

Each site has convened local leadership teams comprised of key stakeholders and collaborators who participate in project planning, training, and evaluation. The leadership teams are the mechanism by which the sites ensure success of the project. The teams are tasked to 1) explore how the project can improve and expand on-site advocacy services, especially for teens and underserved populations; 2) develop new or improve existing protocols and forms for partners to use in referring victims; 3) adapt new or existing tools used for assessing and identifying inter-partner violence; 4) develop a sustainability plan, which will include implementation strategies focused on sustaining the project; and 5) implement lessons learned from evaluation into practice.

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Creating an action strategy

Building a leadership team

Membership on these leadership teams includes management and direct service representatives from the Child Welfare branch office, the local Public Health department, and local healthcare clinics. Some leadership teams also include other community providers who are interested in the safety and well-being of pregnant and parenting women who are victims of violence.

Successful collaboration of the leadership team requires considerable communication, time, and commitment from all project partners. CVSD observes that technology has been an important tool for communicating with and disseminating information to leadership teams, project partners, and key stakeholders. The local leadership teams have also agreed to and signed the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding, which has helped outline expectations of the group. Safer Futures project managers facilitate the work of and regular communication with the leadership teams, helping to motivate and maintain buy-in from members by connecting the team’s work to something of value for each individual member.

New York Morris Heights Health Center

Changing the Odds

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Securing community support

Creating strategic partnerships

Integrating program services into local infrastructures

Securing diverse financial opportunities

Changing the Odds is implemented in 12 high-risk middle and high schools in Bronx, New York. Many of these schools are classified as priority or focus schools and have been at risk of being shut down due to low student performance, high truancy and low graduation rates. We provide the Teen Outreach Program (TOP©) curriculum once or twice a week during the school day and after-school for grades 6 through 12. We have cultivated an extensive list of community service partners to provide our 500 students with 20 hours of community service learning. We provide an in-classroom facilitator and, over the years, have had a handful of teachers serve as facilitators, but our experience has been that providing outside facilitators better suits the program.

We regularly meet with the principals of our participating schools to determine (1) if they like the program; (2) if they have seen changes in their participating students as a result of the program; and (3) how they would sustain the program if they are interested in doing so. These efforts have led to many fruitful conversations, including principals committing to setting aside money in their budgets to not only sustain the program, but expand it. This support and expansion efforts relate to the success of the program and the need for our project to continue to cultivate stakeholders, especially principals. Throughout the grant period, we have met with principals on a regular basis to report on the program and share our data. As a result, we have principals who are committed to our work and some who are looking for ways to integrate our project into their school curriculum.

San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools

Positive Prevention PLUS: Sexual Health Education for Youth

The California Education Code requires HIV/STD prevention education in all middle and high schools, and provides guidelines for comprehensive sex education.  All California school districts, therefore, have HIV/STD education policies in place, which are typically overseen by the director of Secondary Curriculum or Director of Student Services in each community. The challenge lies in expanding each district’s commitment to providing exemplary instruction beyond what is minimally required, assigning this instruction to well-prepared and credentialed health teachers, linking this instruction to Common Core State Standards and expanding collaborative partnerships to include community agencies, health services providers, and the parent community.

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Being adaptable

Securing community support

The California Education Code requires HIV/STD prevention education in all middle and high schools, and provides guidelines for comprehensive sex education.  All California school districts, therefore, have HIV/STD education policies in place, which are typically overseen by the director of Secondary Curriculum or Director of Student Services in each community. The challenge lies in expanding each district’s commitment to providing exemplary instruction beyond what is minimally required, assigning this instruction to well-prepared and credentialed health teachers, linking this instruction to Common Core State Standards and expanding collaborative partnerships to include community agencies, health services providers, and the parent community.

Traditionally we have provided classroom curriculum and sexual health-related trainings to high school science and health teachers who in turn implement the Positive Prevention PLUS curriculum in their classrooms. The School Board, school administrators and the parent community have been largely uninvolved in these efforts.  However, in the interest of increased collaboration, awareness and support, we are modifying the format of our monthly one-day curriculum trainings to include a one-to-two hour “Network Meetings” for interested school administrators, PTA representatives and community agency partners. The purpose of these meetings will be to share program/policy/services updates, prior to the actual teacher training. These stakeholders will also be invited to observe the curriculum in-service. 

We are also moving beyond curriculum trainings into pressing topics, such as assuring safe and inclusive environments for transgender students and assuring student access to reproductive health services. This expansion has drawn the attention of school district leaders and collaborating agencies who are interested in meeting and discussing these issues.  As a result, our agency is being asked to provide a variety of additional support materials, resources, consultations, and presentations to stakeholder groups. As we produce outcome data to share with stakeholders, and as we move beyond a focus on classroom lessons to other timely issues, HIV/STD prevention and comprehensive sex education is gaining visibility and traction as a valuable and acceptable component of K-12 education. 

University of Colorado Denver

Circle of Life

Circle of Life (COL) is a sexual risk reduction program for Native American youth ages 10 to 12. It is the only culturally specific sexual risk reduction program for Native youth. Originally class room-based, the curriculum was adapted to an on-line format with supplemental adult-led group activities to meet the needs and interests of youth today, particularly Native youth, many of whom live in remote areas. 

Relevant Sustainability Factors

Being adaptable

Assessing the environment

Since the curriculum is in the public domain, this increases its accessibility, but sustainability depends on the extent to which it is user friendly and well received by students. To this end, we have worked with the program developer to improve a number of user interface issues and have developed a comprehensive set of facilitation materials that are easy to use. These include a facilitator’s guide, lesson plans and information on community development, as well as short YouTube videos that show how to teach each class.  

Experience with the new online version of the intervention is limited to a research setting and we are still learning how it will be taught in the real world.  To help answer these questions, we will provide technical assistance to those who are interested in implementing the intervention, which will also teach us about the challenges and successes communities are facing when using it in real world settings.  This will also allow us to tailor information on the website to better meet the needs of the public and may spawn new ideas for ways to support implementation.  We will also collect information about traffic to our website. This will include data on factors such as number of hits, number of pages viewed, time spent on pages, etc.  This will provide an additional perspective on how the website and intervention are being accessed and potential areas for improvement. 

In a research setting, we have already seen differences between sites in terms of how the intervention has been implemented.  Although our goal was to have all sites implement it the same way, there have been logistical factors, technological problems, staffing and competing demands on student schedules that have affected implementation.  We have come to recognize that sites will need to adapt the intervention to their unique circumstances.  We hope to continue collecting information on real life implementation so that we can provide better guidance to sites that are interested in our intervention.

Summary

Each of the eight factors discussed in this module (see Figure 2 below: "Eight Factors of Sustainability and Your Keys to Success") is supported by existing literature and research on the sustainability of social welfare and health programs as well as on-the-ground experiences of OAH grantees and other Federal sustainability frameworks.

The purpose of this module, combined with OAH’s accompanying sustainability resources, is to help organizations effectively leverage their resources to facilitate the continuation of their programs or services, leading to long-lasting improvements in the health and well-being of adolescents. This module provides practical and actionable steps by which organizations can begin planning for sustainability and infuse sustainability conversations and activities into their day-to-day work. It aims to help organizations better prepare to take on strategic sustainability planning and facilitate long-lasting improvements in adolescent health and well-being. Organizations should use all of the materials in the OAH Sustainability Resources collection as flexible, modular tools that can be adjusted to meet their individual needs.

While this module is not meant to provide a list of all factors necessary for every program or service to succeed, it does aim to identify common challenges and issues that organizations might face as they explore their own needs and capacities in building sustainable programs. Below is a summary of the key points from each section.

Factor 1: Create an Action Strategy

  • By systematically approaching sustainability planning, organizations can be more effective in addressing and forecasting future program and service needs.
  • Early planning is helpful to creating a sustainability plan. Organizations should clearly articulate a vision which is shared by their partners and community leaders.
  • Daily program operations should incorporate sustainability conversations and efforts.

Factor 2: Assess the Environment

  • Environmental assessments are key to establishing a foundation upon which organizations can develop a strong sustainability plan.
  • You can conduct formal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analyses to assess strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint specific areas that may benefit from an environmental assessment.
  • After completing an environmental assessment, you should use the information to analyze the relationships between your programs and services; your partners; and your financial and political environments.

Factor 3: Be Adaptable

  • Maintaining a sustainable program requires the ability to adapt services to changing environments and community needs.
  • You should regularly examine your particular community’s needs and match your services accordingly.
  • You should keep informed on innovative policies and services that address your community’s needs. Leveraging relationships with partners and similar organizations can help you keep abreast of new practices.

Factor 4: Secure Community Support

  • Establishing community buy-in is essential for creating a successful sustainability plan.
  • You should focus on crafting consistent, clear, easy-to-replicate messages to establish a broad base of supporters within a community.
  • Promoting your programs and services can also increase community awareness of specific, relevant issues.
  • Community champions can enhance an outreach effort.

Factor 5: Integrate Program Services into Local Infrastructure

  • You should identify opportunities to restructure programs that can result in increased integration with other service delivery systems in order to deliver services more efficiently.
  • Successful programs are integrated into the community infrastructure so that they provide long-term benefits.
  • It is important to develop linkages with other programs and services that are addressing your target population’s needs.

Factor 6: Build a Leadership Team

  • Strong, diverse, and effective leadership can help sustain and grow programs or services; develop strong community ties; and secure reliable funding sources.
  • Take advantage of strong internal leaders already available within your organization that can effectively articulate the program’s mission and manage day-to-day operations while remaining connected to the community.
  • External community champions should be considered an important component to a leadership team.
  • Leadership skills can be enhanced with in-house professional development as well as outside training resources and mentorship opportunities.

Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships

  • External partners can be important sources of support, training, resources, and even staffing.
  • Environmental assessments can help your organization identify new partnerships.
  • You should examine your partnerships and relationships on an ongoing basis to better support your sustainability plan.
  • You should consider plans for engaging your partners, such as creating an outreach strategy and messages, and coordinating efforts to share those messages.

Factor 8: Secure Diverse Financial Opportunities

  • By securing diverse funding streams, you are better able to adapt when some sources of income decrease or end.
  • You can use what you learn during an environmental assessment to gain a better perspective on aspects of your services that are essential while also considering innovative funding and financing strategies.
  • You should develop a strategy to seek out new funding based on a model that will most appropriately fit your program and service needs.
  • You should consider ways that you can further build your organizational skill sets to enhance internal fundraising skills and the capacity to write grants.

 

Further Resources

This module is based on information that was developed for the Office of Adolescent Health’s Building Sustainable Programs: The Resource Guide.  To download a copy of the guide, you can go to http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/assets/sustainability-resource-guide.pdf.

You can also access a number of other tools and information related to sustainability on the Office of Adolescent Health’s website at: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/teen_pregnancy/training/sustainability.html

Last updated: October 13, 2014