Collaboration College celebrates newly developed models of collaboration

In a special celebration Thursday, Sept. 13, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean joined business, higher education and nonprofit leaders to recognize six ground-breaking collaborations formed as part of a unique new yearlong program.

A creative new program in Nashville is giving six teams of nonprofits the direction, resources and encouragement they need to collaborate successfully. The business sector, a higher educational institution and nonprofit leaders have created Collaboration College, a first-of-its-kind in the nation initiative to develop models of collaboration which can be replicated around the country.

“This program is significant in a number of ways. It is significant in that it took a level of collaboration to carry out the Collaboration College,” said Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry. “Collaboration is so easy to talk about and much more difficult to do. As you really roll up your sleeves and say ‘we’re going to understand the interests that we bring to the table and we’re going to be creative enough to reflect those interests in what we then do,’ well that’s hard, hard work. We congratulate these teams that have been working hard all year to do this.”

Dean commended Lipscomb for its role in facilitating the program.

“This is really an impressive collection of nonprofit organizations, businesses and the fine institution of Lipscomb University,” said Dean. “Lipscomb has been extraordinary under Dr. Lowry’s leadership. The growth has been phenomenal. The university is always there to help when there is an issue that is important to the city as a government, but also to the city for those who are involved in nonprofits or those who are involved in a personal way in moving our city forward.

Executives from HCA and The HCA Foundation, Lipscomb University and the Center for Nonprofit Management have been working for more than a year with teams of local nonprofits. Nearly 150 nonprofit leaders came together last September for a daylong conference — Collaboration College 101 — that launched the unique program. 

“Those who develop nonprofit best practices around the country are talking more and more about the need to develop networks and shared services, much like the private sector has done. At the HCA Foundation, we believe that the issues facing our community today require more than one organization coming together to help address these needs. Collaboration among multiple organizations is a key step toward solving vital issues in our community,” said Joanne Pulles, president of the HCA Foundation, which has contributed more than $131 million in grants to more than 200 organizations and agencies in Middle Tennessee since 1998.

“There will be a number of beneficiaries from this effort. The eighteen nonprofit agencies will all be more productive.  The citizens of Middle Tennessee will receive superior services.  Nashville will be recognized for the forward thinking of its business sector. And nationally, nonprofits and those who fund them will learn about six new models of cooperation,” said Lewis Lavine, president of the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Following the initial gathering of organizations, a smaller group attended Collaboration 201: Applied Collaboration Methods, and began to work in teams. In February, six teams, comprised of 18 local nonprofit organizations, were selected to continue on to higher course levels. As part of this program, these teams have been guided through a series of exercises to enable them to pursue the difficult task of breaking the mold to share expenses or the delivery of services. To assist these groups, more than $80,000 in consulting has been donated by North Highland, C3 Consulting, and HCA, as well as $30,000 in consulting by the Center for Nonprofit Management, made possible by The HCA Foundation. Lipscomb University has contributed its executive leadership, classrooms and other academic resources to help facilitate these collaborations.

The teams are comprised of the leadership from a variety of nonprofits in Middle Tennessee. The teams and their project collaboration goals include:

Collaboration for Family Support — This group’s goal is to develop a model of shared operations and practice that strengthens the agencies involved—Nurses for Newborns, the Martha O’Bryan Center, Conexión Américas and Family & Children’s Service— and strengthens families by engaging their heritage, assets and self-strengthening capacities.

Choosing a Better Future — Through this project, Safe Haven Family Shelter and Nashville OIC are collaborating  on a program called Em/Power that provides greater, more sustainable employment and career opportunities to homeless families in Nashville.

Direct Connect  — The focus of this collaboration among the YWCA, Nashville International Center for Empowerment, the Center for Refugees & Immigrants of Tennessee and Bridges is to increase awareness of and access to domestic violence services and resources among underserved populations.

Building Behavioral Health Bridges — Team members representing Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Drug Court Support Foundation, Davidson County Mental Health Court and the Tennessee Licensed Professional Counselors Association are collaborating save money and resources by merging nonprofit court foundations and to consolidate back office functions so that more resources are devoted to treating those in need of these services.

Collaboration for Data-Driven Community — This team, comprised of representatives from the Faith Family Medical Clinic, Mercy Children’s Clinic, Interfaith Dental Clinic and the Siloam Family Health Center, is working to improve data collection at these clinics to measure how successful and cost-effective their services are to the community.

Youth Opportunity Center Shared Services — Members of this team are working to find ways for STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) and Oasis to develop a collaborative back office shared model between the agencies that can be shared with other youth-serving organizations that reduces overhead costs and improving the organizational effectiveness of each nonprofit group.

At the Sept. 13 event, Dean and Lowry congratulated the teams for having completed course levels 301 and 401 of the college and becoming the first class to graduate. In October, one of the six teams will receive a special bonus of a $25,000 HCA Foundation award at the Salute to Excellence banquet hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Management. The $25,000 grant will be used by the winning team to carry out its project.

“Today’s celebration exemplifies the ingredient that I firmly believe makes a community strong which is collaboration,” said Dean. “I know the power of collaboration well by connecting the expertise, assets and passions of different agencies so much more can be accomplished. It’s important to emphasize that collaboration is a key part of doing things more efficiently, more cost-effectively. We have stressed collaborative efforts during the time that I have been mayor. It’s pretty clear that you just can’t do it on your own.”

Sponsors of Collaboration College are Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society (ILJS), the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL) and Serving and Learning Together (SALT) Program with the Center for Nonprofit Management (CNM) and The HCA Foundation.

“The unique aspect of this program is its year long college format, with classes that focused on the teams on the important elements of collaboration,” said Charla Long, dean of the College of Professional Studies at Lipscomb University.

Collaboration College was born out of the HCA Foundation’s desire to build on the work of a joint ILJS and CNM event in January 2009 – Collaborate for a Cause – and CNM’s previous efforts to encourage nonprofits to consider collaboration as a means to expand their reach in the community and increase the potential for transformational, sustainable new models of community impact. 

“Collaboration College was intended to be a rigorous and challenging opportunity hosted by three entities deeply involved in community building,” said Linda Peek Schacht, executive director of the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership. “The teams that have been a part of this process have devoted many hours to developing collaborations that will make a difference in our community.”