Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

Improving Effectiveness in Serving Your Community

Community leaders and service organizations can’t be everywhere at once, focusing on every need. It’s common for resources and manpower to be stretched to the limit on a regular basis for any group trying to enact positive change. In order to best serve a community, organizations need to assess a number of problems and solutions in order to effectively serve their community.

Programs also need to strike a balance between helping people to understand the resources available to them and collaborating with other leaders so these resources can reach those most in need. Here are three strategies for achieving these goals and more effectively serving a community.

Find New Ways to Evaluate Needs

Leaders and community service organizations often set out to improve their communities with the best of intentions, but it’s difficult for one person, or even a group of people, to understand and cover every issue their community may face. Support programs often focus on things like food, shelter, and clothing, and rightfully so, as these are tangible items that can have an immediate positive effect in a person’s day-to-day life.

To have a full understanding of the needs of a community, leaders and organizations also need to pay attention to more subtle trends that can have powerful impacts on a community. For example, climate change might not be something that comes to mind right away, especially when aiming to create immediate, concrete solutions. However, changing the weather isn’t the task at hand.

Instead, we can look at the unique problems that stem from such a large-scale issue. Things like extreme heat events and poor air quality can exacerbate existing health conditions as well as creating new ones. More frequent weather disasters can also destabilize individuals and families who are already struggling to maintain a healthy standard of living.

Paying attention to larger, less concrete trends and working backward to identify their specific impacts can allow organizations to better meet a community’s immediate needs and prepare for those that may arise suddenly.

Raise Public Awareness

It can be difficult to seek out and ask for assistance when people need it. This may relate to negative stigmas related to someone who chooses to seek a “handout.” Or, in many cases, people within your community may suffer unnecessarily with issues that could be prevented or treated, simply because they don’t understand the options available to them.

One potential solution for this is to gather several organizations and service groups together for a community success fair. If this is well-advertised and designed to be a welcoming event for all, it may draw at-risk groups within your community toward getting the assistance and guidance they need.

This is an opportunity to educate those in need about the resources available to them as well as help change the idea that the act of seeking help is something to be ashamed of. Instead, leaders within these groups can show how their services can help provide a pathway to a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle.

This could include connecting individuals with services that aid immediate needs related to food, clothing, and shelter. However, people can also connect with organizations that help match unemployed individuals to find jobs and necessary training. They could also connect with social workers who focus on a variety of specialties such as child welfare, educational issues, mental health concerns, substance abuse, and healthcare.

Of course, it’s not just those in need who could stand to raise their awareness of problematic issues within their community and the programs designed to find solutions. In the same way those in need of assistance may hold negative stigmas about seeking out help, many people who don’t currently need support may not understand the full weight of what public service initiatives do.

By educating these groups as well, you can create a more open and positive view of community service programs. On an individual level, this can contribute to increased community donations, including money, time, and resources. On a larger scale, this can help pave the way for legislative changes that will allow groups and individuals to better support each other within the community.

Collaborate With Other Programs

Events like the community success fair described above represent the sort of collaborative effort that can improve community service as a whole. When leaders within local organizations have a chance to network with each other, they can better coordinate in order to identify more opportunities for outreach, share feedback from the community, and effectively allocate the resources they have.

When collaborating with other service groups, it is important to be clear and organized about your roles in working together. This applies to a number of areas. First of all, in addition to your organization’s individual goals within the community, it is essential that you create a clear vision and mission for how you will work together.

While aiming to approach broad goals like “creating a healthy community” may embody a positive message, it’s important to identify which specific issues you plan to work together to solve and who is responsible for different portions of this effort. This can help maintain clear expectations and ensure resources are spent wisely between various groups.

Establishing set representatives for maintaining a collaborative relationship within each organization can also support clear communication and help to ensure the initiative stays on track with your original goals.

Even with community support and proper funding, it can be difficult to make a real and lasting impact on a community. By thinking about larger trends that contribute to specific needs, raising public awareness of the resources available, and looking for opportunities to work with other initiatives to make the most of the available resources, community leaders can increase the positive impact their services provide to the community.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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