Accountability: Do we really care about each other?

“I mean, let’s be real here. Do I really care about what you do? I see you, I know what field you work in—college access, youth development, environmental justice, mental health—but do I really care about you? Do we really care about each other? Do we even know each other?”

The honesty killed me, and I loved it.

It was our final collaborative meeting of the year, and one of the community partners had the courage to speak up, to name the reality of our own, self-imposed dynamic. It impacted me, and it helped  me name the question that has been nagging at me for the entire year.

What does it mean to work collaboratively? What does it mean to be interdependent? And specifically, what does accountability look like in collaborative, interdependent, community and family partnerships?  

More personally, as a coordinator, I want to know what it means for my role. In fact, I’m blogging this specifically to raise up these questions since I imagine there are other coordinators out there working through similar challenges. What is my role in accountability?

When one of the community partners can’t support the program or the position they promised, what do I do? When a community partner promises to be collaborative, but plans in isolation, what do I do? When a community partner fails to send information by a deadline, what do I do? When my principals notice and feel community partners aren’t worth relying on, what do I do?

I’m not their manager. Yes, we have an MOU, but that’s not how we do business at our school. We believe in the messiness. We believe in relationships, relational trust, conversations, and doing what needs to get done, not working off of some sort of task list.

But I remember and realize where we’re at, I remember what was said at our collaborative meeting. Do we truly care? We believe in relationships, but do we have them? To what or whom are we even accountable?

I hope you didn’t come to this blog expecting answers. I don’t have them yet. All I know are these three things:

  1. We’re working on it. Despite my frustration with accountability, I’m incredibly proud of how far the collaborative has come in a mere five months, and I’m encouraged by the fact that we have SEVEN issues we, TOGETHER, want to tackle next year (increased staff involvement in the collaborative, staff awareness of existing programs, partners acknowledging other partners, identifying and targeting common need areas, building a collaborative and supportive culture, the school recognizing the value of the collaborative, and, most importantly, accountability).

  2. “When we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” I’m going to treat my partners as I want them to be, even when I’m confused or frustrated.

  3. This is going to get messy, and I’m okay with that.

We have so many courageous conversations to come. I’m looking forward to them.

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Comment by Jennie Carey on June 14, 2014 at 11:18am
Please follow me on twitter @JennieConnect
Comment by Damion J. Morgan on July 29, 2014 at 5:14pm

Jennie,

You raise some really great questions. I always ask “why are we all here?” That is how I start every partnership meeting because I want them to know from the very outset that we are here for the kids. I fell ultimately we’re accountable to the kids which a bunch of other people sprinkled in. When people agree to that I have found it makes the partnership process much easier.

But I do have a few questions. What role do you play in the drafting of the MOU? Are you their primary contact at your site? If you’re not part of the MOU process who is and is your feedback sought?

Here is how I operate:

Accountability – I understand that my initial level of accountability is to manage the partnership, be the point person and bring the key players together that should lead to an MOU. I’m responsible for providing updates to the leadership team, looking at data and using that information to determine if the partnership is working. Say the partner is a new science center that wants to come in one day a week for six weeks for one hour during the after school program to do a weird science enrichment. If all parties agree that their staff will be onsite every week at three but for four out of six weeks they were late they are accountable. Again it goes back to the MOU, there should be clear language stating that if either party is not satisfied with the partnership it does not have to be renewed after the termination date. So I would go back to that science center partner with a copy of the MOU reminding them of the agreed upon terms but also help them understand how simply being 20 minutes late had a significant impact on the students in the program who are the ones that should benefit the most from the MOU. Your accountability is based on what is worded in the MOU and your scope of control. Part of my accountability is to take care of all the logistical issues so the partner can satisfy their terms of the MOU. I understand that they hold me responsible for that task because any delay will impact programming. They have an expectation to get the access they needed as I promised and I can expect them to be on time every week just as they promised. So the accountability rests with all parties or their representatives mentioned in the MOU and I make sure that is outlined in detail.

Interdependence – Going to back to the language in the MOU, how does that good/service contribute to either the School Accountability Plan or the community school workplan? If it doesn’t there should be no partnership. When the MOU is drafted it should be done with pertinent data from both of those documents in mind or at quick reference. Any and every partner needs to know exactly how they add to a very long link of services/goods that contribute to the success of the school.  They have an opportunity to be part of that success and that is why a partnership was pursued. They need to know how they fit into the big picture not just their own lane. You mentioned this in your post and I completely agree with you,  full partnership meetings can also reap rich rewards. We know business people love to have an excuse to mix and mingle but this meeting should be an opportunity to first get all of them in one room. Then it is a chance to talk about ways of cross collaboration. It can open up more discussions around sponsorships for community events and innovative ways that two seemingly disparate companies can work together.

 

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