Community partnering for literacy education
Monaghan, Diane Lamb
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The purpose of this study was to understand the nature of ongoing collaboration among organizations that provide adult literacy education in communities. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) What is the role of resource exchange in interorganizational collaboration? 2) What is the role of organizational and community image in interorganizational collaboration? 3) What is the role of internal and external pressures on interorganizational collaboration? 4) What are the roles of interdependency and control in interorganizational collaboration? The study was built around two existing data sets. The first came from a process evaluation of a statewide adult literacy initiative in which the state sponsored a network for locally-run literacy collaborations in over forty communities around the state. The second came from a single study of one of those participating communities. The evaluation team collected data through interviews, observations, and surveys of literacy teachers, advisory board members, and other community stakeholders. The second set of data was subsequently collected in one community using the case study method. This data set included in depth interviews with three members of one literacy partnership. Qualitative analysis of the data revealed positive and negative themes related to ongoing collaboration within a framework of four major categories: resource sharing, image enhancement, pressures to collaborate, and interdependence and control. Resource sharing, coordination of services, and community and state support strengthened collaboration among literacy providers. Collaboration strengthened organizational and community image except where missions were incompatible or independence was an issue. Pressures, both internal and external, affected ability and willingness to collaborate. Issues of interdependency and control challenged collaboration. Conclusions from the findings revealed three dominant processes: cost benefit analysis, power dynamics, and reciprocity among partners. The model developed from these conclusions offers a rubric to strengthen collaboration through an overarching local structure. The characteristics of this model are that healthy collaboration 1) helps partners identify and weigh the benefits and costs of collaborating; 2) is structured for organizations to recognize and negotiate power dynamics; and 3) is characterized by reciprocity.