Linkage Categories, Commitment and Case Studies

The continuum of linkage efforts is commonly categorized as cooperation, coordination, and collaboration.

  • Cooperation implies staff of separate programs are aware of and knowledgeable about each other’s resources and services and refer families to them as needed. For example, ECFE staff are aware that Head Start is planning a major workshop in the near future so they refer families to the workshop and avoid scheduling a conflicting activity on that day.
  • In coordination, staff build on cooperation and interact with other programs to enhance others efforts. For example, an ECFE staff person is an active member of the local Interagency Early Intervention Committee, which plans how best to serve children with developmental delays. This ECFE staff person invites other committee members to attend an upcoming ECFE regional inservice training on a relevant topic.

In collaboration, in addition to cooperating and coordinating, staff of separate programs actually work together to create a new or enhanced resource for families. For example, ECFE staff decide with child care center staff to jointly offer parent education groups to employed parents once per week at the end of the standard workday. ECFE provides a parent educator and organizes a light supper, and the child care center provides space for the parent group and extended day care for the children of participating families.

Each of these three types of linkages is valuable and important. To maximize any linkage efforts, program staff should approach other organizations with an open mind, guard against competitive feelings, expect that building trust takes time, anticipate setbacks, and work hard at ongoing, effective communication. Of the three linkage categories, collaboration requires the most time and work. It also raises the most issues, which include ownership, governance, supervision, balance of effort and cost, accountability, flexibility, trust, and conflict resolution. If organizations are open to planning a collaboration, it is advisable to put collaborative agreements in writing and to include the following elements:

  • Who will be responsible for leadership of this collaborative venture?
  • What authority will each organization exercise?
  • Which responsibilities will each organization fulfill to plan, implement, and evaluate the collaboration?
  • What specific resources will each organization contribute? Include staff time, money, and in-kind contributions such as space, meeting refreshments, participant transportation, publicity, etc.
  • If applicable, what important policies, procedures, and operations must be changed in each organization to support the collaboration and how will these changes be implemented?
  • How will differences and issues be negotiated among the member organizations?
  • Which key people must sign this agreement and how will their support be secured?

(Adapted from Winer, M., & Ray, K. (1994). Collaboration handbook: Creating, sustaining, and enjoying the journey. St. Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.)

Click here for Chapter 6 (Community Linkages for Families) of the ECFE Implementation Guide.

Linkage Possibilities

Adult Basic Education (ABE)