Community Coordination and Cooperation
The Need for Coordination and Cooperation
Central to the educative community concept is a belief that all educational institutions within the community must cooperate with each other. Activating the community into an educational or learning laboratory is not possible without close coordination and cooperation. This is true for all types of communities, but particularly so in large, urban communities, where the interaction of people with each other and with various organization is complex and ever-changing.
Coordinated community programs and planning efforts also are necessary to stimulate both educational and economic development (Chapter Seven discusses further the notions of such development). This means that problem-solving is carried out by people cooperating with each other. It also means that decisions affecting a community are made by a representative body of leaders and that information regarding such decisions is communicated throughout the community.
The above two paragraphs represent an ideal situation. Unfortunately, efforts in cooperation and the coordination of programs are less than ideal in many communities. Horizontal relationships and linkages between organizations and between people frequently are weak or not maintained. For example, governmental officials pass laws that affect educational institutions without adequate consultation with education officials. Business and industry develop various goods and services but do not consider the ecological ramifications. Educators work on developing various curricula or programs, but they fail to incorporate unique community resources and characteristics into the educational programs.
An example of what can result from the lack of close coordination and cooperation comes from an urban community in Michigan. A large electrical industry had a critical need for secretaries and clerical help but virtually no additional need for electricians or electronic technicians. However, the community's technical and community college was graduating large numbers of people trained in the electrical or electronic fields but only a few secretarial and clerically trained people. In another example, a chemical plant in an Iowan community needed a variety of technical specialists. It was forced to seek individuals from other states because nearby educational institutions were unable to train people in the appropriate areas. The plant eventually moved its operation to another state and the community lost hundreds of jobs. The absence of strong horizontal relationships prevented agencies in these two instances from coordinating needs with existing resources and the communities were unable to develop strategies for strengthening any horizontal pulls.
If communities would carefully and continually coordinate their planning on various aspects of community living, there is a potential for many benefits. Coordinated and long range planning allows agencies and organizations to develop varied educational programs with existing facilities and resources. As an illustration of this potential, in a New Jersey community the YMCA and its supporters decided that constructing a new recreational facility in one part of town was unnecessary because a nearby community college already had similar facilities under construction. The community college agreed to open these facilities to the general public several hours each week. In another example, one large industrial city in New York maintains a combined industry and education council that coordinates programs and needs between industry and educational institutions. The work of the council has helped to maintain a high employment rate and a low out-migration of people seeking jobs elsewhere.
Small communities, too, benefit from cooperation with other communities. Combined fire and police protection, joint health planning, coordinated construction of recreation facilities, and cooperative nursing home/senior citizen facilities are some of the cooperative ventures that have occurred. Another effort at coordination during the past two to three decades has been the consolidation of school districts in many rural areas. Such consolidation normally creates initial concerns, especially if the consolidation is forced by state officials, but the long range results typically are financial savings with improved educational opportunities for students. A sharing of community planners or managers has also been tried in some communities.
There are many more illustrations of the benefits that can be realized through community cooperation and coordination. Several references at the conclusion of this chapter include some of them.
Coordinating Educational Programs
There are many agencies and organizations in each community providing programs and services of an actual or potential educational nature. To realize the benefits of mutual planning and coordination, common concerns of these agencies or groups need to be recognized. There are numerous concerns possible in any community and a variety of agencies and organizations typically are available to deal with them, although each community will have some specific concerns unique to that particular social or geographical setting. Table 5-1 identifies some common concerns found in many communities:
Table 5-1. Some Common Concerns Faced by Various Community Agencies and Organizations
COMMON CONCERNS -- SOME INVOLVED AGENCIES AND ORGANIZATIONS
Intellectual and creative growth -- Schools, churches, libraries, art galleries, museums, institutions
of higher, education, and youth groups
Physical education and fitness -- Schools, Y-programs, recreation centers or departments, and
Health education -- Schools, medical personnel, hospitals, and health groups
Recreation and leisure -- Schools, Y-programs, city recreation centers or departments,
youth groups, leisure-related businesses, senior citizen groups, and
Retirement and pre-retirement -- Senior citizen groups, business and industry, church groups,
institutions of higher or vocational education, and employment
Communities need to recognize these and the many other commonalities that exist. Such common concerns can facilitate program planning, facility construction, and program implementation. Spending that scarce dollar for any type of educational program always needs careful consideration and coordination.
Communication among various community agencies and the schools is important if educational programs are to be coordinated. This is to prevent a conflict in education goals. For example, if a school system is preparing students primarily to enter four-year colleges that exist outside the community but local business and industrial groups believe that educational institutions should be preparing students for employment within the community, there can be conflict, confusion, and lack of support for what education is doing. Suggestions on building communication patterns will be presented in the next section.
Educational institutions cannot afford to remain autonomous and separate from the rest of a community. Nor can various agencies and organizations providing educational services afford programs that will meet all community needs. Consequently, there is a need for some central coordination of the educational programming carried out by schools and other agencies if maximum service to each community is to be provided.
Several American communities were examined in terms of their educational and economic development (Hiemstra, 1970). A glaring need exists for a centralized coordination of educational programs and services in these communities. For example, in one community the following agencies or groups all were carrying out educational programs that dealt with Nutrition Education:
* Public Schools - Home Economics classes on nutrition and food preparation for teens;
* Community Action Program - Nutrition information and referrals;
* County Welfare (Social Service Office) - food stamps and commodity food distribution;
* Cooperative Extension Service - a nutrition training program where trained paraprofessional aides visit low-income homes and present nutritional advice;
* State Health Association - Nutrition education literature;
* Federally Funded Project (via an institution of higher education) - Nutrition education for children and parents; and
* Various Churches - Emergency food distribution, nutrition literature, and other help as it is needed.
There is obvious overlap of effort and resources in situations such as the one described above, and, in this specific situation, it was found that some families were being contacted by several agencies for purposes of providing nutrition education and information while other needy families were not being reached at all. The central coordination of educational programs might have prevented such a problematic situation.
The duplication of educational efforts in communities must be eliminated if there is to be a chance of meeting the many needs of residents. The many concerns of organizations should be determined and this information communicated throughout the community so that agencies can work together according to both strengths and weaknesses of each. In most cases the central coordination of various organizations' educational programs will provide a return greater than the total community dollars invested. Development of cross-referral guides or booklets and creation of various advisory groups to some of the educational organizations are steps in the right direction.
Building Communication Patterns
Communication is a cornerstone to cooperation and coordination. The strength of horizontal community relationships depends on the type and amount of communications carried out between agencies and people; thus, there is a need for a good communication network in each community. The network must encompass the entire community, and, for purposes of building the educative community, is especially important between educational institutions and community residents.
Schools, for example, need to inform the community as to what they are doing through such techniques as open hearings, public forums, and published materials. As noted before, community schools, community colleges, and vocational-technical institutions often will have community advisory groups to help facilitate such communication. Community agencies and residents, in turn, need to tell education officials such as teachers, administrators, and counselors what is needed and how they might help educational institutions become more efficient.
Communication is defined as the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another. For example, a community college president desires to disseminate a two-page report on the past year's continuing education and community services program to community residents. The institution's administrative staff decides that the Sunday edition of both community newspapers should be primary communication channels (obviously, other media could be used, too). Interested residents read and interpret it according to their own needs and interests. Feedback is supplied in the form of support letters, phone calls, and subsequent letters to the editor. A secondary feedback device might be something like increased enrollments the following year.
This rather simple illustration does not include all aspects of a good communication network. Good communication needs to be planned and continuous. This means that if the network of communication breaks down anywhere in the community, or if thorough communication efforts are not made on a regular basis, then some population segment could be excluded from knowledge about important aspects of community life. In the above example, those individuals who do not receive the Sunday paper might never hear about the college's continuing education efforts and could therefore fail to provide necessary support for the program without actually intending to do so.
Good communication systems must also be flexible. Flexible communication is based on the utilization of different channels of communication to reach different audiences for each particular cause, program, or issue. Parents of an elementary child might be reached through a letter sent home with the child or via the local Home and School Association. The potential community college student might be reached through a television and radio ad campaign or a high school counselor. Senior citizens might be contacted in person, by phone, or through churches and senior citizen organizations. The potential vocational-technical participant is potentially reachable through newspaper ads, public school officials, various social or employment agencies, or literature distributed at various places of employment.
People are bombarded daily with numerous communication attempts. Radio, cable and network television, newspapers, billboards, regular mail, Fax machines, and, more recently electronic mail are all communication channels utilized intensively. Thus, communication efforts by educational institutions must be concise and accurate: Accurate to build confidence on the part of the people receiving any messages and concise to compete successfully with all other communicative efforts. One popular type of workshop for educators in more recent years has been how to market educational programs, including analyses of various media, determining direct mail contacts or mailing lists, and designing promotional materials. Many larger educational organizations also employ one or more full time communication and public relations experts to help improve both the public image and an ability to reach constituents.
Therefore, if an educational institution is to effectively serve the community from which support is solicited, there are at least the following communication objectives that need to be fulfilled:
1. Accurate information about the institution must be provided.
2. Accurate information about the community and its resources must be obtained.
3. Information about new trends and developments in education must be provided.
4. Feelings of shared concern and responsibility about education need to be developed.
5. The importance of education to the community needs to be promoted.
Whatever the effort required, the development of a good communication network is crucial to successful cooperation and coordination and to developing linkages between education, citizens, and community.
Establishing a Central Coordinating Agency
Coordinating various educational efforts in a community and promoting any cooperation necessary to activate the educative community is no easy task. Many communities have attempted to provide some coordination of various planning efforts through community, county, or regional planning boards. However, these coordinating agencies usually have been concerned with planning related to economic growth and seldom have dealt with education.
To date, very few U.S. communities, for example, have tried to provide some centralized coordination of their various educational programs and activities. There are a number of reasons for this, of course, not the least of which is turf protection. Many agencies compete for the same clientele with their various programs. Some agencies have educational purposes quite separate or different from others. A training division in a large industry will have goals much apart from a nearby elementary school. However, there usually is much to be gained from coordinating programs.
Consequently, one educational organization in each community should be designated as a central coordinating agency. There are three probable candidates: (a) Community or public schools, (b) community colleges, or (c) agencies that would be newly created for the job. Each of these agencies will be described below and a rationale included to support their undertaking such tasks. Obviously, making definitive suggestions is somewhat risky and open to criticism. Many other agencies, such as community centers, churches, Cooperative Extension, University Extension Divisions, and vocational-technical schools, may be potential candidates. Those communities desiring to have a central coordinating body could pick the agency best fitting their particular situation or create some other agency for the task.
There are many advantages in selecting the public school as a central coordinating agency, especially if the school has developed itself as a community school (see Chapter Two). In locations where the community school concept is in force, community elementary schools are found in almost every neighborhood. Public schools, too, are located in every community or in most large community neighborhoods. This provides the advantage of ready access to, and acquaintance with most residents by school officials. Passage of legislation to financially support community education during the past few years has greatly increased the advantages of these institutions for coordination purposes in some states.
The community school is already the center of K-12 programs and many other educational activities in those communities where the community school or educative community concept is in force. It would not take much additional effort and expense for community schools to act as a communication channel for information on educational opportunities and needs. Such services as referring people to those educational opportunities best fitting their needs and keeping track of both skilled workers or skilled worker needs could be performed. Regular public schools could also undertake such tasks, but additional resources and a greater emphasis on community involvement would be required.
The community college, a two-year institution of higher and continuing education, is another agency that could provide the needed coordination in some American communities. Community college staffs usually contain many educators with coordinating skills and experiences. In addition, most community colleges are making an increased commitment to providing community services and educational programs off the central campus. Successfully implementing these programs require cooperation with and from other educational institutions; consequently, community colleges might be abe to expand their cooperative efforts and provide community-wide coordination.
Community colleges do not exist in every community. However, most communities have access to off-campus programs from nearby community colleges. Thus, support to leaders in most communities is available. In addition, the community college will undoubtedly play an important supportive role in many localities even if community or public schools are designated as central coordinating agencies.
There are several reasons why an entirely new agency might function successfully in a central coordinating role. For example, there would not be the need to incorporate new roles and personnel into an existing organization, as people would be employed when they are needed to fill actual or evolving roles. In addition, a new agency would not have strong vertical relationships to agencies or concerns outside of its community and could concentrate all its resources and efforts on promoting communication and coordination. Accepting the total community, rather than some specific clientele, as its constituency might also provide a similar advantage.
At least one North American community (in Iowa) has a community-wide council made up of educators and representatives from various walks of life that provides this coordination role. Although the council is volunteer and has no paid staff, it has developed a useful cross-referral guide and procedure. A local Cooperative Extension County Agent chairs the group. Another community (in Nebraska) designated a community center in a minority neighborhood to assume the coordination role for activities in that portion of the community. Originally funded with federal monies, the agency now receives local funds to continue its coordination efforts.
A third example is in New York where a vocational-technical council made up of representatives from education and business assumed the coordination role. A quarterly guide to educational opportunities, a cross-referral guide, and monthly coordination meetings are major efforts of the organization. It has a small paid staff, but uses a lot of volunteer assistance. Finally, there are resource centers in several communities (see the bibliography) that have been developed to join individuals and various organizations together for purposes of dialogue, resolving community problems, and networking. Such centers typically provide newsletters, community calendars, resource directories, and may even coordinate volunteer activities.
Proposals put forth in this section for expanding roles of the community school, public school, and community college or for creating a new organization to serve as a central coordinating agency will require some additional resources and personnel. Expanded communication facilities, computer services, and personnel trained as educational planners or change specialists are some of the potential requirements. The proposed suggestions need additional research and study to determine all of the changes that will be required before just any agency can assume a central coordinating role. However, duplication of efforts and large expenses associated with education that exist in most communities make imperative the consideration of some means to promote better cooperation and coordination.
Functions of a Central Coordinating Agency
The functions that a central coordinating agency could undertake are many and varied. They also give some clues to the personnel and resources required for the coordinating role. The following discussion on functions is based on an assumption that each community would designate, find, or create that organization best suited for coordinating tasks.
One of the basic functions that a coordinating agency could undertake has already been mentioned. Such an agency could be the central communication channel for the various community agencies and organizations involved with community and educational programs. A school is used only for illustration purposes, as any other existing or newly created agency might be utilized. For example, occupational information, information on educational opportunities, and other community information could be solicited by or sent to the elementary school in a local neighborhood. This information would then be available in one central location and sent to other schools in the larger community for expanded availability. In a small or rural community, one central school in a community or within several communities if a shared responsibility is established might be designated for the communication role.
Related to the communication function is that of a central referral service. Information on job opportunities, educational and training opportunities, recreational opportunities, and even on counseling services connected to the referral information could be provided to people as they require it. A central agency could identify the educational training required and available for entrance into certain occupations. Appendix 5-A lists possible community programs or agencies to be considered in a referral program.
Another function for the coordinating body could be acting as an information collection unit and clearinghouse on educational programs, opportunities, and resources. Such a learning network or exchange service would encompass the collection of all information useful in educational participation and planning. The sharing of community information among residents, agencies, and organizations and a continual assessment of the extent of various educational investments according to community needs could be a part of any clearinghouse function.
It also could include keeping a current inventory pertaining to the level of human resource development. This information and an analysis of current training programs then would be given to local training divisions and other educational groups for their use in planning future programs. Extensive use of computers, telecommunication devices, and cable television would facilitate such a function.
A central agency also could fulfill a vital function in coordinating the involvement of local citizens and community leaders in educational planning and decision-making. A community school could serve as a central agency) and send a representative to the planning sessions of various community agencies and organizations for purposes of supplying information and promoting coordinated efforts. The coordinating agency could implement a periodic evaluation of various educational programs available in the community. Such evaluation efforts could range from qualitative to quantitative activities. This would provide feedback to help improve the educational efforts of community organizations and would help determine where additional or different programs were needed.
The potential of coordinating education through a central agency seems great. Educational planning specialists could be trained to work in such coordinating agencies. Information on successful programs also could be shared between communities. The many efforts already existing to share resources through cross-referral guides is a step in that direction.
Investing in education is a necessary requirement for community and human growth. It is also an expensive and complicated venture. The prevention of overlap, confusion, and conflict is necessary to obtain the largest benefit from scarce investment dollars. A greater cooperation among community residents and agencies and a better coordination of educational programs will contribute to these requirements. A central coordinating agency in each community should facilitate such contributions.
Communication Process -- A process through which explanations, ideas, information, directions, feelings, and attitudes are passed from one person to another. Communications may be oral, written, or implied. The communication process can utilize symbols and various channels for message development and transmission.
Community College -- A two-year educational institution that provides transfer programs, non-credit education, and community service programs. In some states vocational-technical education is also included. In other states, separate institutions provide vocational-technical services.
Inter-Agency Coordinating Council -- An organization existing in some communities that provides various means for promoting cooperation and program coordination among agencies. Typical means include creating cross-referral booklets, maintaining mailing lists, assessing community needs, and training people in various skill areas.
Vocational/Technical Institution -- An organization existing in many communities that provides specialized (technical or other) training to people of all ages. Some organizations make special arrangements with public schools in the area to provide certain training that the schools are not able or prefer not to provide.
1. Determine if there are efforts in your community to coordinate educational programs among various agencies. Is there a central coordinating body, and, if so, what are its various responsibilities, actions, and programs?
2. Examine the list of common concerns presented earlier in this chapter. Compare this list with what you can find in your own community? What are the differences and similarities? What are the corresponding implications for planning educational programs?
3. What are some examples of inter-agency cooperation in your community? Are resources saved and more needs met than without such cooperation?
4. Are there any cross-referral guides or booklets in your community? How are they developed? How are they updated?
5. What improvements could you suggest for communications made by various educational institutions within your community?
6. Delineate some of the advertising or marketing techniques used by various educational agencies in your community? How effective are they?
7. What educational organization or institution within your community could best assume the role of central coordinating agency? Why?
8. What type of means could you use to determine if greater cooperation and coordination efforts would be of value to your community?
Briggs, J. C. (1981). Community resource centers. In H. W. Stubblefield (Ed.), Continuing education for community leadership (New Directions for Continuing Education, No 11). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. In this chapter the author describes how the community resource center offers a new process for bringing community organizations and leaders together to identify and solve community problems.
Bucy, H. H. (1990). School-community-business partnerships. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 318 894). 57 pages. This manual was developed to provide businesses with practical and easily implemented ways to meet the needs of local schools. It provides ideas and approaches for developing partnerships focused on school dropouts by exploring problems and pitfalls and offering solutions.
Canham, R. R. (1979). Interagency coordination and rapid community growth: Coping with growth. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 252 351). 5 pages. This paper describes an effort to promote interagency coordination. Barriers, giving smaller agencies a voice, and how to develop an action plan are among the topics covered.
Galbraith, M. W. (1990). Building communities of learners. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.), Education through community organizations (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 47). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. In this chapter the author describes some of the important choices that must be made if education through community organizations can be made appropriate and meaningful.
Griffiths, D. E. (1962). Organizing schools for effective education. Danville, IL: Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc., 1962. 338 pages. Index. Selected bibliography. Centering on the administrative and organizational needs of a school system, the authors describe how a school can be designed to best serve the community and society. Job descriptions of administrative positions and several case studies of school districts are provided.
Hiemstra, R. (1970). Educational investments and economic growth: A case study in continuing and community education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 049 447). 302 pages. Selected bibliography. This document reports on a case study of two Michigan communities to determine the ways they made investments in various forms of education. A trend analysis demonstrates that generally educational investments respond to changing economic investments. Various recommendations for making educational investments more appropriate and earlier are made.
Norman, C., & Brooks, R. (1990). Collaboration for rural economic development: What's working? (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 321 950). 13 pages. This is a description of a project in Georgia to revitalize rural communities. The project focuses on several efforts, including some on governmental management training, collaboration models, and community education about rural education.
Rivers, W. L., Schramm, W., & Christians, C. S. (1980). Responsibility in mass communications (3rd. Edition). New York: Harper & Row Publishers. 378 pages. Index. Suggested reading. Notes. Appendices. This book discusses the impact of mass communication, including a look at such issues as responsibility, freedom, truth, and the treatment of minorities in the news media.
Schramm, W., & Porter, W. E. (1982). Men, women, messages, & media. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 278 pages. Subject index. Name index. Further readings. This book is a collection of articles describing how the communication process works. There are suggested applications toward building good communications between school and community.
Additional related references can be found in earlier chapters.
Inter-Agency Referral Potential:
Organization/Activities Common to Many Communities
Adult Basic Education-----------------Employment Agencies
Adult Education Program--------------Family Planning
Alcoholism Counseling----------------Family Service Association
Association for Retarded Children---Good Neighbor Community Services
Better Business Bureau---------------Goodwill Industries
Boy Scout/Girl Scout Councils------Home/Neighborhood Development
Career Development Organization---Hostel (Death and Dying Care)
Chamber of Commerce--------------Human Rights Commission
Child Guidance Clinic---------------League of Women Voters
Churches (various)------------------Legal Services
City Housing Administration--------Medical and Dental Clinics
City Planning Administrator--------Mental Health Association
Community College-----------------Minority Affairs/Business Opportunity Office
Community Mission House---------Neighborhood Organizations/Councils
Cooperative Extension Service-----Parochial Schools
Council of Churches----------------Psychiatric Clinic
County Medical Associations-------Public/Community Schools
County Planning Commission-------Salvation Army
County Welfare (Social Services)---Senior Citizen Organizations
Department of Voc. Rehabilitation--Service Organizations (various)
Emergency Food and Medical--------United Way/United Services
Universities and Colleges------------Vocational/Technical Training Institution
Veterans Service Center/Hospital----Volunteer Groups and Organizations
Vocational/Employment Counseling--Y Programs
-- Return to Roger Hiemstra's opening page
-- Return to The Educative Community Contents page
-- Go to Information about the author, -- Go to the Preface, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, or the Index