Beacon Life Skills Coaching is a non- profit substance abuse prevention agency that is a provider of substance abuse prevention services for the South East Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA) and a licensed Community Alternatives Information and Training (CAIT) provider by the Michigan Department of Community Health Substance Abuse Prevention Section. The mission of the agency is to implement leadership strategies that encourage, enlighten and empower individuals, stimulating positive changes which lead to more productive lives. The primary nature of their business is:
- To advise specific groups (professionals and non-professionals) within a community of the nature of substance abuse and its problem areas and the resources available to combat the problem.
- To research, develop, and implement extra learning opportunities for specific target groups (includes professionals and non-professionals). This includes substance abuse prevention education programs for the community, individuals and schools.
The agency utilizes trained prevention specialist and consultants who works from their hearts, demonstrating the effective use of the skills that they offer to their clients.The substance abuse prevention programs help:
- Identify issue that can lead to substance abuse
- Clarify objectives, set and work towards realistic goals
- Make better use of one's skills and abilities
The guideline for licensing and certification for this agency are set by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) which follows the federal guidelines of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMSHA).
The agencies configuration contains features of both the old and the new organizational structure. The primary titles are Executive Director, who must also be a Certified Prevention consultant and community organizer, and substance abuse prevention specialist. Their jobs are "clearly delineated specialized individual positions within a hierarchical structure that contains clear lines of authority." (Ancona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen, Westney, 2009, p. M1-12). Basically, each job classification has specified educational and certification requirements that must be possessed in order to provide direct (face-to-face) service to a client. There are specific continuing education and training requirements that must be met on a bi yearly basis which allows individuals with specialized jobs and positions "to deepen their expertise in a particular task" (Ancona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen, Westney, 2009, p. M1-12) and remain abreast of the circumstances and solutions that influence service delivery.
Boundaries for each agency are set geographically by county which restricts the services to residents in the state of Michigan who reside in the County of Wayne with concentration in the 48111 zip code which encompasses the tri-city community of Belleville, Van Buren Township and Sumpter Township respectively.
The new organizational features are the utilization of coalitions which help to build alliances with key individuals within the community (reference appendix table one).
This is in alignment with the agency's goal is to implement environmental changes, programs and initiatives within the tri-community area that will decrease availability of drugs and alcohol, change community laws and norms that are favorable to drug use, increase commitment to school, and decrease drug use among youth.
Strategic Design Assessment
Within the developmental structure of the community wheel lays the contrasting nature of creating an atmosphere of teamwork among groups of professionals, who don't naturally work well together, to implement strategies to deliver services to groups of minority youth ages 12 - 18 with emphasis on high risk groups demonstrating academic failure/dropouts, violent and delinquent behaviors and students already using substances whose culture they don't fully understand. Success can be achieved.
The tri city community has a task force called Resources Assisting Community Youth (RACY) that began in 1988. Their mission is: "To increase academic success among the youth in the Belleville, Sumpter and Van Buren area by providing educational programs that focus on teaching necessary skills, such as: substance abuse prevention, empathy, communication, decision making, and problem solving. The coalition plans to work toward this goal by maintaining current evidence based programming that has already proven successful within the Van Buren School District."
Prevention has evolved over the last 22 years and the works that RACY has done to pave the way is greatly appreciated. Their mission is still robust yet it is time to archive their historical self centered approached to prevention and create and environment of inclusiveness.
A prime example: The director has publicly stated that "RACY is the clearing house for prevention services in the tri city community and no agency will be able to provide prevention services without permission from RACY". This tactic is not community driven nor endorsed by all parties with a vested interest and should be a stance taken independently from the coalition. In the event his approach to prevention services is lawful, falls within the confines of prevention guidelines and proper usage of prevention funding, this self governing tactic should ensure key stakeholders from Sumpter Township, Van Buren Township and the city of Belleville are active members of the coalition and support this strategy. In my opinion, this is why the RACY's transformation into a community coalition has failed.
The proposed new structure of the RACY coalition (reference Table two) includes, but is not limited to agencies that currently provide services in the tri-city area. This structure flattens the old hierarchy and levels the playing field by ensuring that key stakeholders, at a minimum the Mayor or Township supervisor, Law Enforcement, school administration and/or the board of education, from each community are on the board of directors. All other coalition members are sorted into their roles according to the community wheel (reference table one). The community wheel combines, via relationship building, all of the roles and community sectors necessary to alleviate risk factors and provide protective factors (reference table four) for youth and their families to reduce or prevent substance abuse.
The structure is designed so that all members of the team are actively engaged in decision making. The underlying strategy of the structure is the congruence model which "can be a systematic way of aligning your company or team around a strategy" (The Nation, 2008).
The model has four essential components: critical tasks, people, culture and formal organization:
Critical tasks: You need to specify the key objectives that underpin the strategy. Then, workflows and business processes need to be adjusted accordingly. People: What are the skills, competencies, attitudes and personal qualities of the organization? How can they be used to effectively implement the strategy? Or do they need to be adjusted? Culture: It is the fuel for sustained competitive advantage. Culture is displayed in the norms, values, communication networks or informal power structures. Formal organization: Reward systems, information systems and human resource management systems. While changing these structures and systems can be straightforward, it should only be done after considering the other three elements. (The Nation, 2008).
This structure ensures that information, leadership and decision making flows horizontally and vertically. The congruence model ensures that the strategy is appropriate and can be put into action, the service providers are competent, and culture (race, norms, values, and communication) is represented in all aspects. Triumphant completion of the first three elements of the model will successfully align the organization. Collectively, all four components create a system that supports the strategy.
Once the coalition has been restructured, the strategic plan of the organization can be optimized and achieve its goals by utilization of the strategic Prevention Framework model (SPF). "SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework platform is a systemic community-based approach, which aims to ensure that substance abuse prevention programs can and do produce results" (SAMSHA 2010).
There are 5 keys components to the model, assessment, capacity, planning, implementation, evaluation all of which are overlaid by cultural competency and sustainability.
Assessment ensures that the community has determined, through a data driven process, what the priority risk factors are and in which domains (individuals, community, family, and school) they fall. Capacity building is basically an assessment and strategic plan combined designed to determine what community services exist, evaluating the programs they provide, and assess the gaps in services.
Planning ensure appropriate protective factors can be provided through a continuum of care and that effective strategies are utilized to address each of the communities priority risk factors. It also entails researching various theories and science-based prevention strategies and model programs for implementation and assessing potential barriers to implementation. Implementation is executing the strategies and applications set by the SPF model simultaneously overcoming impromptu barriers or those indentified in the planning stages. Evaluation is a way of measuring effectiveness to recognizing went according to plan, what did not work and what areas need improvement. Cultural competency is ensuring that everyone involved in the process understand and appreciate the cultural backgrounds of the clients.
The knowledge, expertise and power that lies within the structure of the coalition is necessary in order to provide services effectively at the community level yet it should not complicate the process to the degree of ineffectiveness and poor use and administration of services. Therefore, in my opinion, the primary focus should always be to learn from the client; plan with the client in mind; begin with what they have; build on what they know; when it's done we all remark and they have done it themselves. Besides, where does the client go when they need help? They go directly to the provider of services, not to the coalition, its board of directors or any of its political allies.
RACY's board of directors are key stakeholders and consist of school officials, lobbyist, government and city officials. Collectively assembling a group of politicians, city officials and professionals stimulates the coalition. When the power and influence is used to leverage support and funding for a specific agency as opposed to the collaborative it constructs an environment that lacks trust, causes animosity, creates barriers, and complicates the process and impacts service delivery. Personal stance and favoritism are common behaviors that are interjected into any process nevertheless the key stakeholders "must negotiate equitable consequences when interest or expectations conflict" (Anacona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen, Westney 2009, p. M7-6) ensuring that ulterior motives are not transparent and the solution is fair to all. The key stakeholder's job is to integrate each agency vested interest and aspirations as it relates to client services with the needs of the coalition to produce mutual gains. How can key stakeholders maintain loyalty between their jobs and agencies that are in are suffering from political turbulence?
The act of being fair and equitable is not complicated. The problem is when personal interest, relationships and biases supersede job responsibilities causing the lack of interest for other agencies involved in the process to be transparent. The new structure (reference table two) ensures that leadership and communication runs horizontally and vertically in the structure. The second step in the transformation process is to ensure the board considers the natural barriers that cause coalition member to adopt the divide and conquer mentality:
Turf issues: Organizations and individuals may be sensitive about sharing their work. Part of the work of starting a coalition may be to convince a number of organizations that working together will in fact benefit them all and better address community issues. Domination by one group or organization: Coalitions are by definition diverse, and this diversity is part of what makes them strong. Create a participatory atmosphere and encourage everyone to give their ideas and time so no one group dominates. Poor links to the community: Coalitions must always keep in mind the community they are working to improve, and keep community concerns and needs at the forefront of their work. Failure to provide and create leadership within the coalition: Coalitions demand a very special kind of collaborative leadership which can harness the strength of everyone involved. Cultivation of this leadership is important to success. (Physicians for Human Rights para.2 items 1-4)
The common thread to coalition participation is each agencies desire to provide services to the community. Most often, the larger organization has influence and power over the board nonetheless, yet the majority should not rule. The minority or the smaller agency is what diversifies the coalition and may be the sole entity that has a complete understating of the population that needs to be served. These differences should bring compromise, understanding, balance, and respect. The diversity should create cultural competency which is a requirement of the Strategic Prevention Framework model and can stimulate meaningful discussion that will help the coalition achieve its goals. Therefore the majority should not always rule...in many cases the minority is right.
The aforementioned approach moves the coalition form bound to networked Once all the difference have been embraced, all parties will feel unified, welcome, take ownership of the goals, and feel free to communicate openly. Common strategies can be developed, existing relationship will be cultivated, credit for accomplishments can be distributed fairly, and consensus can be reached which will formalize the coalition and complements step four of the congruence model.
Diversification by way of race, ethnicity, culture, generation (reference table five) has caused a major shift in the tri city community over the last decade especially within the school system. However, the transformation did not diversify groups of teachers, administrators, school board members, government officials or substance abuse prevention services providers all who have diverse clientele, primarily African American heritage, nonetheless, the African American teacher, principal, coalition or school board member is scarce to nonexistent. The consensus among key stakeholders is that the problems the community faces are due to the cultural shift; families moving from the inner city (Detroit and Inkster) to the suburbs. This is true; hence little has been done to understand how these families think, feel and why they behave the manner they do. Understanding and using culture to drive organizational behavior can be very effective. Adjusting it will take time and a clear imperative for change" (The Nation, 2008). History has shaped the cultural schemas of the coalition members and the representatives of each sector. What can be done to create an environment of inclusiveness and cultural competency?
The goal is to identify methods that create an environment conducive to learning that is not negatively impacted by the cultural biases. The coalition has been grouped according to their specialty (reference table two). The next step is to link each group to culturally competent resources that are in alignment with their service delivery. The core components of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF), assessment, capacity, planning, implementation, and evaluation will be utilized to achieve the goal.
An assessment will be conducted to define the culture within each community, identify their core characteristics, shared attitudes, practices, values and their cultural, ethnic and generational requirements to facilitate a thorough understanding of the target audience. This information will assist with determining the core components of a culturally diverse coalition and substance abuse prevention programs.
The impact of culture on alcohol, tobacco and other drug usage will be measured to determine if the coalition has the capacity to service this population, identify the gaps in service delivery and ensure that the coalition and goals are adequate. This will also determine if the coalition's goals and strategies are a match with the needs of the population they intend to serve.
Prior to the planning phase, technical assistance must be provided to the key stakeholders and the coalition members to develop culturally competent policies and governance documents that will to create a system that supports the initiative and ensure that each member is committed to obtaining the minimum knowledge to value, respect, and build on diversity. Once this has been done, culturally appropriate prevention programs can be designed for implementation.
Lastly a culturally competent evaluator will be consulted to determine the effectiveness of the program and the process by surveying the coalition members and clientele (reference table six -sample questions).
There are similarities and differences among all cultures. The issue is how community coalitions can meet the needs of the clients they serve. 'An effective program is aware of these differences and incorporates strategies accordingly' (Diversity and substance abuse prevention. 2010). Once this is accomplished it will be a profound achievement, a move in the right direction and preparatory for future ethnicities that penetrate the white American culture.
Findings and Issues
Actions and Recommendations
- Pina, M., Martinez, A., & Martinez, L. (2008). Teams in organizations: A review on team effectiveness. Teams Performance Management, 14(1/?2), 7-21.
The Community Wheel shows a range of different sectors and stakeholders that should exist in a community coalition.
The community wheel. (2008). In CMCA workbook. CMCA: Communities mobilizing for change on alcohol (p. 34). Youth leadership institute.
The new structure includes, but is not limited to providers who are currently providing services in the tri-city area. This structure flattens the old hierarchy which levels the playing field for each agency that is represented.
SPF uses a five-step process, that should be implemented at the community level, to promote youth development through extra learning opportunities, reduce risk-taking behaviors, build assets and resilience, and prevent problem behaviors across their life span.
Assessment, capacity, planning, implementation, evaluation. (n.d.). Strategicprevention framework. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from US department of health and human services substance abuse and mental health division website http://prevention.samhsa.gov/assessment/default.aspx
The matrix denotes the risk factors that may cause problems in 5 domains: substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, school drop and violence.
Communities that care [Risk factor problem behavior matrix]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2010, from US department of health and human services website: http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/Prevline/pdfs/ctc/RiskFactorsMatrix.pdf
Race: A socially defined population that is derived from distinguishable physical characteristics that are genetically transmitted.
Ethnic: Belonging to a common group - often linked by race, nationality, and language - with a common cultural heritage and/or derivation.
Culture: The shared values, norms, traditions, customs, arts, history, folklore, and institutions of a group of people.
Generation: A group of individuals born within the same time period. They will often share common goals, ideals, and lifestyles
Cultural Competence: A set of academic and interpersonal skills that allow individuals to increase their understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and similarities within, among, and between groups. This requires a willingness and ability to 1) draw on community-based values, traditions, and customs; and 2) to work with knowledgeable persons of and from the community in developing focused interventions, communications, and other support.
Cultural Diversity: Differences in race, ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion among various groups within a community, organization, or nation. A city is said to be culturally diverse if its residents include members of different groups.
Cultural Sensitivity: An awareness of the nuances of one's own and other cultures.
Culturally Appropriate: Demonstrating both sensitivity to cultural differences and similarities and effectiveness in using cultural symbols to communicate a message.
The following questionnaire contain sample question that may be asked to measure cultural the coalitions cultural competency.
- Were emphasis, involvement, and participation of diverse cultures and generations prevalent?
- Was the coalition committed to intensive outreach?
- Did the coalition recognize the need within racial/ethnic/ generational groups for legitimacy, acceptance, and credibility?
- Did the coalition members acquire culturally appropriate skills in communication, etiquette, and problem solving?
- Were differences recognized and acknowledged?
- Did the coalition emphasize involvement and participation for different generations, cultures, racial, and ethnic groups?
- Did the coalition recognize, value, respect, and build upon diversity?
- Did the coalition integrate multi-ethnic and multi-specific approaches?
- Did the coalition commit to inclusion and building of relationships?
- Did the coalition encourage involvement of all groups in all phases?