(Thanks to Pamela Schwartz for the write-up!)

We had an excellent site visit with the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH) on August 11th.  Approximately 20 members of our Network attended, along with Laila Bernstein from ICHH, Emily Cohen from One Family, Sue Beaton from The Fireman Foundation, Joe Finn from the Mass. Housing and Shelter Alliance and Madeleine Taylor from Arbor Consulting Partners.

Gerry McCafferty offered an excellent presentation on the current status and development of our Network.  Thank you, Gerry!

The Network Lens
Madeleine Taylor, in her capacity as a consultant for network development, presented information about the different types and functions of networks.  She offered three categories:  (1) connectivity – a network that exists to simply disseminate and exchange information and does not need to meet in person to do so; (2) alignment – a network that exchanges information in the context of a well-articulated, shared goal and requires some but not frequent face-to-face contact to further its goal  and (3) productivity – a network that is outcome oriented and provides the vehicle for getting concrete work done in a coordinated and well-organized fashion.  Madeleine suggested that the Leadership Council as a group would best meet the definition of an “alignment” network; while the Committees of the Council is where the productivity takes place.  This conversation formed the basis for a later break-out session around how best to proceed in the internal development of our Network, which all participants found extremely useful and has already served as a catalyst for immediate next steps.

Western Mass Network Challenges
The group then broke up into three smaller groups to discuss, list and report out Network challenges and assets.  It was an excellent opportunity to collect particpants’ perspectives on what is working and what can work better and probably the most striking thing was the consistency in observations across all three groups.  Without getting into too much detail here (and flip charts will be summarized and returned to us, so we can triumph over every detail), some examples included:  the challenge of our meeting the needs across such a broad geographical area that includes very urban and very rural; the challenge of making data collection as efficient and unduplicative as possible; the challenge of sharing information and creating trust among so many diverse players who are so broadly spread geographically.

Draft Assessment Tool for Review
Laila gave a brief update regarding the draft assessment tool (see related post) and requested our feedback by next Monday.  She explained that due to the later timing of HUD’s anticipated revisions of their HMIS form, ICHH cannot afford to wait on it to start collecting data.    She acknowledged the imperfection of having two separate but overlapping assessment tools and ICHH will do what it can as soon as it can (and HUD permits) to create a better synthesis.  Meanwhile, please let Pamela Schwartz know any feedback you have about the currently proposed assessment form at [email protected]

Lunch!  It was good and a great chance to chat.  Thanks to Liz Sullivan and DMH for hosting us!

Afternoon sessions
The afternoon was spent in three break-out groups:  family innovations, individual innovations, and network development and outcomes.  Because each group was so engaged in its discussion, we chose to have more of it instead of taking time to report back to the whole group, so notes on each will await compilation by the group facilitators.  As a participant in the network development group, the group’s conversation can best be captured by what flowed from it:  we are planning a network development meeting on Wednesday, September 9, 2-5 pm at the Haskell Building, DMH, Northampton, that will be devoted to our internal structure and decisionmaking (more details to follow).  There is great energy and determination to lay the groundwork for an incredibly functional “aligned” and “productive” network.  Please join us if you can.

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