Realigning
a Regional Collaborative

Client Norfolk County 8

Practice Area Coalition Management & Building

The Story of Norfolk County 8

The Norfolk County-8 (NC-8) Local Public Health Coalition is a Shared Services Arrangement (SSA) funded by the Public Health Excellence (PHE) grant program from the Office of Local and Regional Health (OLRH) and comprises the Boards of Health and Health Departments of Canton, Dedham, Milton, Norwood, Walpole, Wellesley, and Westwood. The NC-8 service area provides regional public health programming encompassing community health education and outreach, disease control and prevention, mental health support, and community sanitation to a combined community of nearly 200,000 residents. 

NC-8 is unique among many of the Commonwealth’s PHE grantees in that the group had an established, rich tradition of coordinating public health services across the participating communities. Building upon more than a decade of emergency preparedness and planning collaboration, NC-8 formally convened as a SSA in 2021 to further strengthen their partnership and leverage additional resources to collectively support the physical, mental, and social health of its residents. The Coalition leverages their strong ties to continue building regional capacity and supporting initiatives to meet not only the requirements of the PHE grant, but also achieve their ambitious shared objectives.

The Opportunity to Realign Common Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic tested the local public health system across the entire nation in unprecedented ways. The urgency of the public health emergency shifted NC-8’s focus to the immediate management of disease response in their own individual communities. As the pandemic abated and the collaborative returned its gaze to regional programming and planning, NC-8 discovered a need to refresh shared organizational goals, despite the Coalition’s preceding years of time-tested collaboration. There was a need to reconvene around new objectives and programs that aligned with the newly altered, post-COVID public health landscape. 

NC-8 understood that the coalition required a thoughtful reassessment of its public health priorities with an emphasis on streamlining regional coordination, re-establishing collective ways of working, and positioning itself to meet and exceed the Performance Standards as part of the PHE grant program.

How BME Strategies Responded

Recognizing the need for organizational realignment, BME Strategies initiated a series of key informant interviews with NC-8 leadership to assess the collaborative’s current state and better understand the path forward. The interviews were designed to capture qualitative data related to NC-8’s governance and shared functions, including meeting cadence and structure, management of regional staff, management of grant deliverables and reporting, finances, and possible directions for new regional initiatives. BME analyzed the interview results and identified key themes for organizational improvement and redirection. These interviews have served as the primary catalyst to reorganize programming and adopt new ways of working to enhance the collaborative’s value to all NC-8 communities. 

BME also collaborated with NC-8 to integrate the results of a statewide capacity assessment into the development of the group’s Fiscal Year 2024 PHE work plan and budget. Key areas of opportunity included introducing a new system for regional staff management, expanding public health nursing support and inspectional capacity, and adopting new technology to standardize and simplify inspections across the region. BME initiated an ongoing review of the capacity assessment data in meetings to drive further discussion and opportunities for improvement across the coalition. This activity has surfaced additional ideas for group training to support NC-8 staff development in areas where the current training landscape is lacking, such as hoarding and housing court preparation. 

The Results

BME and NC-8 leveraged the results of the key informant interviews to adopt new norms for meeting facilitation and coalition communication. First, BME supported the coalition in convening in person at least once a quarter to help the group reconnect. The meeting structure was also updated to become more targeted and efficient, incorporating regular, ongoing review of fiscal activity and work plan progress updates. These small adjustments optimized decision-making during regular NC-8 convenings while facilitating a collaborative environment for discussion. 

In partnership with BME, NC-8 also met all PHE grant deliverables for Fiscal Year 2023 and received a significant budget increase to continue regional programming expansion and robust workforce development. These new work plan objectives, informed by both the capacity assessment and the key informant interview results, include the hire of a Regional Inspector and a Regional Public Health Nurse to bolster the NC-8 workforce, and rollout of shared inspectional software to improve documentation management. 

Below is a brief list of recent achievements resulting from the partnership between NC-8 and BME.

Deliverables:

  • NC-8 PHE Grant Dashboard to seamlessly integrate work plan and budget progress updates, communicate next steps, and surface risks and subsequent mitigation tasks in a visual format for use at monthly meetings.
  • A summary document of the Capacity Assessment results capturing individual survey questions and NC-8 responses, organized by subject area and response frequency for a detailed yet user-friendly overview of the data.
  • Launch of comprehensive shared inspectional software agreement to improve inspectional consistency and bandwidth across NC-8 communities.

Overall Impact Statement

BME integrated internal surveys and external assessments to facilitate renewed organizational cohesion and alignment, facilitating NC-8’s successful planning and programming to meet community needs and anticipate the evolving public health landscape.