Strategic Planning with a shared services arrangement

Client Metro Public Health Alliance

Practice Area Strategic Planning and Design

The Story of the Metro Public Health Collaborative

The Metro Public Health Collaborative (MPHC), formed in 2022, is a public health Shared Services Arrangement  (SSA) between the towns of Arlington, Belmont, and Brookline, and the city of Newton, all in Massachusetts. In addition to being close geographically, the four health departments share many of the same public health challenges, values, and levels of service delivery to their constituents. These similarities served as the basis for becoming an SSA to increase the equitable delivery of public health services across their municipalities.

The Opportunity to Align on a Shared Strategy

In their first year, the MPHC hired a Shared Services Coordinator (now Manager) to manage the grant, a Regional Public Health Specialist to assist with restaurant and housing inspections and work on regional initiatives, and a Regional Epidemiologist to gather and report on data and trends across the municipalities. Given the infancy of the SSA, the Shared Services Coordinator recognized the need and importance that proactive strategic planning would have on this group to address several challenges:

  • Local public health service delivery is traditionally reactive, especially in Massachusetts due to its decentralized structure. Strategic planning would help the MPHC counteract this trend and be able to dictate its goals. 
  • The novelty of the SSA meant that there was no set path or structure for the MPHC to follow. The MPHC was already experiencing challenges related to this while trying to draft its legal governing document and manage the regional staff. Regional staff members did not have clearly defined roles and structures for allocating their time across the municipalities. Both of these issues pointed to the larger issue of joint decision-making. 
  • While these four municipalities had worked together in different capacities through various larger regional groups and emergency preparedness coalitions, they did not have a shared history of working together this closely.

How BME Strategies Responded

BME Strategies worked with the MPHC for six months to develop a five-year strategic plan. Professionally facilitated, 90-minute virtual meetings were held once per month and the process evolved over three phases.  

In the first phase, BME Strategies partnered with the coalition to facilitate conversations to develop MPHC’s mission, vision, and guiding principles and draft their strategic priorities and five-year goals. Based on industry research and our work with other SSAs, BME Strategies provided best practice recommendations for the sharing of public health services. 

During phase two, the five-year goals were finalized and one-year objectives were established to meet these goals. These objectives included specific deliverables, due dates, and task owners. BME Strategies conducted interviews with stakeholders identified by the MPHC Advisory Board to gather feedback on the draft strategic plan. This was presented back to MPHC and incorporated into the final document. During this phase, BME Strategies supported MPHC in identifying the necessary standard operating procedures (SOP) and in developing a set of initial SOPs based on best practices for sharing public health services. Additionally, conversations were held to address the long-term sustainability of the MPHC, including determining and documenting their ideal meeting cadence and structure, decision-making procedures, and procedures to add additional members in the future. 

In phase three, BME Strategies finalized the strategic plan, worked with a graphic designer to produce an external-facing version, and supported the MPHC Shared Services Manager to develop an implementation plan and establish progress-tracking mechanisms.

The Results

At the conclusion of this engagement, BME Strategies supported MPHC in creating a five-year strategic plan that includes the following:

  • Mission, vision, and guiding principles 
  • Strategic priorities, five-year goals, and one-year objectives and deliverables
  • Identified SOPs and associated best practices
  • Identified External Factors impacting the MPHC’s ability to meet their plan
  • Key factors to support long-term sustainability
  • Year-one implementation plan


This strategic plan created a framework for making decisions around budget expenditures, hiring, programmatic initiatives, and much more. Additionally, it aids in the creation of their annual work plan. Members of the MPHC team commented that beyond the deliverables, the process helped them to better understand each other and become a more cohesive team. Drafting the strategic plan required representatives from each municipality to meet regularly to discuss their short- and long-term goals for the SSA, to identify what is most important to them, and to collaborate with each other to establish a shared mission and vision. This exercise significantly contributed to further solidifying the arrangement, building relationships, and creating a cohesive body.

Deliverables:

  • An internal five-year strategic plan
  • An external-facing copy of the plan with graphic design
  • Best Practices for Shared Services Arrangements 
  • Identification of Standard Operating Procedures
  • Decision-making and meeting cadence procedures 
  • Stakeholder feedback report

Overall Impact Statement

BME Strategies and the MPHC worked closely together to develop their five-year strategic plan, building the foundation and developing the roadmap to expand public health services and provide them equitably across municipalities for years to come.