CUMBERLAND LINKER NETWORK: COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE GROUP
Established early 2018, with around 20 local service providers, including Cumberland Council, and early intervention services who work with youth, children and families, the group meet regularly to intentionally collaborative and coordinate for the purpose of providing a more positive experience and better outcomes for children, families young people and community, through improved collective, innovative, local service delivery.
During their collaborative practice journey, and with the support of the Linker backbone Team (LEAD Professional Development Association Inc. and Cumberland Council), this action-orientated group worked through a design process to identify the priority local needs, and the outcomes they want to collectively achieve for their clients and community over the coming years. The 2 current initiatives are the ‘Schools Project’ and the ‘Engaging Young Parents Project’. The group uses an action learning approach and develops agile action plans each meeting to progress their project work.
The ‘Schools Project’ is an initiative of the Cumberland Linker Network Collaborative Practice Group, aimed at creating a more positive, consistent and streamlined service system experience for the schools in the Cumberland area. This is achieved by:
- jointly initiate contact with local Schools,
- understanding the needs of the Schools, the students and their families
- identifying gaps and collectively trying out new fit for purpose, service/program solutions, and effectively connecting schools to existing services/programs
- following up to ensure that the School, students and their families get the help they need at the right time.
The approach is to provide each School with a nominated Lead Linker (a representative from one of the Local Linker network member organisation/service provider, who may already have a relationship with the school), who becomes the main point of contact between the school and the other local service providers who are members of the Linker Network and beyond.
A pilot project was run in 2 high schools and 2 primary schools. Interviews with the principals helped identify the school’s, student and parent needs, and services/programs needed. This information helped the Cumberland Linker Network members to collectively determine how to best support each school.
Feedback from principals and school staff was extremely encouraging, particularly around having a designated point of contact to help them find services for their vulnerable families and bringing needed programs to the schools.
The expected outcome of this initiative is for schools with Lead Linkers to have a more positive experience with local community services, get services/programs that benefit their students, and their families will get the help they need when they need!
The Cumberland Linker Network Collaborative Practice Group continues to build strong foundations of trust amongst members, work towards a common agenda for change including a shared understanding of the problem, a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions and shared measures.
The aim is for all Linker Network member organisations in the Cumberland is to have confidence that everyone is working at the same high standard, upholding the principles and standards of the Linker Network principles, to deliver consistently positive experiences for clients.
Observations of the group’s journey so far are that:
- Trusting and quality relationships have developed, and member interactions are positive
- There’s been mindset shift in the belief in the ‘why and how’ of the collective Linker approach
- The Linker Backbone Team helps support and drive momentum for the project work
- There’s improved and shared understanding of local area needs and issues
- A long lead time is needed to build the foundations for collaborative practice
- Investing time and energy has led to a collective learning experience and excitement within the group for achieving better outcomes for their clients created by working together.