Case Study from Community Partnership Family Resource Center
The Community Partnership Family Resource Center (Community Partnership) created the Teller Talks in 2015 in order to provide a platform to discuss and present topics of interest to members of their community. While providing programming to families, Community Partnership regularly sends out standards of quality surveys to gauge what participants like of their current programming and what support they need from the organization. Prior to Teller Talks, the lowest rating on their survey (which was still above 80%) was related to having opportunities to meet and get to know other families, and especially families that are different from their own.
They needed to figure out how to increase and create opportunities for their clients to get together with other community members. In addition, families often had specific subjects that they wanted to learn more about in addition to the available parent education opportunities. The Teller Talks program was developed with these needs in mind, to serve as another forum to provide education on various subjects for families while also getting community members together.
Teller Talk topics are based on the needs and interests of Teller County residents, and have included issues such as child safety, parent self-care, and energy efficiency. They began with Community Partnership staff acting as hosts of small talks to engage community members and begin to develop a structure. After a while, they started inviting guest speakers, and the program has continued to grow from there. Today, Community Partnership provides 10-12 Teller Talks per year, on a monthly basis. The presentation format of the talk varies, along with the audience, attendance, and the topic at hand. They try to build in a parent cafe-style discussion for each event, and generally have between 12-100 attendees. Community Partnership usually collaborates with another organization for each event.
Since the beginning of the project, Community Partnership’s main investment has been staff time. Each talk requires them to find a venue, work with a partner, and determine the content of the talk, including what questions to ask families during the discussion. They try to predict how families will respond and how that might change the direction of the conversation. Community Partnership divides this work among various program coordinator staff, and they have an administrative assistant who is responsible for general scheduling and data tracking. They also regularly invest in program materials, food for attendees, and child care for attendees (sometimes the partner organization can provide these).
When Community Partnership first began hosting the talks, different staff would manage various pieces and would alternate roles. They realized that a lack of a set structure and clear expectations was an issue, as the events were inconsistent in format and coordination. To address this, they worked to develop procedures internally for planning and coordinating each talk. The procedures included planning guidelines for the program coordinator and a debrief following the event to discuss what worked and what didn’t work, leading to process improvement over time.
The project has grown steadily, and is becoming well-known in their community. Community Partnership credits this growth to continual promotion of the events, quality programming, and partnerships. These partnerships bring in resources as well as additional attendees, and have been key to the success of the program. Some partners are grant-funded and have outreach requirements, and collaboration with Community Partnership provides them with the opportunity to conduct that outreach in an engaging way. In turn, they often have the funding to provide other materials (print materials, films for screenings, etc.) that Community Partnership does not have a budget for. In addition, participation from the local family resource center makes many community members feel more comfortable attending; they have found that family resource centers act as natural “hotspots”. This collaborative format helps to coordinate the messages that organizations send out to families. Rather than many different organizations trying to host individual gatherings, which often don’t have high participation or attendance, partnering for these talks unifies their efforts, leading to clearer messaging and higher engagement.
Attendees report enjoying the opportunity to get together and discuss things that are challenging them at the time through the Teller Talks. While Community Partnership doesn’t have a specific measurement for social connection, participants say that they value the opportunity to attend, sometimes learning about a new resource or new skill, and sometimes just for the reminder that they are not alone.
Partners are seeing the value as well, as it helps them to connect with their communities and, for some, meet requirements for grant funding.
Advice on Replication
Community Partnership believes that this could be replicable, and they would recommend preparing to launch a similar project by developing a structure for the program, getting procedures in place, and having a plan for marketing. Other key tasks include ensuring that partner expectations are clear, and looking into an event space ahead of time, especially if located in a rural area. In general, Community Partnership advises that a lot of effort and resources go into this program with limited support. They would like to be able to measure outcomes and better demonstrate their success, but they don’t currently have the resources to do so, which is a continual challenge.