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Alexandria Thinks Departments Working Together Might Be a Good Idea and Launches Unified Planning Team

By collaborating between departments, the City of Alexandria hopes to strengthen programs. (Stock photo by fizkes licensed to The Zebra Press by istockphoto.com)
By collaborating between departments, the City of Alexandria hopes to strengthen programs. (Stock photo by fizkes licensed to The Zebra Press by istockphoto.com)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Alexandria is thinking collaboration might be a good idea. Instead of three departments making decisions that affect the same parts of the population, how about those three departments sit down and talk it through together, and plan changes together?

In early 2019, prior to the pandemic, the renewal of three significant city plans affecting children and families coincided:

In one of the first major plan alignment efforts of the city, the leadership of these organizations, with support from the Alexandria City Council and the ACPS School Board, agreed to the establishment of a Unified Planning Team to jointly develop the three plans.

Working Together, Sharing Data, Saving Time and Conflicts

“The collaboration creates the opportunity to maximize collective community engagement, share important data, coordinate outputs and focus on mutual goals and outcomes,” says the City in a press release issued today. “Furthermore, the cooperative work reduces the possibilities of conflict across visions and goals, prevents information siloes that develop from the “our organization” mindset and avoids wasting resources.”

To address critical issues that have been the result of policies and practices across multiple systems, the Unified Planning Team committed to three underlying and interconnected principles that guided the development of the respective plans: trauma-informed approaches, racial equity, and developmental assets.

  • A commitment to trauma-informed approaches serves to create awareness that the prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impacts health, behavior and outcomes. The aim is to develop a shared language about trauma and resilience and improve results by recommending effective strategies that target the root causes of trauma at the family and community level.
  • A commitment to racial equity is at the heart of the work, which aims to correct systems and policies that negatively impact Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. By aligning planning across the city, the aim is to create the conditions needed for ALL Alexandrians to thrive, with an emphasis on ensuring that race will not determine quality of life, opportunities or outcomes.
  • And lastly, a commitment to the use of a developmental assets approach. Where ACEs contribute to negative life outcomes, developmental assets mitigate them by nourishing positive outcomes. The Search Institute defines Developmental Assets® as the 40 positive supports, relationships and strengths that young people need to succeed. The more assets that young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors and the more likely they are to thrive.

Together these plans will build community resilience by mitigating trauma and adversity, centering equity and building developmental assets.

Five Areas of Convergence

The Unified Planning Team identified five areas where the three plans naturally converge. While each organization’s plan also addresses issues that are specific to their respective area of work, the groups developed the following five aligned high-level strategies:

AS 1: Develop job readiness, career and employment opportunities.

AS 2: Engage students and families with supports and services within schools.

AS 3: Improve and increase out of school learning.

AS 4: Enhance technical infrastructure and close the digital divide.

AS 5: Implement integrated collaborative systems that help families and the community support the socio-emotional and physical development of children and youth.

As important as it is to develop aligned city plans, implementing the plan successfully is even more important. The Unified Planning Team recently evolved into a Unified Implementation Team to continue the partnership in carrying out these five strategies and related work over the next five years. The Team will also continue using the three underlying principles during the plan’s implementation.

Using a common reporting mechanism, the Team will report out twice a year, in the fall and spring. Initial reports will focus on outputs, or the work that is being done through policies, programs, and education and outreach related to the aligned strategies. Future reports will include outcomes achieved and any gaps or needs that are identified.

The Unified Implementation Team anticipates that having major city organizations work together, instead of in isolation, will prove beneficial to all Alexandria and serve as a model for future efforts.

All community members are invited to support and engage in the implementation of these five aligned strategies as well as the strategies in the individual plans.

For additional information, please contact Allen Lomax, Chair, Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria at 703.967.6280 or Aclomax@aol.com.

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