A focus group was conducted to explore the application of a cross-system collaboration and its effect on service delivery outcomes among social service agencies in a large urban county on the West Coast. The focus group consisted of 10 social workers and was led by a facilitator from the local office of a major community support organization (the organization). Participants in the focus group had diverse experiences working with children, youth, adults, older adults, and families. They represented agencies that addressed child welfare, family services, and community mental health issues. The group included five males and five females from diverse ethnicities.
The focus group was conducted in a conference room at the organization’s headquarters. The organization was interested in exploring options for greater collaboration and less fragmentation of social services in the local area. Participants in the group were recruited from local agencies that were either already receiving or were applying for funding from the organization. The 2-hour focus group was recorded.
The facilitator explained the objective of the focus group and encouraged each participant to share personal experiences and perspectives regarding cross-system collaboration. Eight questions were asked that explored local examples of cross-system collaboration and the strengths and barriers found in using the model. The facilitator tried to achieve maximum participation by reflecting the answers back to the participants and maintaining eye contact.
To analyze the data, the researchers carefully transcribed the entire recorded discussion and utilized a qualitative data analysis software package issued by StatPac, which offers a product called Verbatim Blaster. This software focuses on content coding and word counting to identify the most salient themes and patterns.
The focus group was seen by the sponsoring entity as successful because every participant eventually provided feedback to the facilitator about cross-system collaboration. It was also seen as a success because the facilitator remained engaged and nonjudgmental and strived to have each participant share their experiences.
In terms of outcomes, the facilitator said that the feedback obtained was useful in exploring new ways of delivering services and encouraging greater cooperation. As a result of this process, the organization decided to add a component to all agency annual plans and reports that asked them to describe what types of cross-agency collaboration were occurring and what additional efforts were planned.
Plummer, Sara-Beth, Sara Makris, Sally Brocksen. Social Work Case Studies: Concentration Year. Laureate Publishing, 10/21/13. VitalBook file.
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