Challenges and Obstacles
Equally important lessons came from the challenges and obstacles Comprehensive Strategy pilot sites encountered and the steps they took to overcome them. In general, as with the critical success factors, the pilot sites experienced a common set of challenges and obstacles as they undertook their Comprehensive Strategy initiatives.
A cornerstone of the Comprehensive Strategy is its data-driven framework for planning and decisionmaking in the provision of youth services. Collecting data is the core of the risk assessment process, and the pilot sites found the data collection task to be a considerable challenge. They encountered difficulty in identifying appropriate data and data sources, accessing these data, and analyzing data that were often discordant. They also faced agency and institutional concerns about the consequences of sharing or revealing "unfavorable" data, particularly the concern about potentially adverse effects on funding. Data collection challenges were generally overcome through a combination of patience, perseverance, technical assistance, cooperation, and compromise. When information could not be found, someone was willing to continue looking. The DRP and NCCD trainers often were able to help point the data collection efforts in the right direction, and the very collaborative nature of the process often led to the discovery of new sources of information. When different counting or tracking systems led to inconsistent numbers, members of the data collection team decided which data to use.
Turf IssuesAgency and Community Support
"Put your resources on the table and remove your hands." This rule was adopted by one of the pilot site's workgroups. Interagency "turf" issues emerged in varying degrees in each site, in part because many of the people, organizations, and agencies involved were not used to working together. Some feared potential loss of funding because of weaknesses that might be revealed during the data collection and assessment process. Others feared that they might "lose [their] market if others hear what [they're] doing." In general, turf issues dissipated as trust among participants grew and as they grew more comfortable working together. In San Diego County, for example, one agency representative described how identifying service gaps helped her organization better target its services to particular geographic regions within certain service categories, allowing other providers to focus on other areas.
Scheduling and Time Demands
The Comprehensive Strategy planning process required a significant time commitment from participants, which presented scheduling and coordination challenges in each site. The support of key agency leaders facilitated staff participation, but most participants contributed to the Comprehensive Strategy planning process on their own time. Lee County found it helpful to schedule meetings at the same location and same time each month to allow participants to plan their schedules accordingly. Meeting agendas and minutes were circulated to help people plan and keep apprised of events. In San Diego County, key agency leaders were required to attend weekly meetings during the first 3 months to expedite the decisionmaking process.
Bringing "all the right players to the table" proved to be somewhat of a challenge to the pilot sites, especially in the early planning stages. Particularly challenging was engaging grassroots, community-based organizations and local citizens. As with turf issues, lack of trust and fear of the implications of this new process made some reluctant to participate. Over time, persistent invitations to become involved and increasing community awareness of the Comprehensive Strategy process and its potential for service and system improvements led to increased levels of participation.