Facing the end of their funding cycles, grant recipients often scramble to determine next steps, struggling at the 11th hour to identify the resources and partners needed to continue their prevention efforts. But waiting until the final hours to begin “sustainability planning”—the process of identifying those key elements needed to sustain prevention efforts—is not the best recipe for success.
“Sustainability is about making connections. Building partnerships. Establishing processes. But these connections and partnerships and processes take time to develop. They can’t be built at the last minute,” says Molly Ferguson, Training and Technical Assistance Associate for the Center for the Application of Prevention Technology’s Central Resource Team. “Fortunately, many of our states are realizing this. They’re aware that sustainability planning needs to begin early in a project’s lifecycle. And they’re asking for our help to get this planning process underway.”
One of these states is Iowa, with whom the Central Resource Team is working to support local-level sustainability planning among its 23 Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) funded counties. In collaboration with the state’s SPF SIG Project Team, the CAPT has developed a menu of training and technical assistance services designed to guide the funded counties through the sustainability planning process. The goal: To prepare them to develop individualized sustainability plans that articulate which elements of their prevention efforts they want to sustain and provide arguments for why and how they will do so. Specifically, SPF SIG counties will describe how they will (1) continue to assess community needs and resources; (2) find and collaborate with others in their communities who share their vision and goals; and (3) partner with other organizations to share costs and resources effectively.
Iowa’s SPF SIG counties have a head start on understanding the concept of sustainability, having been trained in the SPF—a five-step, data-driven prevention planning process that incorporates sustainability into each of its steps. “If providers are implementing the SPF correctly, they should be seeing positive outcomes,” says Ferguson. “However, prevention providers need to take a critical look at what is and isn’t working in their community, which pieces of their work must be continued in order to see ongoing success and sustain positive outcomes, and which pieces should be reconsidered or scrapped entirely.”
“It’s difficult for providers to change gears if they find that their program is not working,” says Chuck Klevgaard, Coordinator of the Central Resource Team. “The challenge [in sustainability planning] is to go beyond just their own program or intervention to think more broadly about the prevention outcomes they want to achieve.” A focus on outcomes, and on the processes that will yield those outcomes, allows providers to stay flexible and adaptive with their prevention efforts, rather than being wedded to a particular program, he adds.
Understanding the complexity of sustainability planning, the CAPT opted for a combined training and technical assistance approach that involves multi-session webinar presentations, in-person technical assistance, and tools.
In the first webinar, Sustaining Prevention Outcomes and the Strategic Prevention Framework Process, delivered February 7, participants were challenged to examine the SPF through a sustainability “lens,” considering how they might incorporate sustainability into each of the framework’s five steps. In the second webinar, scheduled for March 11, participants will explore specific sustainability strategies, such as maintaining coalitions and partnerships, formalizing agreements, and developing fiscal procedures. Between the two webinars, participants will begin developing their plans, using a template created by the state.
“We’re looking forward to the participants showing up to the second webinar with lots of concrete questions. It will help to move the training from the abstract to the hands-on—which is exactly what we want,” explains CAPT Trainer Dodi Swope. In April, Swope will meet with SPF SIG Coordinators and the state SPF SIG Project Team for a final technical assistance session that will focus on marketing the positive outcomes achieved through the SPF process.
“Sustainability is an integral part of the SPF process and working with CAPT to offer these trainings will greatly assist Iowa’s SPF SIG counties in creating a sustainability plan that they will continue to build upon through the rest of the SPF SIG project,” says Julie Hibben, Iowa’s SPF SIG Project Director.
The CAPT’s work with Iowa reflects a growing need in the region to train local providers in sustainability planning. Klevgaard envisions this package of services being adapted for other states. “States want to encourage their local-level providers to pay attention to sustainability early in the process,” he says. “With the CAPT package of services, states can provide guidance on how to do this successfully.”
For more information, contact Molly Ferguson , Training and Technical Assistance Associate, CAPT Central Resource Team.