2: Developing a ‘no wrong door’ approach – Sunset Park Alliance
The Sunset Alliance in Brooklyn formed out of a growing recognition that the impact of CBOs working with disadvantaged youth in the area was limited as each one worked in isolation.111 A consultant was hired by an early funder of the Alliance to reach out to youth organisations and other key neighbourhood stakeholders with a member of the local community board who helped broker relationships. Organisations then worked together with the consultant to map out existing services, identify gaps and develop a “no wrong door” or integrated service delivery model, which aimed to ensure that “each young person gets the right programming at the right time.”
The consultant’s role was phased out as members took greater ownership of the Alliance. Ultimately six of the eight original agencies formed the founding membership of the Alliance. As a collaborative entity, the Alliance engaged in youth recruitment for all programs, created a centralised database to track youth services, and is coordinating new standardised training sessions for the teachers, caseworkers and job developers of all member agencies. Partners also established Supporting Potential in Our Neighborhood in response to the number of young people not able to sustain attendance due to academic and personal challenges. The curriculum combines life skills such as conflict resolution with academic skills such as reading and writing, and work readiness skills, such as financial literacy.
As a consortium, partners were able to find the “right door” to services more efficiently. In the first year of the Alliance, a total of 302 youths were served and 295 referrals were made with 65 per cent of youth ‘sticking’ at the partner agency. The model enabled each agency to retain its own culture, philosophy and autonomy, while working collectively to improve outcomes for youth. Partners reported significant increases in financial efficiencies, significant increases in revenue and leverage over new funding sources, and increased and improved service delivery. The partnership has since ended due to funding decisions, highlighting the challenges associated with private funding and the need for sustainable funding models that have a level of accountability to local communities.112