PMA Consulting, LLC

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Breaking the Silos Through Collaboration

By Ginny Amendum, Senior Consultant

At PMA, there exists a continual and underlying acknowledgment that the work in the nonprofit human services sector is never finished.  I suspect that is because the human condition is never really “finished!”

Communities desperately need the work of human service agencies to heal, educate, and strengthen our citizenry.  The staggering array of services and missions build community lifelines and, in turn, belong to the community at large.  As previously noted, however, now is the time for new strategic thinking and actions that will build broader, more effective and more efficient community supports.  To date, we tend to think that “like-minded” nonprofit agencies must merge or come together, to avoid ongoing competition within their particular service delivery landscape.  And yet, the vision of a broadened continuum rests on collaboration among different agencies, with different skills and different objectives.

One such shining example of this concept is a non-profit organization known as REACH OUT AND READ (

Reach Out and Read is a nationally-focused nonprofit that has built a partnership between “not-so-like-minded” entities in order to create this concept of a broadened network; one that links early education providers, medical providers and families in a highly successful partnership that effectively improves early school readiness. And, as we know, early readiness dramatically and positively impacts longer-term learning and life success. Each year, in communities across the nation, Reach Out and Read trains, supports and partners with doctors, nurses, medical offices, early childhood programs and families to emphasize and teach the importance of early literacy, and the presence of books and reading in the home. In so doing, Reach Out and Read crosses barriers and links educational professionals, medical professionals, community organizations, and families to better support child well-being, happiness, and future success.

We all know that doctors and nurses serve families in a very different capacity than librarians and early childhood educators. When these all-important service providers collaborate to “prescribe literacy” to families and communities at large, think of the power released!

Reach Out and Read has actively embraced its mission and accomplished a critical and dynamic first step. It has implemented bold measures to build a diverse partnering base as a means of fulfilling its mission. Like all nonprofit organizations, however, this one must ultimately belong to its individual and unique communities.  Its sustainability will rely on our willingness to own, support, and nurture it as a much needed and highly credible service for our communities’ youngest members.

So it is with all the missions that offer community lifelines and better opportunities. For at the end of the day, each one of us is intimately related to the “human condition.”