Three factors determine readiness to address domestic violence prevention

Julie Richter Adults of many genders and colors are seated and listening

A Q&A with TC Duong

Meaningful change happens when systems and communities are in active, ongoing dialogue. Blue Shield of California Foundation has a team dedicated to aligning systems with community priorities. The team seeks to achieve health equity and end domestic violence by ensuring those most affected by these issues are shaping the solutions.

Multisector collaborations bring public and private organizations together in partnership with community groups, to work collectively toward addressing a problem that is impacting a community. As a program officer on the Align Systems with Community Priorities team, TC Duong works to build and support multisector collaborations that are involved in domestic violence prevention.

By engaging with multisector collaborations within and beyond those that are already working to end domestic violence, the Foundation is helping build capacity to prevent domestic violence and accelerate systems change. After working for two years with cohorts of multisector collaborations to address domestic violence, TC reflects on the readiness factors that have emerged as the best indicators that these collaboratives can join forces to prevent domestic violence.

The conversation has been edited for clarity.

How does the Foundation approach its work with multisector collaborations addressing domestic violence?

The Foundation has two approaches that use a prevention and systems change lens, and there is a cohort of multisector collaborations under each approach. There is WITHIN: Leveraging Collaboration, which supports and ignites multisector collaborations already working to prevent domestic violence. The second is BEYOND: Safety Through Connection, which seeks to ignite established multisector collaborations that are not yet addressing domestic violence, but are primed to do so.

This two-pronged strategy works to change the domestic violence sector from inside itself, and to change the sectors outside of it that impact domestic violence. We found that groups that are fully centering domestic violence had low collaborative capacity. On the other hand, groups that have high collaborative capacity and established collaborations were only beginning to address domestic violence. Our goal is for both cohorts to build collaborations that have a high collaborative capacity and are fully centering domestic violence prevention in their work.

For those collaborations that weren’t yet centering domestic violence in their work, how was it introduced?

The collaborations that weren’t yet addressing domestic violence prevention were part of a grant through Prevention Institute called Safety Through Connection. For two years, the focus was on building alignment and understanding about domestic violence and why it's related to the work of the collaboration. The cohort included Allies Against Violence, The Center at McKinleyville, the East African Men and Boys Collaborative, LA Worker Center Network and Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas, addressing questions such as: What does domestic violence mean to us? Why is it important? Why would we take this on? How do we address it?

After two years, the Foundation renewed the Safety Through Connection grant. The renewal presented an opportunity for Prevention Institute to take the learnings from the planning and alignment stage and move into action.

What allowed these multisector collaborations to move from planning and alignment into action?

We learned just how important readiness was. Readiness is core to how the Foundation looks at the work and how we fund the work. We initially thought this first program period would be a time for the cohort to deepen their understanding of domestic violence and plan how they were going to work on it. But, to our surprise, the three collaborations that renewed, The Center at McKinleyville, Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas, and the East African Men and Boys Collaborative each went into “turbo” mode during the first two years. They each actively were shifting systems within their communities to be more responsive to the issue of domestic violence.

Multisector collaborations are stretched thin; they do a lot. So those in the cohort that moved into the next phase had determined that allocating resources to address domestic violence aligned with their capacity, their values, and their strategic direction.

Because of their readiness, these collaborations were beginning to change systems. They were being responsive and understanding the needs of domestic violence survivors. For example, two of the collaborations jumped into workforce development as a way to center domestic violence prevention. Another collaborative is planning how to build a racial equity lens for municipal agencies that serve survivors of domestic violence through education and training. 

What are the key factors for readiness?

  • An intersectional understanding of gender equity. One thing they all had in common was that they understood how gender impacted their work. Whether workforce development or human services, they understood how the work impacts women of color, immigrant women, and/or trans people.
  • Collaborative structure that enables relationship building between members. One of the reasons these collaborations went into “turbo” mode is that conversations were happening between groups in between the formal cohort meetings. These fluid conversations enabled the collaborators to not just ask, “What does this mean for us?” but also, “How can we act?”
  • A strong mechanism for community input. What we've seen with domestic violence prevention is that the groups that really are able to shift systems and really are able to get a strong impact are the ones where they've heard from the community that domestic violence was a huge issue. Having that strong mechanism for community input meant that this was not something that was funder- or grant-driven, it was something that really felt aligned with their values, and what the community was asking them to do.

What type of input did the collaborations hear from their communities?

The Center at McKinleyville is a group of service providers that has built-in mechanisms for input from their clients in real time. They were set up to capture a dynamic amount of feedback, and they were able to ask questions about how they were approaching domestic violence. The feedback they received from community members and clients not only helped inform the strategy for domestic violence prevention, but more importantly, what to name the strategy. While using the phrase “domestic violence” could be triggering, terms like “family strengthening” and “community safety” were better received. With that knowledge, they could advocate for more resources around domestic violence prevention, but labeled it family strengthening, healthy communities, and community healing. This immediate community feedback led to an increase in resource flows and funding for support.

What does this mean for the Foundation’s future work?

We have learned that capacity isn't just about tangible areas like staff and budgets. Capacity also includes relationships, trust, and community connectedness.

The Foundation is investing in domestic violence collaborations that are ready to move into action. These findings create a blueprint for prioritizing collaborations that are ready to make the biggest impact. As we work to break the cycle of domestic violence, we now have a sense of the capacity necessary for multisector collaborations to take on domestic violence and end it.

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