Thinking Outside the Box: Collaborating to Make Strategic Decisions

A Message from the Director of the Center for Sharing Public Health Services

Since its inception, the Center for Sharing Public Health Services has played an important role in helping public health departments address complex challenges through collaboration, allowing them to do more together than they could do alone.

As an organization, our Center likes to “walk the talk” by relying on collaboration when exploring strategic opportunities and challenges. One way we do this is by relying on our Advisory Group, made up of public health practice and applied research experts.

We recognize good decisions don’t happen in a vacuum; therefore, we’ve assembled some of the brightest, most experienced folks in the field of public health to serve on our Advisory Group. Each member was invited to participate based on their professional skills and knowledge as well as their previous and current organizational affiliations. They represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints, looking at cross-jurisdictional sharing from different perspectives and bringing new vision and new ideas to the process.

Our Advisory Group is not a pro forma obligation; it was not required by our funder. Instead, we made a deliberate decision to convene the Advisory Group as a way of improving the Center’s ability to serve the field. Together, they are our sounding board for high-level decisions and strategies. They expand the horizon of our understanding of collaboration and cross-jurisdictional sharing in public health through their collaborative knowledge. And they provide a key personal means of connecting and communicating about the Center and its resources with the various organizations the members are affiliated with.

Because collaboration takes effort, both the Center and the Advisory Group must invest time and resources into making it work. We pay special attention to the way the group functions. For example, the Group is not convened unless there are important issues to consider and discuss. Like all collaboration, strategic decisions involve two-way communication where all parties provide information, suggestions and solutions.

The Advisory Group has given the Center important guidance. For example:

  • They made it very clear that six months was not enough time for many small grants recipients to finish their work. As a result, the Center increased the performance period to nine months in the last small grants round.
  • They explained the Center doesn’t necessarily need a new and different topic for every webinar, but rather, we should consider refreshing and repeating some of our most popular topics including those that are seen as most critical to successful collaborations in order to assist our expanding audience, many of whom are at early stages in developing sharing arrangements.
  • They provided guidance to the Center’s communication and marketing consultant in making sure the Center’s message would be readily understood across the range of audiences involved in establishing collaborative arrangements.

Just like cross-jurisdictional sharing agreements, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to running an organization like ours. We have found that by working in collaboration with our Advisory Group we make better strategic decisions and are able to consider complex challenges from many important perspectives. In other words, we try to practice what we preach about the value of team collaboration!

Because strategic thinking involves many perspectives, we value your feedback. If you have suggestions for the Center or questions about cross-jurisdictional sharing, please email me .

— Gianfranco Pezzino, Director