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 Disability Program Navigator: Navigator Frequently Asked Questions 

25(Advanced)  How can establishing a local ‘Interagency Committee’ strengthen and sustain systems collaboration?

(Updated 3-2010 )(DPN Bi-Weekly FAQ 7-24-06 )

*NOTE:If you are a new Disability Program Navigator (less than a year), you may want to read the BASIC FAQ on “How do I begin to build relationships with community service providers and sustain these relationships?” prior to reading the ADVANCED FAQ below

As a Disability Program Navigator (DPN ) on-the-job for more than a year, you most likely have developed meaningful partnerships with a wide variety of community service providers in your area. Most organizations are now probably familiar with One-Stop Career Center services and the DPN initiative. You may even be known in your community as the ‘Go-To’ person for resources and information on a wide range of subjects! Many agencies may now be more willing to collaborate, especially after having experienced your commitment to promoting systems change and improving access in the One-Stop Career Centers for individuals with disabilities. However, some may still be reluctant to work together and your persistence in building trust with these groups is a constant process.

Although at first it may seem like a daunting task to initiate systems collaboration with such a diverse group of community organizations, strengthening these partnerships and encouraging ongoing collaboration can be an even greater challenge. As a DPN , you are constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate and most likely participate in a variety of networking groups, committees, and coalitions. Much of your time may also be spent on facilitating service coordination for customers with disabilities to reach their employment goals. These responsibilities clearly fall under the role of a DPN . However, keeping in mind the overall goal of the DPN initiative, it is important to regularly look at how systems are working together without you having to incite collaboration. Establishing a local ‘Interagency Committee’ may be one key approach to ensuring that people have a means to communicate, problem-solve and ultimately work together to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

Although you may feel as if there are too many meetings to attend in your community already, it is important to consider the mission and goals of each of these committees. Does one group focus only on mental health disabilities, while another works toward putting on a disability resource fair? Perhaps another group focuses solely on transitioning youth, while another involves working toward a coordinated job development approach for people with disabilities. Unless these groups you are involved in have workforce management present (One-Stop Career Center and LWIB investment), provide a forum to address access issues in the workforce investment system, and maintain a mission that relates to systems collaboration and improving employment for people with disabilities, they may be very different than the ‘Interagency Committee’ we are discussing here. As you read the information below and consider establishing an ‘Interagency Committee’, think about the relationships that you have cultivated in your community, as well as those that have been more challenging to develop. 

  • Many people say they are willing to collaborate or are already collaborating…..but are they truly engaging in activities that demonstrate this? Consider what collaboration is and is not.
    • Collaboration is
      • A mutually beneficial relationship which involves people from different sectors of the community joining together to achieve a common goal
      • Involves joint planning and shared resources, funding & accountability.
      • Occurs through shared understanding of issues, open communication, mutual trust & tolerance of differing points of view.
      • The most intensive level of partnership.
    • Collaboration is not
      • Co-location of two or more service providers in the same office.
      • One person’s design or strategy.
      • Compromise or consensus.
      • Simply a one-way or two-way information exchange (nor does it imply supervision).
  • What are the benefits to establishing an ‘Interagency Committee’ that meets on a regular basis?
    • Allows agencies to learn about the range of services available from partnering agencies.
    • Improves timeliness & quality of services, leading to improved employment outcomes.
    • Streamlines interagency referral process, so customers can move easily from partner to partner as needed to successfully obtain, retain, & advance in employment.
    • Maximizes resources (blending & braiding).
    • Sustainable strategy for interagency communication, collaboration & problem-solving.
  • How does an ‘Interagency Committee’ build a support system for the DPN in carrying out the initiative?
    • Allows an open forum for direct communication, instead of DPN relaying information between agencies.
    • Builds trust among partners, since they develop relationships with each other over time.
    • Provides opportunity for interagency education & training.
    • Increases accountability of agencies..
    • Encourages agencies to be a part of the solutions.
    • Provides a forum to share successes and improved outcomes.

There are several key factors to consider as you begin to establish an ‘Interagency Committee’, such as building a strong foundation with good leadership, a clear mission and objectives, and a sense of direction and purpose.  There are also potential roadblocks to collaboration including lack of common interest, lack of communication (unclear about each other’s roles), or the fear of loss of position, power and resources. Overall, keep in mind that good collaboration takes time to shape and form.  Bringing a diverse group together to coalesce can be a complex task and people must have the understanding that the purpose of coming together is to improve, enhance or change something that is not working.  Consider the list below of diverse stakeholders with varying perspectives, expertise and levels of experience to participate in an ‘Interagency Committee’ that promotes systems change:

  • Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB) Executive Staff
  • LWIB Board Member Representing the Business Sector
  • One-Stop Career Center Director, Manager, WIA Counselor, and Business Service Staff
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Commission for the Blind & Visually-Impaired
  • Commission for the Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing
  • Department of Mental Health
  • Department of Mental Retardation
  • Independent Living Center
  • Social Security Area Work Incentives Coordinator
  • Local Community Work Incentives Coordinator
  • Adult Literacy Programs
  • Community Colleges - Offices for Students with Disabilities
  • Veterans Counselors
  • Older Workers Programs
  • Employment Networks
  • Community-Based Providers (Job Developers, Job Coaches, Service Coordinators, etc)
  • TANF Counselors

Note to DPN s: If you have comments, suggestions or questions relating to the above topic, please email DJ Diamond at ddiamond@ndi-inc.org. They may be added to this FAQ and the archived one on the One-Stop Toolkit website.


Interagency Collaboration Checklist -
The purpose of the checklist, which was created by Michael Morris, National Disability Institute, is to serve as a tool to determine the structure of the working group and to keep the participants meeting to bring the different systems together. The information included in the checklist is based on the experiences shared by some navigators that have already started these types of connections. To access the checklist please click on the following link [ http://www.dpnavigator.net/pages/resources_a5.html ] this Checklist is located approximately halfway down the page.

Interagency Committee Presentation
Establishing an Interagency Committee to Sustain Systems Collaboration (PPT)
This presentation, developed by the National DPN Technical Assistance and Training provider, highlights the meaning of collaboration and discusses the role of the Navigator in fostering and strengthening systems collaboration. The presentation includes the benefits of interagency collaboration, possible roadblocks and how an interagency team builds a support system for change. To access this PPT presentation please click on the following link [ http://www.dpnavigator.net/pages/resources_a5.html ] and select “Interagency Committee Presentation” from the list of resources.

Building Strategic Networks and Partnerships: A Guide for Navigators (Archived Webinar) –
The purpose of this webinar is to give Navigators an understanding of the importance of building partnerships and strategic networks in order to facilitate employment for persons with disabilities. This webinar discusses strategies navigators can employ in order to build those relationships and foster partnership all of which are essential to interagency collaboration. To access the archived version of this training please visit the following link  [ http://www.dpnavigator.net/pages/tr_21.html ]



Butterworth, J., Foley, S., & Metzel, D. (2001). Developing interagency agreements: Four questions to consider. The Institute Brief, 11 (1). Boston: Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Rick Dove, (1998) Collaboration: Are More Heads Better?  Paradigm Shift International


Note to DPNs: If you have comments, suggestions or questions relating to the above topic, please email DJ Diamond at ddiamond@ndi-inc.org . They may be added to this FAQ and the archived one on the One-Stop Toolkit website.