Partnering with the Community

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Guiding Principle # 1

Forming partnerships is central to the function and operation of a NORC program.

Actions and Considerations

Identify your partners. Generally, a NORC program includes a combination of core partners, collaborators, and other stakeholders. (For more about different levels of partnerships, see Partnering with the Community, Guiding Principle #3.) One or more core partners typically begin to design a NORC program, bringing other key players on board as the program takes shape.

To find the partners you need:

  • Identify the knowledge, resources, and expertise the NORC program requires.
  • Identify the key local public and private agencies ready to make specific commitments to the NORC program.
  • Consider how best to maximize the participation of senior residents.

Define the role of the social service provider. A social service agency offers many of the services that are a fundamental part of a NORC program, typically including case management. Often, the impetus to launch a NORC program begins with the social service provider, which is most commonly (but not necessarily) the lead agency.

Define the role of the health care provider. Health partners can include home care agencies, nursing homes, hospitals, or some combination of these. Their focus is to maximize the health and well-being of NORC residents by addressing health-related issues at both the individual and community levels.

Engage the housing partner in a way that is compatible with its structure. NORC programs may be lodged in subsidized housing complexes, private condominiums or cooperatives, rental apartment buildings, or single-family neighborhoods. If it is a housing-based NORC, the housing entity—such as a government agency, a board of directors, or a tenant association—typically has some degree of management authority. In a neighborhood-based NORC, where there is no common management, a neighborhood organization may play a role.

Housing partners can choose to be involved in a NORC program in many ways. Some take an active role in developing and maintaining a NORC program, solving problems and securing additional resources from the larger community. Others are less intimately involved, but still play essential roles, providing rent-free space and other support.

Develop a strategy for engaging senior residents. Creating a NORC program requires the active participation of senior residents, the primary consumers and most effective ambassadors of a NORC program. They have substantial skills and expertise that may be called upon to help design the program, plan activities, involve their peers, and run fundraising efforts.

Identify who else in the community can play a partnership role. Check back to the work you did in Understanding the Community to remind yourself about potential resources and supporters. Seek opportunities to connect to:

  • Heads of cultural, religious, and service organizations.
  • Directors of government-related agencies.
  • Other health care providers.
  • Funders.
  • Business leaders.
  • Elected officials.
  • Existing clubs and groups.

Keep in Mind

Don’t overlook the non-senior residents of a NORC. They will benefit from the stability, safety, diversity, and dynamic sense of community that a NORC program can bring—a self-interest that may motivate them to become more involved. Those who provide care for seniors living in the NORC may find program resources especially valuable.

A NORC program brings together a variety of unlikely partners to provide and coordinate projects designed to improve the lives of seniors and strengthen the communities in which they live.

There is no single model for building and sustaining partnerships. But typical models:

  • Involve hard work and require ongoing attention.
  • Evolve gradually, changing shape over time.
  • Gain and lose members.
  • Continually reinvent themselves.
Continue to Guiding Principle #2
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