Partnering with the Community
Partnerships are the foundation of any NORC program, bringing together a seemingly unlikely mix of players for a common purpose – to make the community a better place for its older residents to live. Varied in experience and orientation, partners bring a range of resources to a NORC program, assume different levels of responsibility, and make varying degrees of commitment.
Core partners are drawn from both the public and private sectors, and include health care and social service providers, a housing or neighborhood organization, and senior residents. This public-private partnership sustains the NORC program by providing financial support, services, and guidance. Many other community stakeholders – including government agencies, local businesses, community groups, public safety officials, libraries, religious organizations, and academic institutions – also become involved with differing degrees of intensity.
Resident seniors are core partners in the programs of a NORC, a departure from traditional social service structures, which tend to view seniors as only service recipients. NORC programs give seniors a powerful voice in defining their vision and in shaping their design, while connecting them to peers in the community and to other stakeholders.
Partnerships are rarely cohesive and seldom orderly. More often, they are fluid and challenging, and sometimes tense. Because partners come on board for different reasons and often have differing agendas, they tend to come and go over time. Partnerships that endure are those in which participants have learned to function as a unified group, despite their many differences, and to reflect the community being served.
As it seeks solutions to the challenges of aging in the community, a NORC program relies heavily on strong partnerships. For a partnership to succeed, it needs:
- A shared mission.
- Strong and effective leadership.
- Clarity of roles and functions.