149742 Power and partnerships: Overcoming challenges in community partnerships

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Selena Youmans, BA , Cecil B. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Doris Stith, BA , Community Enrichment Organization, Tarboro, NC
Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD, MSc , TraCS Community Engagement Core, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Connie Blumenthal, MPH , Cecil B. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Melvin Muhammad, AA , Community Enrichment Organization, Tarboro, NC
Adaora Adimora, MD, MPH , Division of Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Arlinda Ellison, MS , Edgecombe County Health Department, Tarboro, NC
Stacey W. Lloyd, BS , Cecil B. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Dionne M. Smith, PhD , Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington, DC
Mysha Wynn, MA , Project Momentum, Inc., Rocky Mount, NC
Stacey Henderson, MEd , Educational, Research, & Technical Consultant, Project GRACE, Rocky Mount, NC
Barbara Council , Community Enrichment Organization, Oak City, NC
Issues: The Project GRACE Consortium (Growing, Reaching, Advocating for Change and Empowerment) has encountered three challenges related to perceived power differentials while developing our collaboration: clarifying partner and individual roles within the Consortium; respecting differing structures of partner organizations; and perceptions of unequal budgetary power.

Description: Project GRACE uses a community-based participatory (CBPR) approach to develop interventions to prevent the spread of HIV in African American communities in the rural southeast. During the first year of the partnership, we faced several challenges while establishing community academic partnerships. All of these problems were related to perceived and actual differences in authority and power between and within the Consortium and were strongly influenced by differing organizational structures and cultures within the four partner organizations within the Consortium. Having an involved consultant experienced with developing effective collations within a multicultural setting was essential to our success in meeting these challenges and maintaining fidelity to CBPR principles.

Lessons Learned: Establishing procedures to address developing issues within collaborative partnerships is essential to successfully resolving difficulties. All partners must be explicit about the various power structures and the need to work both within and across these structures. We revisited our by-laws and made adjustments that reflected the changing needs of the organizations. Focusing on equity and inclusiveness can prevent nascent problems from evolving into issues that can fracture partnerships.

Recommendations: Attention to transparency in all procedures, annual strategic planning and continued periodic coalition building sessions are planned to proactively address these issues.

Learning Objectives:
Describe three issues related to power differentials that CBPR projects may face. Identify strategies for preventing power-related problems within community partnerships. List methods of dealing with differing organizational structures when working with multiple community partners.

Keywords: Community-Based Partnership, Challenges and Opportunities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.