By: Suzette McLeod, BJA NTTAC Deputy Program Director
The fundamental message behind the adage “two minds are better than one” is that the collective efforts of a group can achieve more than one person working independently. When people with similar interests or common goals get together to exchange information and ideas, the group is more knowledgeable and better equipped to achieve their goals. To support collective knowledge-sharing and collaboration among its training and technical assistance (TTA) providers, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) is establishing Communities of Interest to provide a way to connect providers that share common focus areas.
BJA NTTAC recognizes that BJA TTA providers who share information on their programs, resources, and best practices with one another are more successful in advancing national policy and evidence-based practices. Additionally, BJA TTA providers who coordinate and collaborate regularly are not only collectively more successful in advancing common missions, but more successful in their own right and are viewed as a more valuable resource to state, local, and tribal justice professionals and TTA recipients.
The new BJA NTTAC Communities of Interest will bring together providers who are supporting similar policy areas or new programs so they can regularly share information about their projects, TTAs, and deliverables and adopt common protocols or tools, as appropriate. As Communities of Interest (COI) are launched in late-2013 and early-2014, BJA providers will be invited to join COIs related to their grant awards to leverage knowledge and resources in that specific topic area, such as Project Safe Neighborhoods and Information Sharing (also known as the Justice TTA Committee).
Communities of Interest will consist of BJA TTA providers, BJA policy advisors, and NTTAC support staff and meetings will be held in-person, as well as through teleconferences and webinars. During these meetings, providers can share information about their TTA activities, new or helpful resources, and promising practices. COIs will provide a consistent forum where BJA grantees and providers can:
- Elevate the quality of TTA services to jurisdictions that previously received BJA funding or TTA services by building off that work to provide better TTA service.
- Improve the products and services offered to justice agencies by enabling partnership across providers with complementary skills, knowledge, and resources.
- Enhance the advancement of national programs through broader involvement across TTA providers.
- Grow the collective knowledge of providers supporting a specific BJA initiative or program.
- Facilitate the use of common messages and approaches to advance the collective mission.
- Add to a shared body of knowledge in the generation or refinement of evidence-based and promising practices.
- Encourage the use and re-use of products and tools across TTA providers – replacing redundant efforts with cross-partner testing, refinement, and enhancement of shared products and tools.
To support and provide a platform for this forum of collaboration, BJA NTTAC is developing the Online Collaboration Portal (OCP), which is a web-based system that will facilitate information sharing among BJA’s TTA providers. The OCP is scheduled to launch in February 2014 and will include features and functionality that allows providers to view up-to-date information on TTA activity trends, search directories to identify relevant criminal justice professionals, and utilize a geographic information system to visually see the distribution of TTA activity across the United States.
BJA is excited about offering new opportunities for its TTA partners and providers - the COIs are just one way we are bringing groups together to increase the value and utilization of resources available across BJA’s TTA providers and through BJA NTTAC - ultimately enhancing the TTA services provided to state, local, and tribal justice professionals.
If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration to be featured in a future TTA Today blog post or to obtain information about a Community of Interest related to a particular topic area, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.