Breaking up with a Project Partner: 5 Recommendations

Deb Chilcoat

Deb Chilcoat

“It’s not you, it’s me!” Oh, if it were that simple. Breaking up with a project partner can be really tough: personal and professional relationships are forged, emotions are involved, and future potential partnerships may be jeopardized if not handled honorably. Yet, sometimes, you cannot continue down your current path. So, how do you break up with a project partner?

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Communicate honestly throughout the partnership. Like most relationships, genuine conversations about everything from the mundane to the extraordinary offer glimpses of the health of the partnership. If there are challenges, discuss them, figure out how to avoid them in the future, and work together to determine the best way to move beyond the challenge. If there are successes, consider what made the effort successful, and try to replicate it frequently. Bottom line, there should be no surprises when you take the first step to dissolve the partnership. Your project partner may even be feeling similarly and may be anticipating the break-up coming and be leaving the “door open” for that conversation.
  2. Gather all data related to your project partners’ performance. If, after much thought and consideration, you decide to dissolve the partnership, present the data that support your decision in a clear and concise manner during a face-to-face meeting with your project partner. For example, your project partner committed to implementing an evidence-based intervention with fidelity; however, over time it became clear that they uncomfortable talking about teen pregnancy prevention with youth and are changing some of the program’s core components. Although you have had extensive conversations about this, their fidelity monitoring logs (FMLs) continue to show that the program is not being implemented with fidelity. Additionally, the analysis of the pretests and posttests are showing little to no change in knowledge, attitudes, or behavior. Take the FMLs and the pre/posttest analysis to the meeting to show the project partner that data indicate on the lack of follow through on the commitment.
  3. Let your memorandum of understanding (MOU) govern the partnership. Ideally, you and your project partner review the expectations outlined in the MOU frequently (at least annually!) to determine if adjustments need to be made along the way. For instance, your MOU outlines that a stipend will be dispersed after the successful completion of five implementation cycles. However, your partner asks you to send the stipend after only three cycles have been implemented and assures you that the other two cycles are “in the works.” A request of this nature may send up some red flags for various reasons. You can say, “No,” “Okay,” or “I am concerned that this advanced payment may set a dangerous precedent. Would you like to amend the MOU?” In any case, you can rely on the MOU to support your response.
  4. Approach the break-up with respect, dignity, integrity…and calmly. Breaking up with a project partner should not look like a reality television show. While you may be anxious, and the situation a bit tense and awkward (as most break-ups are!), it doesn’t need to be filled with high drama, finger-pointing, or chairs being tossed across the room. Sit with the project team, discuss the reasons why the partnership needs to end, and plan for closure. Include specific tasks that need to be accomplished, a timeline of when they are due, and who is responsible for completing the tasks. (For example, if curriculum materials were loaned to the partner, be sure to have a plan for their return.)
  5. Just say it. While these are just a few things ways to prepare for the break-up, ultimately, you need to muster the courage to say the partnership must end. Practice what you will say. Try out a few different approaches on a trusted colleague and get his/her feedback. Then, you can feel more confident during the actual conversation with your project partner. Sometimes it can be helpful to have another person come along in case you need support. She/he can listen for cues and interject if appropriate. If the project partner tries to persuade you to continue the relationship, the other person can help you be firm in your decision.Although it is never easy to end a relationship, often it can reveal opportunities that you never imagined. Maybe this project wasn’t a good fit for the two organizations, but your former project partner could connect you to a hugely successful new partner!

In the end, be sure to do your due diligence: be thoroughly prepared, offer clear examples, and communicate in a straightforward way. It will help to bring closure to the partnership and reduce the likelihood of any lingering questions or feelings.

What other tips do you have for someone having to “break up” with a program partner? What advice can you offer the “broken up with”?

Deb Chilcoat, M.Ed., is a Senior Manager of Training & Technical Assistance at Healthy Teen Network.

Connecting with Youth

Gina Desiderio

Gina Desiderio

This time of year—when teachers are prepping their rooms and their lessons for the new year and students are shopping for new clothes and supplies—I always feel nostalgic for the time I spent in the classroom, teaching high school English. For me, one of the most rewarding things about teaching was connecting with students, and seeing them make the connection between the curriculum they were required to study and their personal lives.

As an English teacher, you get used to the moans and groans about how many pages are assigned reading, or how students just hate poetry or writing essays. But the fun part comes when students are motivated to read, motivated to write, because the content engages them. I always found it was easiest to engage students, and to incorporate the critical standards of learning, when the content spoke to them, of their lives and their youth culture.

When it came time to start reading poetry, I always started with song lyrics. Poetry often seemed foreign to students, at first at least. But when they started sharing their favorite songs and seeing the lyrics as poetry, too, then you could feel the energy rising. They would start to pay more attention to their music, easily finding examples of literary devices, such as metaphor, when they’d struggled just weeks before to understand metaphors in other assigned texts. We would have group discussions about the meaning of the lyrics, breaking down the text, analyzing its meaning.

Maybe I’m getting too technical here in my example, but my point is, their engagement, their passion for the music, became the opportunity to engage them, to motivate them, and to help them learn and practice the concepts required for the course curriculum. They loved having the chance to share their music, their culture, with each other and with me. I didn’t hear so many moans and groans about the lesson plan because they wanted to learn.

My example is tied to my experience teaching English, but the concept crosses subjects and topics, from history and math to health education. Knowing how important it is to spark the fire, to engage the youth with whom we work, is what first interested me in Healthy Teen Network’s latest project, developing a graphic novel for youth, with a focus on healthy relationships, self-esteem, conflict resolution, and reducing bullying.

Graphic novels, distinguished by their unique use of text and imagery, are another great example of how teachers, health educators, and other youth-serving professionals can maximize their impact with youth by using content that interests youth.  Graphic novels can serve as a useful tool in the classroom, supporting literacy skills. The popularity of graphic novels among youth has increased dramatically over the past decade. And of course, because youth are reading graphic novels, they can be powerful tools for engagement, bringing in youth culture to the lesson…any lesson.

And so, Healthy Teen Network is asking you to support the use of graphic novels to engage youth, increase literacy, and teach important lessons about healthy relationships and anti-bullying. Your donation will support the dissemination of this graphic novel to Baltimore city middle-school aged youth…but the effort won’t stop there. The graphic novel will be available online, along with a teacher’s guide to support facilitation.

In other words, this will be an incredible resource for use in schools and other program settings, packaged with the lesson plan to support its use. Will you support this effort today?

How do you work to motivate youth?

What are ways to bring youth culture into programming and curricula?

Gina Desiderio is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Healthy Teen Network.

The Latest Hot Topic in Public Health: Social Determinants

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Considering the impact of social determinants on population health and well-being is not new, but there is a resurgence of interest in how to actualize this idea. The Healthy People 2020 Objectives include social determinants for the first time:

“Healthy People 2020 highlights the importance of addressing the social determinants of health by including ‘Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all’ as one of the four overarching goals for the decade. This emphasis is shared by the World Health Organization, whose Commission on Social Determinants of Health in 2008 published the report, Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health. The emphasis is also shared by other U.S. health initiatives such as the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities and the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy. They define social determinants of health as ‘conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.’”

The World Health Organization has long held the stance that incorporating social determinants is essential to effect equality and justice among the world’s populations. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also embraced the promotion of social determinants and recently published a white paper addressing the need to incorporate social determinants to impact changes in certain communicable diseases. (In 2010, CDC published an NCHHSTP White Paper on Social Determinants of Health called Establishing a Holistic Framework to Reduce Inequities in HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and Tuberculosis in the United States.)

Healthy Teen Network has fully embraced the need to incorporate social determinants into adolescent sexual and reproductive health, including when supporting pregnant and parenting teens. We have long recognized the need to expand our thinking to include environment and circumstances  when addressing the needs of the most marginalized (and thus at risk) youth.

Education and access to services, including evidence-based programs or interventions, are necessary but not sufficient to address the persistent gaps in the rates we see across youth populations in the US. Assessing and addressing the basic needs of the most challenged youth is a necessary step in reducing risky behaviors. Healthy Teen Network believes we must look at  youth from the vantage of social determinants first and risky behaviors second and will promote this approach moving forward. This is clearly reflected in our Strategic Plan, 2013-2106: Road Map for the Future of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Healthy Teen Network has selected three social determinant categories to focus on:

  1. access to education, employment,  and economic opportunity,
  2. access to healthcare, and
  3. social norms and culture.

These three were prioritized based on findings from the field (i.e., what our constituents tell us is most needed as well as scientific research findings), current trends in demographics and youth behavior, organizational capacity, and alignment with our Mission. Moving forward, Healthy Teen Network will examine these determinants as to how they affect our populations of interest and develop resources that build the capacity of the field to integrate them into current and future efforts.

We hope you will take the time to read the Strategic Plan, peruse the interactive presentation using Prezi, and comment on our thinking. Sharing your concerns, support, and examples of similar efforts helps us all. Join us in Savannah, Georgia, October 22-23, 2013 as we further explore how to integrate social determinants into our work and make a difference in the lives of ALL youth.

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH, is the President/CEO of Healthy Teen Network.

Promoting an Inclusive Frame: 2012 Annual Report

The 2012 Annual Report highlights three projects Healthy Teen Network accomplished, partnering with communities, schools, and youth:

  1. Digital Harbor Project: Prompted by youth demand, Healthy Teen Network partnered with a youth group to deliver sexual health education.
  2. Native Youth Project: Healthy Teen Network, with The National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), collaborated to partner with tribal communities to provide capacity-building assistance to implement evidence-based prevention programs among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth.
  3. Project TRIBE: Training, Technical Assistance, & Resources on Interventions Based on Evidence: Healthy Teen Network was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health (CDC DASH) to build the capacity of schools to implement evidence-based interventions to improve the health and well-being of young people.

These collaborations are examples of our new frame to map the future of adolescent sexual and reproductive health—the social-ecological health promotion frame. This frame guides us to recognize the social determinants that impact the way young people live, in order to be successful promoting healthy behaviors. Continuing and building upon our work in projects like these will be our focus—our more intense focus—as we actualize the Healthy Teen Network Strategic Plan, 2013-2016.

View the full report as an interactive Prezi presentation by clicking here.

Read a printer-friendly executive summary of the report here.

Partnerships like the ones demonstrated the 2012 Annual Report, grounded in the social-ecological health promotion frame, will help us progress toward our Vision of a national community where all adolescents and young adults, including teen parents, are supported and empowered to lead healthy sexual, reproductive, and family lives.

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