The ability to develop and implement a collaborative plan with the support of state agencies, nonprofit organizations, program sponsors, and other community partners is vital to increasing participation in summer meals.

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Collaborative Planning Basics
Two young girls sitting at a picnic table eating a meal on a sunny day in the summertime

Collaborative planning is a form of collective impact that can be used to achieve positive outcomes in summer meals that could not be achieved by any single organization on its own. By convening multiple stakeholders to address a complex challenge, collaborative planning creates an opportunity to identify and implement solutions adapted to the specific circumstances in a community.

Collaborative planning helps to:

  • Build and strengthen relationships among the many groups serving kids
  • Identify barriers to participation and expansion on the ground
  • Uncover new ideas and opportunities
  • Align resources around the most promising strategies
  • Strengthen results through shared efforts

There are three key phases to successful collaboration: engaging key stakeholders, creating and managing a collaborative plan, and renewing commitment over time.

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Step One: Engage Key Stakeholders
excited young boy holding his summer meal

Summer meals collaborators will play many roles. They will help you understand the breadth and depth of work happening in the summer; bring different perspectives to the planning process; increase the credibility and reach of the collaborative; and carry out elements of a shared plan.

Engaging Key Stakeholders Guide: No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices has created a resource to help make sure you bring the right players to the table. These community partners will ensure you are taking all relevant factors into account when assessing opportunities and challenges around summer meals programming.

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Step Two: Create & Manage the Plan
up-close picture of a business professional writing something in a notebook

Once you’ve identified and invited partners to your collaborative workgroup, use our sample agenda and planning framework to design effective meetings that lead to clear goals and strategies, preferred tactics, and specific actions. This will ensure your collaborative plan is understandable to all and leads to measurable outcomes.

Holding a planning meeting is a crucial first step to collect input from stakeholders regarding their interests and concerns. It also provides a forum to identify existing resources that can be leveraged to achieve your goals around summer meals. As your plan takes shape and is implemented, stakeholders will appreciate how their own ideas and resources are part of the bigger picture, which can increase buy-in and excitement to stay involved.

Make sure your meetings run smoothly and achieve your shared objectives by using the following resources to support meeting planning and execution:

Additionally, No Kid Hungry has resources available to support ongoing communication with stakeholders to implement your collaborative plan as well as outward-facing documents that can be used for communication with potential partners and the general public.

Still have questions? No Kid Hungry has compiled a two-page tip sheet to help guide you through this process and keep your efforts on track.

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Step Three: Wrap Up & Renew Commitment
three adults discussing summer meals at a table

The end of the summer is an important time for reflection. Hold a debrief meeting with your collaborators and other summer stakeholders to capture important feedback and start planning early for the next year.

Use the following resources to help you plan and execute this important gathering at the end of summer:

Convening partners to debrief provides an opportunity to celebrate the successes and hard work of program sponsors who served meals during summertime, as well as engage in program planning activities for the year ahead. No Kid Hungry has created a yearly timeline of specific actions to support sponsor retention and capacity-building activities as your collaborative matures over time.

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Examples of Successful Collaboration
young boy eating his summer meal in front of a colorful bus that hands out summer meals

Learn from the experiences of others who have collaborated successfully to combat summer hunger.

  • Advancing Summer Meals through Collective Impact: A report from No Kid Hungry & Community Wealth Partners that explores examples of successful collaboration in Baltimore and Detroit to highlight key strategies and tactics for nonprofit leaders to consider in their work.
  • Virginia No Kid Hungry: In 2014, the Virginia Department of Health, Department of Education, Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the USDA, and Virginia No Kid Hungry convened to start their second year of summer collaborative planning as part of the USDA's State Technical Assistance Team initiative. After hearing about successes in other states, the Virginia team reached out to the Virginia Library Association to join the planning collaborative. As a result of their participation, 28 libraries served as meals sites in 2015, and even more promoted programs in their community.
  • Michigan No Kid Hungry: Since 2012, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan (a No Kid Hungry community) has convened local stakeholders to identify common goals, share challenges and successful strategies, and plan for site locations and expansion. One focus of the collaborative is developing relationships among sponsoring organizations, allowing them to come together to discuss shared nutritional expectations for vended meal sites. As a result, vendors in the region have improved the nutritional quality of the food, an impact that no single sponsor could have had on their own.
  • Illinois No Kid Hungry: For many years, large sponsors in Chicago have met with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Midwest Regional Office of the USDA, and Illinois No Kid Hungry to plan for summer meals. When the USDA identified Illinois for a State Technical Assistance Team in 2014, this group expanded to become a statewide collaboration. The group identified target areas for increasing summer meals access in the state and engaged local stakeholders to help with the planning process. One partnership was with Bread for the World, which was already engaging the faith-based community in anti-hunger work in Peoria. This new partnership, combined with support from the Illinois Coalition for Community Services – a program sponsor – helped grow the summer meals program in Peoria. The clear priorities established by the state planning effort enabled the Peoria group to translate this work into increased impact at the local level.
  • North Carolina No Kid Hungry: No Kid Hungry North Carolina partners closely with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to provide resources and support to schools increasing participation in federal nutrition programs. The campaign realized that school nutrition directors often went unrecognized when they expanded their programs. This led campaign staff to begin attending school nutrition conferences to publicly thank them in front of their peers. The rewards were small but meaningful: one example is No Kid Hungry lapel pins that could be attached to school lanyards. This investment contributed to a record 93 percent of school districts providing summer meals in 2014.
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