By Meg Stanley
Executive Director, Wholespire
As pioneers of policy, systems, and environmental change in South Carolina, Wholespire has provided technical assistance to hundreds of community coalitions and partners over the past 15 years. It’s a service we provide to help build the capacity of and sustain community coalitions, strengthen community-based projects, and improve the likelihood of better health outcomes.
Oftentimes, technical assistance is provided to partner organizations and addresses other areas of our work, like advocacy, youth engagement, and marketing. In this post, we’ll define technical assistance, show some examples, and tell you how you can take advantage of our technical assistance services.
What is technical assistance?
Technical assistance, also known as TA and commonly referred to as consulting, is the process of providing specific support to a community coalition or organization with a development need or problem. It is an effective method for building the capacity of any community coalition or organization.
Technical assistance can be provided in a variety of ways. It can be one-on-one consultation or small group facilitation. It can be provided in person or by phone, email, or other online methods. In addition to being referred to as consulting, TA is also known as coaching or mentoring.
At Wholespire, TA applies to our areas of expertise – policy, systems, and environmental strategies, advocacy, coalition development and sustainability, The HYPE Project®, and marketing and communications. The range of subtopics is almost endless. The only area our TA does not cover is IT support.
Why is it important?
Technical assistance is important to any community coalition or organization, no matter the stage of development and operations. When you don’t have expertise in a specific area in your coalition or organization, leaning on consultants is often used to learn more about the issue, the needs of the community or group, develop action plans, the actual implementation of those plans, and any steps needed after to sustain the effort.
Ten years ago, when Wholespire was responsible for creating a youth advocacy strategy, The HYPE Project®, we leaned on experts at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. We also sought information from other youth-serving organizations and youth advocacy programs. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
Technical assistance can lend to the longevity of your coalition or organization. It’s called capacity building – the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes, and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world (United Nations).
What does it cost?
At Wholespire, we provide free and fee-based technical assistance services. Free technical assistance is provided to Wholespire chapters and grantees. TA can range from organizational structure and partnership development to advocacy/policy development and project implementation. Another example of free TA is when a mini-grant applicant needs guidance on the application or requests, input on their project idea, or needs help getting over unforeseen hurdles during their project. TA also includes connecting our grantees with other existing local community health initiatives that can complement their project, open up doors for future collaboration, lead to other funding opportunities, and, ultimately, make communities healthier and more equitable.
Fee-based TA is a contracted service provided to partners and other organizations that request assistance. This service addresses similar areas as our free service; however, they’re typically more specific. An example is partnering with Healthy People Healthy Carolinas to help their grantees with achieving their goals. Another example is providing an advocacy training series, resources, and tools to the SC Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance to help them understand and begin advocacy work.
Remember, technical assistance plays a key role in developing and sustaining community coalitions and organizations into the future. It’s a way to use expert help to assess current capacity, build on strengths, and address underlying needs. If your community coalition or organization is interested in learning more about our technical assistance services, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.