Thank you so much for writing to us at Ask an Advisor! It sounds like you have identified a community need, and are now ready to take the next step to address it. Community partners can definitely help your initiative be effective.
One thing that we would suggest is making a list to identify possible community partners (stakeholders) who could serve as partners on an initiative. Stakeholders are those with vested interests in your project, and could be individuals, groups of individuals, or organizations. Examples of stakeholders might be the youth you seek to serve and their families, school personnel, police officers, and representatives of any agencies that work with youth populations. Try to consider both people who might have a birds-eye view (e.g., an organization’s executive director), as well as people who work directly with the problem you wish to address. If you are having trouble developing a long list of community partners, you can reach out to those stakeholders who you are able to identify, and ask for recommendations.
Once you have identified a list of potential stakeholders, you’ll need to contact them. Could you organize a planning meeting with all interested parties? If not, could you hold one-on-one conferences to discuss the project, and their potential involvement? If you lack direct contact or access to the stakeholders you have identified, who within your contacts might have direct access?
When discussing your initiative with stakeholders, make sure to find out what their interests and goals are. Do their goals align with yours? Are they committed to the initiative? What would their involvement look like? What time, personnel, and other resources can they give to the project? If they are not committed to the initiative, why not (what are their concerns)? Can you address these concerns in any way?
Finally, keep in mind that community partnerships are really about relationship building. Once stakeholders are identified and partnerships are formed, make sure to maintain communication with stakeholders, seek feedback regularly, and make adjustments to the project or to stakeholder involvement as needed.
For additional ideas, you may wish to review some of the materials in the Community Tool Box, especially Chapter 7, Encouraging Involvement in Community Work.
We hope that some of these ideas have been helpful to you. Thank you again for writing, and all the best wishes for continued success in your work.