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Stage 2

Identify and Engage Partners

Stage 2 focuses on identifying and engaging with current and potential partners interested in working toward shared outcomes. For many partnerships, Stages 1 and 2 may happen concurrently as organizations align their understanding of community challenges. This stage offers an opportunity to consider the groups most affected by housing and education policies — whether they pertain to race and ethnicity, geography, socioeconomics, or other factors — and ensure that their voices are represented as the partnership develops. In addition to organizational partners, youth, families, residents and community leaders are important stakeholders to include when developing partnerships and cross-sector solutions.

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Stage 2

Identify and Engage Partners

Approaches, Considerations and Resources


For organizations seeking to identify new partners to implement solutions across sectors, the considerations described below can help guide this process. Assessing existing conditions, as outlined in Stage 1, is one way to identify and engage with potential partners who are likely to be interested in working together toward a common goal. Appendix E, under resources for Stage 2, provides a summary of many common housing and education organizations to consider when developing partnerships. These include public housing authorities, community development corporations, school districts and education backbone organizations, or organizations that serve as facilitators or leaders of work across multiple organizations or sectors in a community.

  • Community Leadership and Representation: Community leadership can include tenant associations, resident advisory councils, religious leaders, neighborhood watch groups, parent- teacher associations, youth groups, families and community leaders. Key questions to consider include the following:
    • Have we considered the power dynamics of the organizations that comprise our partnership?
    • Does our partnership include consistent and diverse representation and leadership from the community or population that we are intending to serve?
  • Geography of Partnership: Geographic differences can be noticeable, particularly when housing and education stakeholders come together in partnership. While education stakeholders may operate at the school district level, housing stakeholders often target a smaller area, posing a potential spatial mismatch in the populations served by each organization. Key questions to consider include the following:
    • Have we identified organizations that work in our area of focus and identified geographic differences among potential partners?
    • How will geographic differences affect the implementation of our partnership and sustained community engagement?
  • Existing Partnerships: Existing partnerships might include housing authorities working with school districts on data-sharing procedures, affordable housing providers working with nonprofit organizations to provide educational support as part of resident services programming, or a local Continuum of Care Program working to coordinate services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness (see the summary of common housing and education partnerships in Appendix E for more detail). Key questions to consider include the following:
    • Are any existing partnerships focused on serving the target community or population? If so, can we work with them to avoid duplication of effort?
    • Is a local or regional foundation supporting local work? If so, which organizations and partnerships are they supporting?
  • Service Providers: Service providers can include food banks, job counseling services, homeless shelters, after-school programs, faith institutions and other social service organizations. Key questions to consider include the following:
    • Which individuals, organizations or institutions have existing experience serving our community, even if their work is outside the housing or education sector?
    • Is there any ongoing cross-sector service provision, such as resident services offered at an affordable housing development?
  • Additional Stakeholders: Additional stakeholders may include local government agencies focused on public safety, food security or transportation; city or town councils; local and regional foundations and philanthropies; cultural institutions and arts organizations; and anchor institutions, such as hospitals, universities and large employers. Key questions to consider include the following:
    • Who are the local or regional stakeholders with decision-making authority or funding relationships that work in our community, within and beyond the bounds of housing and education?
    • How can we secure additional support to ensure that all partners have sufficient resources to participate in the collaboration?


A number of approaches are useful to consider when identifying and engaging with potential partners. To start, we recommend the OPPORTUNITY360 Community Engagement Toolkit, published on Enterprise’s website, to explore a range of resources for engaging with residents and stakeholders to better understand community dynamics and address local challenges.

The following list highlights several strategies, with examples from housing and education partnerships. Appendix E, under resources for Stage 2, offers additional guidance for each of these engagement tools — as well as for establishing partnerships more generally, including formalizing a partnership structure — and other examples that can inspire thinking in your own community.

  • Focus Groups: Focus groups are a useful tool to understand multiple perspectives on a particular topic through a facilitated small-group discussion. By bringing together multiple stakeholders, such as parents or local residents, to discuss an issue, focus groups can provide valuable input, help build relationships with community members and begin to identify possible steps forward.
  • Surveys: Surveys can be used to better understand the perceptions, needs and priorities of a population and to establish a baseline to track change over time. Surveys can be administered to particular sets of individuals — such as youth, parents or neighborhood residents — and on differing scales, such as at a school, in a housing development or across a neighborhood.
  • Participatory Asset Mapping: Participatory asset mapping is a tool that allows groups of community stakeholders to visualize, or map, the assets and strengths of a community to help build partnerships and achieve collective goals. Some examples of assets include a community school, a local nonprofit organization, a library or a neighborhood park.
  • Stakeholder Mapping: Stakeholder mapping exercises are a way to create a visual representation of the various stakeholders who affect or are affected by relevant issues, thereby helping to identify possible partners for collaboration.
    The stakeholder mapping process can also serve as a guide for community engagement when assessing existing conditions, as in Stage 1.
  • Network and Systems Mapping: Similar to stakeholder mapping, network and systems mapping helps to visualize not only the stakeholders involved in a given community, but also the relationships between stakeholders and their influence over such systemic issues as funding or policy. These maps also can focus on the intersection between key issues within a given area and the factors that influence them, making them helpful references when seeking systems change, as seen in Stage 5.
  • Hosting Community Events: In addition to seeking potential partners, organizations might also consider joining or hosting an open house, meeting, or workshop where staff can meet with residents and other stakeholders to describe their organizations, explain their motivations for cross-sector work and begin a conversation about the possibilities of partnering.

Case Study: College Housing Assistance Program

Lead Organization: Tacoma Housing Authority

StriveTogether Network Representation: Graduate Tacoma

Location: Tacoma, Washington

The College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) at the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) was established following the publication of a nationwide study that revealed high rates of housing insecurity and homelessness among the student body at Tacoma Community College. Upon learning more about the housing needs of local community college students, the housing authority’s executive director saw a potential role for the agency and initiated conversations with community college staff. With a student body of more than 12,000 students, Tacoma Community College was receptive and motivated to work with THA to address students’ housing needs.

As the housing authority and college began discussing students’ housing insecurity, the elements of CHAP started to come together. Through CHAP, the housing authority now provides a total of 250 housing subsidies to students experiencing or at risk of homelessness, including those who are exiting the justice system. THA also has identified eligible rental properties where students can use the housing subsidies, negotiated with landlords and helped connect participating students with additional resources, such as free furniture. In turn, the community college provides participating students with academic case management and tracks student outcomes according to determined metrics of success, including persistence (quarter-to-quarter enrollment), grade-point average, graduation rates and transfer rates.

CHAP represents an expansion of THA’s involvement with education providers, which started with engagement at the elementary school level to better serve young children. CHAP has expanded to work with the University of Washington Tacoma and Bates Technical College and has gained additional support from Graduate Tacoma, a local education nonprofit and member of the StriveTogether network.

Housing Goal:

Increase housing stability for students experiencing homelessness or near- homelessness through expanded provision of housing subsidies.


Education Goal:

Ensure that students experiencing homelessness or near-homelessness are able to receive academic support and graduate with a degree and a skills base that prepares them for eventual employment.


Shared Housing and Education Outcome:

Students experiencing homelessness or near-homelessness and their dependents will be stably housed, lowering their housing cost burden and allowing them to focus on academic achievement and preparation for employment.