Managing a COP

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COPs require ongoing management and attention to keep the momentum going—even while groups are regularly meeting, have found their groove, and are on track to accomplishing their goals. As the TTA provider, you play a crucial role in supporting the leaders of each COP in their efforts to provide strong direction and management. There are various ways that TTA providers can help leaders with the management of their COPs. Providers can: check in regularly with individual COP leaders, convene leaders on a regular basis, suggest activities that help COPs deepen their work, schedule COP evaluations, and provide tools and templates to support COP work. By offering a range of ongoing support, you can help the COP stay on track. You can also set the stage for COPs being able to continue their work on their own long after the TTA program has ended.

You can support COPs by scheduling meetings with their leaders.

It’s important to stay in touch with COP leaders. Regular contact benefits the leaders as well as the TTA provider.

  • Check in regularly with individual COP leaders. COP leaders have taken on additional responsibilities in the midst of an already busy schedule. Help maintain their commitment and enthusiasm by making quick outreach calls to check on how they’re doing and to offer your support. Regular check-ins also alert you to the challenges that may derail the COP and allow you to collaborate on preventive measures.

  • Convene team leaders on a regular basis. The TTA provider can convene a monthly conference call to support leaders and keep the momentum of the COPs alive. A typical agenda could include a go-around about what is happening in each COP and/or any successes and challenges they may have experienced.  This relatively low-effort activity also enables the TTA provider to have an ear to the ground about issues common to all the participating organizations in the COPs. TTA providers may also consider maintaining an online workspace dedicated to the COP leaders, using platforms like Yahoo, Google Groups, Wiggio, Ning, or other free services.

You can support COPs through activities and evaluations.

Well-chosen activities can deepen group work; COP evaluations allow members to share progress and discuss problem areas.

  • Suggest “going deeper” activities along with TTA activities. To make a direct link between your TTA activities and the COPs, provide explicit activity ideas as part of training plans.  Some examples might include:
    • Have COPs conduct grant reviews after a training on grant writing
    • Develop a case study related to an organizational capacity building problem. Suggest that COPs work through the case study together
    • Have COPs offer peer feedback on each other’s work plans
  • Schedule evaluations. Take time with COP leaders to step back and evaluate the progress of their COPs. Share practices that are promising and address any challenges they are facing. This can be done via online survey or on the phone in the form of a facilitated discussion. Work with the group to brainstorm solutions to challenges. Modify the COP structure going forward (if necessary) to integrate feedback and improve the group’s functioning.

Check your understanding of methods for managing COPs.

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You can provide templates and tools to support a COP’s work.

By providing templates and tools, you’re able to enhance members’ knowledge and help them capture important ideas and information. Some very helpful templates include the following:

  • Case study template—allows individual members to present a problem for the group to solve
  • Promising practices template—captures promising practices which the group agrees are the best or most innovative approaches for an organization to use when performing a specific type of activity
  • Lessons learned template—captures lessons uncovered throughout the course of the COP

Some helpful tools include the following:

  • Trainings or guidebooks on conducting effective online training.  A popular and effective use of COP time is to rotate trainings conducted by members of the COP. If the organizations do not have a background in conducting webinars or online meetings, the TTA provider can offer this training to the COPs.
  • Training or guides on effective use of online workspaces. You may have set up an online workspace for the COPs, but do they know how to use it? Elements of a training should include:
    • Basics of the technology (i.e., how to join/log in)
    • Features that are available for use (discussion forum, shared calendar, file sharing, etc.)
    • Best practices for using the technology. Give examples of things they can do right away that show value, like posting a request for a specific resource or posting a great tool they’ve created and would like to share with the group.
    • A collective TTA request form. Send a message to the COP that, as their TTA provider, you’re committed to providing resources and training that are important to the group. Ensure that each COP has access to a form through which they can request TA or training for their entire COP.

Download the Template Tip Sheet to learn more about useful templates.

Click this link to download the Template Tip Sheet.

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