Date: July 14th, 2016
By: Deborah Chilcoat
Many of you have experienced what some companies call “technical assistance.” You have a problem with your computer or smart phone so you contact customer service to get help. In some instances, you get an automated response followed by the opportunity to ask someone your question. During a call or live chat, you’re expected to follow directions and do exactly as customer support instructs. Unfortunately, this real-time “technical assistance” may or may not work. That is not the kind of technical assistance (TA) we’re talking about.
As a TA Provider, or TAP, think of yourself as a coach who provides individualized TA to meet the needs and increase the knowledge and skills of people with whom you’ll be working. Your job is not to tell people what to do; your job is to assess their capacity for doing the work and guide them to achieve quality program implementation.
Your role is not simply to give the partner instructions and then expect that they’ll do exactly what you say. Your role is to coach them as an equally invested partner in identifying their own needs and achieving their own goals. TAPs must be flexible in using different strategies and resources to address the changing needs of the partner. TAPs should use a foundation of best practices in TA to enhance the delivery.
How you deliver your TA will be essential to establishing collaborative relationships with the implementation partner. Take a closer look at an example of these collaborative relationships with The Care and Feeding of Youth-Supporting Professionals—an inside look at one TA recipient’s experience with Healthy Teen Network.
Aspects of relationships important to your work as a TAP include :
- Building trust
Trust without solid TA strategies or TA strategies without good relationships will probably not yield the best results. Being accessible, reliable, and dependable are all critical qualities for building a trusting relationship with a partner.
- Using different TA practices and techniques
Variety will better engage team members, help them build their knowledge and skills, and lead them to be more effective. Sending a periodic email to partners with links to a news story or new resource is not sufficient to engage them. In-person meetings, video chats, or interactive TA logs may enhance the TA experience—for both of you!
- Encouraging meaningful communication
The partner needs to know he or she can expect you to (tactfully) tell the truth about the work, especially when it comes to program changes or improvements. They also need to know they can have confidential conversations with you about concerns they may have. For example, they need to be able to ask you for help without feeling incompetent or worrying about their status on the project. They also need to know that when they are asked to contribute ideas and strategies for moving forward, what they say will become part of their action plans. TA success requires building, nurturing, and maintaining relationships so that the implementation partner can better learn to provide and sustain high-quality programs in the community.
Want to know more about how to provide high-quality, effective TA? Check out our guide, designed to support TAPs in coaching practitioners to plan, implement, evaluate, improve, and sustain programs that achieve desired outcomes.
Healthy Teen Network developed the Guide for Technical Assistance Providers Working with Promoting Science-Based Approaches in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Using Getting to Outcomes to bolster your knowledge and sharpen your skills providing TA and collaborating with partners. The guide includes common issues TAPs experience, suggested solutions, resources, and tools so that you can effectively guide partners through planning, implementing, evaluating, improving, and sustaining their programs and strategies. For a brief introduction to this resource, view our online presentation.
If you’d like more support on building your capacity to provide technical assistance, contact us today to start a conversation about how we can best meet your needs.
About the Author
Deborah Chilcoat, M.Ed., brings over 16 years of experience in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and an unyielding commitment to improving the health and well-being of young people to her current position as Senior Training and Technical Assistance Manager at Healthy Teen Network. Deb’s extensive experience in project management, capacity-building assistance, collaborative partnerships, as well as evidence-based and innovative approaches has served to meet the needs of diverse youth and communities across the United States.