Flexibility in Technical Assistance
In situations where Alliances had difficulty understanding and articulating the problem it was trying to solve, it was important for the NPO to play the role of matchmaker and connect Alliances with TA providers that could address the likely barriers, such as lack of political will, unclear strategy, or a gap in knowledge or skills. The NPO implemented a robust annual survey process that provided Alliances with a “buffet” of TA options. Alliances ranked their need for the range of services available from each TA provider by indicating which TA services it needed, the approximate time frame for using the services, and whether they anticipated using the TA provider intensively (high-touch) or more on an ad-hoc basis (low-touch). The ranking system allowed the NPO to balance the cadre of TA providers and their associated scopes of work and budgets accordingly. During this process, the NPO played a valuable role in communicating what TA was available, how other Alliances were engaging and using TA providers, and helping Alliances best shape TA that would meet their individual markets and circumstances.
Funds for grantees to contract with TA
The NPO recognized that each AF4Q Alliance was unique in terms of scope, capacity, and maturity, and that it was important to provide the Alliances with a customized, flexible TA strategy to advance AF4Q’s programmatic goals. The NPO made a pool of self-directed funding available to Alliances to engage external experts/consultants who could help meet AF4Q goals (e.g., performance measurement, public reporting, consumer engagement, payment reform, benefit design, sustainability, stakeholder collaboration, equity/disparities) and/or Alliance-specific quality or cost goals. Since it was permissible to use existing TA providers, some Alliances used the funds to augment the TA provided through the NPO with the understanding that the scope of work could not duplicate what was already available via the NPO. Many communities used these funds to contract with regional experts, thus building relationships at the local or regional level. Building relationships in the community gave Alliances access to individuals and organizations that they already knew in the community, but that were not part of global TA offerings.