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Promot Educ. 2005;12(3-4):131-7.

Successful strategies and lessons learned from development of large-scale partnerships of national non-governmental organisations.

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Partnerships for Children's Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


National governments worldwide work to improve education and health outcomes for children and youth and influence their behaviours. Also heavily engaged are national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the voluntary and non-profit sector. While individual agencies and non-profit organisations are often concerned with specific issues of interest related to their charge, constituency or membership, they often develop allegiances with like-minded groups to accomplish broader goals. Two such collaborations in the United States are the focus of this discussion, the National Co-ordinating Committee on School Health and Safety (NCCSHS) and the Friends of School Health (hereafter, "the Friends"). This article reviews these two significant partnerships of public health and education NGOs and outlines successful strategies and lessons learned from the development of these large-scale partnerships. NCCSHS is a collaboration of 64 NGOs and six U.S. government departments representing both the fields of public health and education. Nearly all major NGOs working in fields related to school health are represented, and the six primary governmental agencies all have at least some responsibility for students' health and safety. The group is the primary intersection of NGOs and the Federal government related to school health at the national level. The Friends of School Health ("the Friends") is the primary school health advocacy coalition at the national level in the United States. Sixty-one education and public health NGOs participate. The coalition serves as a communication mechanism and venue for collaborative action on issues before the U.S. Congress and state legislatures that relate to school health. Since the coalition advocates to legislators and other decision makers, no government agencies participate. The paper describes the strategies relating to the initial development of the collaboratives and their ongoing operation. A common theme in development of both of these examples of large-scale partnerships is trust. Like any partnership, the ability to work and grow is dependent on the level of trust among the partners. Both the National Coordinating Committee on School Health and Safety and the Friends of School Health work together successfully within and across their collaborations, to improve health and educational outcomes for children and youth. While both experience challenges, and neither would indicate that its work is near completion, they provide important insight into how these collaboratives can initially develop and subsequently operate productively while providing important contributions to the promotion of healthy schools, and ultimately, healthy nations.

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