WIOA requires One-stop memorandum of understanding (MOU) development and budget negotiations. It’s probably not at the top of anyone’s “Fun-Things-To-Do” list. At its best, an MOU negotiation can be a shining example of customer-focused, cross-program collaboration; at its worst, it can degenerate into a dysfunctional pit of chaos and animosity.
Illinois has successfully resolved and implemented MOUs in all 22 of their local areas. The recipe leading to this success is not hard to grasp, but it can be difficult to execute. Here’s their process in five steps:
1. Start with all the WIOA Core Partners.
The Governor’s Office helped the Illinois agencies create the State WIOA Interagency Work Group (IWG) to handle the cross-agency issues of implementation. All IWG partners were directly involved in the development and review of the Governor’s Guidelines from the beginning. This is important because it gave all partners equal ownership, which prevented local partner staff from going rogue during negotiations.
2. Lay a solid, standardized foundation.
The Governor’s Guidelines clearly described the who, what, when and how of MOU negotiations. The guidelines included templates for the overarching narrative that describes which programs are party to the MOU and what role each partner will take in providing services; and for identifying shared costs and how those costs would be shared. Standardization of forms allows for streamlined technical assistance from both state partners and between local areas; and makes for a much more efficient review process.
3. Set interim milestones with deliverables for early warnings and to avoid procrastination.
Interim deadlines were set with tangible deliverables to force the issue of local negotiations and provide early warning opportunities. Illinois opted to proceed to have MOUs completed by June 30, 2017, despite the federal deadline being pushed back six months. Since the local areas were making good progress on their negotiations, the IWG decided it was in the best interests of all, including customers, to forge ahead as originally planned.
4. Be available and helpful.
Numerous recorded webinars were held to remind all required local partners of the process and timelines and to provide opportunities for Q&A. Most questions could be answered immediately on the webinar with all responses posted to an online FAQ page. For areas struggling to secure involvement or signatures from local partners, the MOU team swiftly assisted local staff avoid or break through the inevitable logjams that arise.
5. Field deployment if needed.
For areas that could not reach agreement on their own, the IWG designated teams made up of state core partner staff to meet with all the local partners and mediate a settlement. This team had to leave some of their program hat at the door, providing impartial program expertise without becoming an overtly partisan advocate for their program.
Manager - Strategic Planning & Innovation
IL Dept. of Commerce / Office of Employment & Training