Obstacles to Social Service Collaboration in Response to the Great Recession: The Case of the Contra Costa County Safety Net Initiative


This case study examines the experiences and dynamics of the Safety Net Initiative, a multisector collaboration in Contra Costa County, California. The Great Recession hit social services in Contra Costa County especially hard, and local stakeholders launched the Safety Net Initiative in an effort to repair and reimagine the county’s understaffed and underfunded safety net. The case study is based on 14 stakeholder interviews and extensive document review to address 2 questions: (a) What are the challenges to social services collaboration that are unique to suburban jurisdictions such as Contra Costa County? (b) What were the interpersonal and interagency dynamics that facilitated or hindered the collaboration’s process? Findings are reported within the context of four major themes or tensions (short-term vs. long-term; awareness vs. action; process-focus vs. outcome-focus; centralized vs. decentralized authority). Practice implications for social service collaboration in suburban jurisdictions are also identified.

Radu, P.
Carnochan, S.
Austin, M.J.
Publication date: 
December 16, 2015
Publication type: 
Journal Article