TARC: The Information Exchange Network of Making Connections

Posted July 1, 2006, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Technical Assistance Resource Center, known as TARC, was the information exchange arm of our decade-long Making Connections community change initiative launched in 1999. Community change is hard work, and from our past investments, we know it is made even harder without comparative lessons, data, strategic information and tacit knowledge at your fingertips. 

TARC created a vast information exchange network for the 10 cities involved with Making Connections. We combined the talent of Casey staff with the expertise of consultants, the knowledge from resident participants, the data from our neighborhood evaluations and the learnings from our investments, diarists, programs and networks into one unit. Since we already knew a one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t work with community change efforts, we made TARC robust enough to provide site-wide assistance, capable of providing specialized site support, yet flexible enough to shift momentum on a moment’s notice.

Each Making Connections site had its own TARC liaison connected to a team of available experts. Using hard copy documents, in-depth research, interactive websites and hands on-the-ground help, the TARC team bolstered site partners tackling the toughest issues. When Des Moines delved into predatory lending, TARC jumped in with seminars, research, knowledge exchanges and more. As Denver geared up for residents to take the lead, TARC consultants were on the ground facilitating the transition. It was TARC staff that created and documented peer exchanges where personnel from one Making Connections site hosted those from another to learn proven problem-solving strategies. Many of the Making Connections documents on this website came from TARC innovations.

As each Making Connections site focused on its own family strengthening issues, TARC team members provided problem-solving expertise on data collection, leadership, social networking, community involvement, media advocacy, policy reform. Family strengthening issues surfacing attention ran the gamut: illiteracy; unemployment; isolation; immigration; prisoner reentry; housing; school disintegration; governance; early childhood education; transportation; mental health. Each topic tackled by the teams increased site knowledge and staff focus. 

Making Connections set the standard for our neighborhood transformation work, cementing our two-generation approach – education/health for kids; financial success/training for families. TARC developed the information exchange that documented and disseminated the key knowledge and rich learnings that enabled Making Connections to thrive. 

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