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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