About the Peer Expertise and Assets Sharing Project (PEAS)

What is PEAS? (Peer Expertise and Assets Sharing)
link to PEAS Project Charter

link to PEAS database

Toronto Neighbourhood Centres
Peer Expertise and Assets Sharing (PEAS) Project

Phase I
Interim Report -DRAFT March 2006


The Peer Expertise and Assets Sharing (PEAS) Project is developing a strategy for exchanging knowledge and skills to promote capacity building across the TNC network.

Over the last several months, member agencies were interviewed about key capacities that would be required to meet their current organizational priorities, and about the knowledge skills or tools that could be freed up for sharing with other members. To date, 26 interviews have been completed. An online inventory is being developed to provide members with access to the offers, requests and ideas for joint projects collected in these interviews.

In the coming months, specific asset sharing activities will commence. At the PEAS Planning Retreat on June 21, agency representatives will meet to exchange ideas and establish new capacity sharing initiatives. During the summer, a plan of action for several years of capacity strengthening undertakings (Phase II) will be created, along with a funding and sustainability strategy to support the plan.

The purpose of this report is to outline the possibilities that have emerged from analyzing the patterns observed in the completed interviews and to describe some proposed processes for advancing the most promising opportunities.

Summary of Peer Expertise and Assets Sharing Strategies We have identified four basic strategies that TNC members could use for capacity sharing. These are listed and defined below.

1. Affinity Groups

Small, collegial groups will be formed to exchange knowledge and work on solutions to shared challenges. (An existing example of this strategy is the TNC members group that meets to share approaches to organizational challenges that are common to mid-sized agencies)

2. Direct Agency to Agency Sharing

Matches between capacities requested by one agency and capacities offered by another will be identified by searching the online offers and requests inventory. (Barb and Rob have already identified some of these linkages informally, but the searchable PEAS database will enable members to discover these links directly. Hopefully, members will add to these offers and requests with new postings as appropriate)

3. Centrally Coordinated Projects

These projects will address common capacity needs throughout the TNC network. PEAS project resources will be used to develop plans, prepare proposals, and identify potential partners. (An example is the suggestion that TNC should develop a central repository of policy and procedure documents. Many other suggestions were made in the PEAS interviews)

4. Staff Development Workshops

Specific staff skill development requests which are common to many agencies will be used to create plans for peer-based staff learning opportunities and externally led workshops facilitated for peer sharing.

Detailed Descriptions of the Strategies and Next Steps

1. Affinity Groups

Affinity groups will be made up of TNC agency representatives who will work together to address common challenges by exchanging knowledge, sharing problems and solutions, and exploring joint initiatives or services. Affinity groups will be small, collegial and peer led.

There is a collection of issues in which a number of organizations expressed interest in collaborative problem solving by members with similar needs. In many cases, there are related capacity offers which could be employed in the development of joint strategies.

Numerous affinity group topics have emerged from the PEAS interview data. An online survey to all TNC members will be used to help identify which of the following groups should be launched first as part of our work at the June PEAS Planning Retreat.

1. Sharing Board Development Strategies
2. Developing an Agency's External Communications, P.R., Marketing and Media Strategy
3. Staying Current on Neighbourhood Composition and Trends
4. Developing a Process for Sharing Staff Positions among Agencies
5. Resident Engagement Working Group
6. Collective Negotiation of Supplies and Services
7. Managing Growth
8. Evaluation Tools that Support Agency Planning
9. Approaches to Strategic Planning
10. Shared Training
11. Formalizing Existing Large Agency HR Network
12. Developing Fundraising Plans and Structures
13. Proactive Planning Regarding Future Collective Bargaining Issues
14. Yearly or Quarterly Staff Peer Information Sharing Sessions
15. PEAS Support for new Mid-sized Agency HR Group

2. Direct Agency to Agency Sharing

Agencies will be encouraged to use the online inventory to look for knowledge, skills and tools offered by others and to identify agency requests they could assist with. Contact information listed with each request and offer will enable agencies to get in touch and discuss ways obtain and share expertise.

Examples of matches between offers and requests already noted include: strategies for youth engagement, developing a strategic plan without external resources, starting a capital campaign, and developing a human resources function. Project staff will collect information on the volume and effectiveness of exchange supported by the online inventory.

3. Centrally Coordinated Projects

A list of 9 potential project possibilities has emerged from analysis of the interview data:

1. Information Technology Management Capacity and Shared Services
2. Learning Networks that become Advisory Panels
3. Centralized Document Bank
4. Board Development Forum
5. TNC Advocacy Framework
6. Community Development Networking and Supports
7. Staff Safety and Risk Management
8. Media and Communications Strategy for TNC
9. Documenting Neighbourhood Centre Programming and Innovation

Outlines for some of these projects will be developed for review by the PEAS Steering Committee. The agenda for the June Planning Retreat will include time for discussion and feedback.

4. Staff Development Workshops

Interview data on staff skill development requests will inform the agenda of an annual staff training day, designed to highlight peer knowledge exchange. In topic areas where an external catalyst is required, recommended providers will be contacted and to see if they can offer appropriate programming.

Requested staff development topics include:

  • Managing effectively in a unionized setting
  • Supervision
  • Using technologies effectively
  • Job-related financial management skills

Agencies will be updated on progress of the PEAS project at monthly meetings and via email. The action plan for Phase II will be ready in September.

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Toronto Neighbourhood Centres Peer Organizational Capacity Building Initiative: Phase 1

Updated Oct 31, 2005. Please check back for further developments and project documents that will be posted on this page.

PROJECT CHARTER Draft as of October 30, 2005

Project Description:

In this 12-month project, TNC will develop a strategy for exchanging knowledge and skills to promote capacity building across its network of 30 organizations. Organizations that have acquired specialized expertise or solved certain problems will be supported to share skills and tools with those facing similar problems. Organizations will be supported in obtaining tools and expertise from peer agencies to meet their specific capacity strengthening needs.

This one-year project is the first phase of a four-year initiative which aims to implement a broad system for sharing skills, knowledge, processes and tools across the TNC network. Funding for Phase 1 is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Asset mapping processes will be used to assist each participating organization to define their sharable assets and capacity needs. An online assets inventory will be produced and promising knowledge sharing activities will be pilot tested. A long term action plan for ongoing capacity building will be produced, along with a sustainability strategy to implement it using existing network resources, external supports and funded projects.

Benefits to TNC Member Agencies:

Relevant, easily applicable knowledge often comes from people who have "been there". Peers will know the unique context and challenges of the multi-service agency in Toronto. This project will enable member agencies to obtain the benefits of peer knowledge and experience at no cost when and where they need it most.

During Phase 1, TNC members will:

  • Participate in activities which recognize agency strengths and skills
  • Access an inventory of knowledge available from other TNC members at no cost
  • Access a repository of tools and documents provided by other members
  • Utilize a range of learning events and supports as the most promising capacity development approaches are feasibility tested
  • Shape forthcoming capacity building strategy by providing feedback and selecting priorities for future direction

Primary Objectives:

The project will:

  • Increase awareness among participating agencies of strengths and solutions they have which could help other TNC organizations address capacity challenges
  • Increase awareness among participating agencies of tools and expertise other TNC agencies have to share which could address their capacity needs
  • Provide a means by which a member agency can identify supports offered which match their capacity needs.
  • Identify characteristics of valuable and effective capacity building approaches
  • Prepare a plan of action for Phase 2
  • Prepare a sustainability strategy to resource Phase 2

Key Deliverables:

  • An online inventory of assets on offer from TNC agencies
  • Learning events and capacity supports
  • A plan of action for a network-wide system of knowledge sharing
  • A funding and resource development strategy to support the action plan


TNC Member Agencies - Member agencies will take part in asset mapping exercises, They will access the learning events and capacity supports being tested and they will provide feedback to shape future direction.

Steering Committee - The Steering Committee will regularly review the progress of the project and develop recommendations for priorities and future direction.

Reference Group - External advisers with expertise in asset mapping, peer learning and organizational capacity building strategy will be consulted

TNC Coordinator - Rob Howarth will supervise the project, chair the steering committee report to the TNC Executive and liaise with the current funder and potential funders.

Project Consultant - Barbara Williams will carry out the day-to-day work of the project, preparing all materials, meeting with agencies, implementing feasibility study learning events, developing action plans and preparing funding proposals.