The Short Answer
1. Don’t allow this to be an excuse. The work can proceed in parallel. The states shouldn’t wait for the federal government. Counties shouldn’t wait for the state. Cities shouldn’t wait for the counties. And communities shouldn’t wait for any of the above.
2. Don’t give up on such help, but work to gain it in a politically smart way.
3. And be creative about financing your what works strategy, so that you are not solely dependent on grants from above.
(1) While it would be best if all levels of government were in alignment, it is not necessary. The states shouldn’t wait for the federal government. The counties shouldn’t wait for the state. The cities shouldn’t wait for the counties. The communities shouldn’t wait for any of the above.
(2) Don’t let this be an excuse for inaction. Lack of support from above is often given as the reason for not taking action. The work on results at these different levels is parallel work. And it is possible for any one of them to make progress at improving conditions of well-being without the others. Tillamook county made progress on teen pregnancy without any new resources from the state in the first two years of its effort (See the Tillamook County case example). Many communities are making progress through community development corporations without any explicit government support. (See the New Development Corporation from Newark, New Jersey!)
(3) As you have your “what works” discussion, make a point to include actions which potential partners in other levels, both public and private, could contribute. For example, you may want to use child care funding more flexibly to help victims of domestic violence gain work and independence – and the waiver of a state regulation would help access the money. Include these and other potential partner actions and then pursue them as part of your action plan and, if they are important, go after them in a politically smart way. But do not create an action plan which solely depends for its success on the actions of others. It is almost always possible to make great progress without the support of other levels of government, and often progress is made in spite of deliberate opposition.
(4) Data is an important area where one level of work (e.g. state) can help another (e.g. county). See the disccusion under 2.8 Where do we get the data for indicators? How do we get better data? on how to work to get better data even in an uncooperative environment.
(5) And of course financing is an area where help from above can be important. See 2.14 How do we finance a results-based plan? for a systematic way of thinking about financing that goes beyond dependence on grants from above.