Insights from Early Adapters
Complex problems are not just more complicated than other problems; they are different in kind… The hallmark of complex problems is that they involve a wide range of factors that interact with one another to generate a constantly shifting set of issues and challenges. As a result, they can be addressed effectively only when an equally wide range of partners, each engaged with different aspects of the issue, work together to adjust and re-adjust how they affect one another through the decisions and actions they take. Eric Leviten-Reid, Comprehensive Strategies for Deep and Durable Outcomes, Caledon Institute of Social Policy, April 2009
The Blueprint for Safety reflects this essential approach to solving complex problems. It involves a wide range of partners within the criminal legal system, other government agencies, and community-based advocacy organizations. Each partner attends to its own practice and role while working together to “adjust and re-adjust” the Blueprint as a collective policy and practice.
The Blueprint is a design for change within a complex incident-focused system that was never organized to fit the distinct nature of battering, with its pattern of ongoing intimidation, coercion, and violence. The Blueprint is a fully articulated criminal legal system response framed by features that distinguish it from other approaches to intervening in domestic violence-related crimes. In a Blueprint community:
- A framework of foundational principles and essential elements guides intervention.
- Practitioners are organized to identify, document, disseminate, and act upon cases based on risk and danger.
- Reform efforts are grounded in the experiences of victims of violence and organized around principles of victim engagement.
- Attention to recognizing and preventing harmful disparity of impact and unintended consequences is central to a unified response.
- Intra- and interagency monitoring and accountability are built into policy and practice throughout the system.
The Blueprint’s early adapters have demonstrated that under certain conditions communities can position themselves to develop the shared philosophy, commitment, and response that characterize the Blueprint’s distinct approach to curtailing and eventually eliminating domestic violence. Communities seeking to develop and apply the Blueprint benefit from the experience of St. Paul and the demonstration initiative sites: Duluth, New Orleans, and Memphis/Shelby County. Thanks to their groundbreaking efforts, a community starting now has the foundation of tools and options presented in this guide.
The early adapters have many insights and lessons to share about how to organize and sustain the Blueprint’s sweeping approach to changing a complex system. Among the core insights:
- Structure, organization, and skilled coordination are essential from the beginning.
- The Blueprint requires champions at many levels—agency decision-makers and leaders, a coordinator, practitioner partners, advocates, community leaders—working in an environment of respect and trust for one another’s role and contributions and a mutual willingness to seek out and respond to problems in the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence crimes.
- Everyone involved needs to see and understand the “essential elements”—the big picture and purpose—how the Blueprint will work at each step and within each agency, and everyone’s role in implementing and maintaining it.
- A consistent and repeated message of the Blueprint as a collective policy is critical. It requires a focus on how the various roles, parts, and pieces in the criminal legal system response to battering fit together. Under a collective policy, everyone is always looking at how they are linked and what information is collected and where it goes.
- It is critical to learn the process, approvals, and timelines for each agency’s policy writing and training delivery early on in the Blueprint adaptation process.
- Communities vary greatly and local conditions, skills, and circumstances require flexibility in approach and technical assistance related to adaptation and implementation.
- Blueprint coordinators, leaders, and team members need clear guidance on the logistics and mechanics of managing the Blueprint, including what to do, where to start, roles, timelines, strategies for addressing problems, and implementation and monitoring tools.
- Attention to unintended consequences and disparity of impact needs to happen early on. Community consultation must be a key part of Blueprint planning, adaptation, and monitoring.
- Community-based advocacy has a central role in adapting the Blueprint and helping to ensure that it is centered in the voices and experiences of victims/survivors.
- The practice assessment is an important element in adapting the Blueprint and maintaining it over time.
In short, the foundation for implementing and maintaining the Blueprint has to be set early on in how the community prepares, who is involved, and the ways in which the Blueprint is defined and communicated.
There is a common saying about the great time and distance it takes for a cargo ship to change course. The process of adapting the Blueprint for Safety (Blueprint) is much like turning a cargo ship—in this case, the super-sized vessel carrying the criminal legal system and its response to battering. It requires all hands on deck to make the kinds of changes that position such a large, complex system to establish and sustain the Blueprint’s unified approach to battering and domestic violence. Becoming a Blueprint Community: A New Response to Battering and Domestic Violence Crimes is the result of learning from those who have been ‘turning the cargo ship’ since the Blueprint was first launched in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2010. Many communities and individuals have contributed their experience, insight, and expertise to the lessons and tools included in this guide. Praxis International extends its thanks and tremendous appreciation to all involved. We also offer our regrets for being unable to list by name each individual survivor, advocate, practitioner, and community member who has contributed to the Blueprint adaptation thinking and testing in the three demonstration communities and in St. Paul over the past five years. The names would run into the hundreds, if not thousands.
First, we thank the many survivors who have talked with and guided the local coordinators, adaptation teams, and Praxis staff involved in the demonstration initiative and ongoing adaptation of the Blueprint. Their contributions help keep the needs and lives of battered women at the center of the work.
Our appreciation to the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women for funding to support the Blueprint for Safety Adaptation Demonstration Initiative—and for their guidance, curiosity and insight that supports the ambitious endeavor known as the Blueprint.
We cannot begin to adequately acknowledge the communities that have participated in the Demonstration Initiative. We trust that the coordinators who have been charged with the day-to-day challenge of making the Blueprint real in their communities (listed below as of July 2015), will convey our great appreciation and thanks to the police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, and community members who are working alongside one another to create a unified policy and approach to violence that causes much harm and damage in our communities. Each site has contributed its distinctive experience to the task of understanding how to shape criminal legal system practice around the Blueprint for Safety. To illustrate, we acknowledge one facet of that experience here.
- Duluth, MN, brought its long history and experience with how to establish and sustain a coordinated community response to battering. The Duluth Model CCR is the foundation of the Blueprint.
- Scott Miller, Blueprint Co-coordinator
- Tara Haynes, Blueprint Co-coordinator
- Melissa Scaia, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs
- New Orleans, LA, offered its willingness to try out new ways of involving advocates, practitioners, and the community to expand discussions about disparity.
- Amalfi Parker-Elder, Blueprint Coordinator
- Kati Bambrick Rodriguez, City of New Orleans Domestic Violence Program Director
- Memphis and Shelby County, TN, assembled a forum of practitioners, advocates, survivors, and community members to plot out the impact of the intersections of poverty, language, culture, and identity on the system’s tendency to rely on the victim to carry the case forward.
- Lia Roemer, Blueprint Coordinator
- Martha Lott, Shelby County Community Services
A heartfelt thank-you to our many friends in the City of St. Paul and Ramsey County, MN, for their ongoing commitment to making the Blueprint a living, breathing, sustainable philosophy and approach to battering. St. Paul and Ramsey County have provided invaluable peer-to-peer and technical support to the demonstration site communities, and have continued to experiment with Blueprint implementation and strengthen it.
- Bree Adams-Bill, Blueprint Enhancement Coordinator
- Amy Brown Jensen, St. Paul Police Department
- Shelley Johnson Cline, St. Paul & Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
We also want to acknowledge the contributors to the December 2013 Disparity Think Tank organized by Praxis International and held in New Orleans. The rich and challenging discussions helped move forward the effort to actualize the Blueprint’s intention to “act in ways that reduce unintended consequences and disparity of impact on victims and offenders” (Foundational Principle #6). Along with our thanks to the Blueprint coordinators and Praxis staff and consultants who participated, our great appreciation to the following presenters and participants:
- Sandra Harrell, VERA Institute of Justice
- David Pate, Center for Family Policy and Practice
- Hillary Potter, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado – Boulder
- Connie Sponsler-Garcia, Battered Women’s Justice Project
- Olga Trujillo, Olga Trujillo, Inc.
- Mary Asmus, Duluth City Attorney’s Office
- Amanda Crosby, Access North
- Kelly Whalen, Ramsey County Community Corrections
- Ashley Bernal, Women with a Vision
- Dianne Hoofkin, Crescent House
- Gwen Richardson, Ashe Cultural Arts Center
- Yana Sutton, Total Community Action
- Theresa McCusker, Shelby County District Attorney’s Office
Praxis staff and consultants have provided ongoing technical assistance to the demonstration sites and continue to guide, refine, and strengthen the Blueprint idea and process.
- The Praxis Blueprint Team: Denise Eng, Blueprint Program Manager, and Julie Tilley, Maren Woods, Cyndi Cook
- Technical assistance consultants: Beverly Balos, Cheryl Beardslee, John Beyer, Marcus Bruning, Colia Ceisel, Kristine Lizdas (Battered Women’s Justice Project), Rhonda Martinson, Jane Sadusky
Two of these deserve special recognition and appreciation: Denise Eng, fierce advocate for women and their children, who co-directed development of the original Blueprint in St. Paul, has shepherded the demonstration initiative skillfully from the very beginning, and is arguably the most experienced Blueprint coordinator on earth. And Jane Sadusky—a fierce advocate, too—but also wordsmith extraordinaire. She has taken our collective thinking and learnings, and crafted this guide so that women and children in every community may benefit from the changes the Blueprint creates.
As is common in a multi-year project, faces change when people move on. We would also like to thank the following individuals who contributed to the Blueprint adaptation demonstration initiative earlier in its development: Deborah Clubb, Dottie Jones, Cory Turner, and Dr. Betty Winter.
Finally, we acknowledge our gratitude to Ellen Pence, Praxis International’s founding director, who was unable to see and enjoy her vision of the Blueprint tried and tested in such a dynamic way. Her wisdom and humor are greatly missed—she is greatly missed.
Praxis International, October 2015
|↑1||Eric Leviten-Reid, Comprehensive Strategies for Deep and Durable Outcomes, Caledon Institute of Social Policy, April 2009|