Cohort Technical Assistance: Innovation in Peer-to-Peer Learning | Maher & Maher
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Cohort Technical Assistance: Innovation in Peer-to-Peer Learning

Technical assistance is an invaluable tool to help workforce and education organizations learn how to improve systems. But it can sometimes be a passive process. Attend a webinar, a few meetings, read a couple of best practice case studies, and then call it a day. Frequently, the topic is determined by the sponsoring organization providing technical assistance, and for clarity’s sake, it often focuses on just one issue. We’re often looking for the “right” solution for a single problem. But the real work done in the field is more intricate, more interrelated, and may not fit into a one-size-fits-all approach.


Maher is refining a new model that makes the process more engaging and interactive. Cohort technical assistance brings together peers for collaborative learning and problem solving. Cohorts are designed to drill-down on a topic, combining “team time’” (within a state or region) with cross-state/regional collaboration. Cohorts are time bound and, in our experience, yield innovative and practical solutions, elevated by practitioners, that can be adapted by the larger field. That certainly goes beyond the scope of most webinars!  


Earlier this year, we developed the State Cohort on the Effectiveness in Serving Employers for the U.S. Department of Labor. The cohort brought together agency leaders from five states to explore a new indicator under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s (WIOA) – Effectiveness in Serving Employers – Shared Outcomes. Cohort members worked together to address the challenge of shared accountability within and across state agencies, and explored proposed federal approaches and other state models to pilot.

Three federal agencies –  the Employment and Training Administration at USDOL, in partnership with the Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), helped to frame the work of the cohort. In a very short, seven-week compressed timeline, Maher delivered a series of virtual and in-person convenings that helped advance an understanding and implementation of the performance indicator in states, and informed the work of federal agencies charged with developing guidance and providing technical assistance.

We believe the cohort model is the key to success – doing by learning is a cornerstone of workforce education, after all. We’re getting ready to launch the next cohort this fall, with the first topic already outlined — Connecting Youth to Meaningful Work Experiences.

Look for other cohorts on service integration in the months ahead that will address some of the system’s biggest challenges and innovative ideas in the areas of integrated business services and leveraged TANF, SNAP and job training dollars.

As always, if you’re working on a tough problem, we’d like to hear about it. Our deep experience in working with federal agencies helps us facilitate real change for our clients.

Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The firm is U.S. Department of Labor’s national technical assistance provider supporting the Employment and Training Administration’s implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and a number of other priority initiatives of the administration that advance and promote the public workforce system. Maher is also currently involved in a number of sector strategy, regional planning, organizational strategic planning and training initiatives in multiple state and regional areas. For more information about our services, visit our website or call us at 1-888-90-Maher.

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