Technical Assistance Guidelines Step 1: Analyze Needs and Gaps

Before making decisions about the structure of your agency’s TA program, conduct an evaluation of needs and gaps that the TA could address. In addition, identify any partners doing similar or complementary work that you might coordinate with. In some cases, this process can involve significant stakeholder outreach, data analysis, and review of past TA efforts. The sections below provide further guidance on strategies to determine TA needs and gaps.

Evaluate Funding Sources

State agency staff must first understand what funding is available for the TA program and work with budget, procurement, and accounting personnel to understand any limitations to the use of the funds. See the Contracting Guidance page for more information on potential limitations to how funds may be spent. If your agency does not currently have funds budgeted for a TA program, you may need to consider developing a Budget Change Proposal to receive new funds or identify current staff and program funding that might be redirected to a TA Program. If you are planning to provide TA related to a California Climate Investments (CCI) grant program, keep in mind that the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) 2018 California Climate Investments Funding Guidelines allow the use of CCI program funds for TA. Understanding how and when State and local funds can be spent or distributed to local partners is an important first step before developing any TA Program.

Evaluate Performance of Past TA Efforts and/or Grant Applicants

Early in the process of evaluating needs and gaps, engage your colleagues internally to gather lessons learned from past grant application cycles and/or past TA efforts. Program staff and reviewers of previous grant applications can provide insights on the strengths and weaknesses of past applications. If you have provided TA in the past, sifting through past reporting from TA providers should also provide valuable information about the barriers TA recipients face and recommendations on the most effective ways to address them through TA. Barriers for under-resourced communities vary but often revolve around the following issue areas:

  • Lack of awareness and understanding of program goals and eligible projects
  • Lack of local agency staff or organizational capacity such as time, financial resources, and expertise to apply for grants
  • Lack of relationships across local agencies, partner organizations, and/or community groups

In addition to evaluating barriers under-resourced communities face, it is also important to identify assets and strengths. It may help to shape the TA program to assist under-resourced communities in identifying existing competencies and assets, and then leverage those strengths to build long-term capacity. For example, TA providers may be able to help jurisdictions develop new partnerships with local organizations, such as community-based organizations, universities, hospitals, businesses, foundations, or other entities that can help build local capacity.

Evaluate State, Agency, and Program Goals

Ensuring that TA efforts advance State, agency, and program goals related to supporting priority populations is critical. Common desired outcomes that program staff may choose to consider in shaping a TA program include:

  • Funding projects in communities that have not historically received similar funding
  • Achieving more equitable and/or geographic distribution of funding
  • Implementing holistic approaches that reduce unintended consequences
  • Engaging under-represented populations within project development
  • Developing stronger, more community-engaged projects
  • Building relationships and trust between the State and local stakeholders
  • Supporting peer-to-peer networking amongst priority populations
  • Supporting implementation of new initiatives and objectives within programs
  • Furthering the State’s commitment to addressing key issues areas such as affordable housing or climate change
  • Advancing racial equity

Perform Technical Analysis

Beyond consulting with other program staff and evaluating agency priorities, conducting a technical analysis can help you gauge the need for TA and understand how to best shape the program. Technical evaluations such as geospatial analysis of past applicants can help you narrow in on more specific needs to address with different forms of TA. For example, an analysis of past grant applications reveals that certain priority communities did not submit applications, TA focusing on capacity building and program education may be effective. On the other hand, if you find that certain communities have applied but have been unsuccessful in competing for funding, application assistance may be more effective to support those communities. Finally, if despite being awarded, certain communities have struggled to bring projects to fruition or have faced challenges with reporting, TA to assist awardees with project implementation may be necessary.

Assess Complementary TA Efforts

Before designing a TA program, it is always important to understand the landscape of TA programs that already exist and examine opportunities for your TA to fill gaps and coordinate with complementary efforts. Such collaboration can help streamline, coordinate, and align TA across agencies to stretch funding and maximize the impact of TA. For example, if you are looking to provide outreach and application assistance for one grant program that funds transit infrastructure, it may be more effective to partner with other programs or agencies to offer outreach and assistance related to other transportation or green infrastructure grant programs as well. If a formal partnership on a TA contract is not feasible, it is still important to coordinate outreach to the extent possible and to ensure that potential TA recipients understand the breadth of TA options available to them. Taking into account that TA is available not only at the State level, but also through Federal, regional, or local governments as well as foundations, non-profits, and other entities can provide a more holistic picture of the relevant TA offerings that may complement those provided through your agency.

Conduct Public Engagement

Public engagement must inform any TA program. Engaging stakeholders and potential TA recipients prior to the development of a TA program can help increase awareness and trust and identify local barriers and assets to ensure that the TA effectively addresses community needs. Early engagement can also help you develop a sense of how great the need for TA is and to appropriately tailor the scope of services to meet and/or prioritize that need. For example, surveying or interviewing past grant applicants about what parts of the application process were most challenging and which ones were simple can help define a scope of TA services that responds to applicants’ needs. Engagement prior to implementing a TA program can be carried out in several different ways (see Community Engagement Best Practices).

California Climate Investments has developed Best Practices for Community Engagement and Building Equitable Projects that includes more detail on other public engagement best practices. Many other helpful resources and guides are available on the Resources page.

Once you complete this gap analysis, you are ready to move into the goal-setting phase for your TA program. While in some cases, you may not be able to complete all three steps before designing the TA program due to time constraints, doing as much analysis as possible before launching the program, and then closely monitoring progress and requesting feedback during the project term will enable adaptation to emerging issues or needs. See the Evaluation page for more detailed guidance on monitoring and evaluation.