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Section 3: Build Your SART

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Set up a Leadership Structure Confidentiality  

Set Up a Leadership Structure

Leadership structures on SARTs are just as unique as the jurisdictions and communities they serve. While SART champions may be SART leaders or members, establishing intentional leadership can be beneficial when attempting to formalize aspects of your team, strengthen relationships, address power dynamics, manage tasks, and hold members accountable.

Regardless of the makeup of your SART, understanding leadership roles and activities can be an extremely important aspect of the team’s functioning, especially to ensure sustainability through transition or turnover.

Leadership can look different in different communities. In one community, the public health officer chairs the SART and delegates various responsibilities while in another, there is a part-time coordinator who is also employed by the sheriff's office.

Use this section of the SART Toolkit to refine tasks by established leadership, develop leadership, or explore completing leadership tasks with a less formal structure.

Team Roles

Some of the key leadership roles that support SART functioning are —

  • coordinator,
  • facilitator,
  • chairperson,
  • fiscal agent (if there is funding for the SART involved),
  • subject matter expert(s), and
  • member agency leadership.

The activities commonly associated with each role are listed below, although these tasks may be shared among members.

Coordinator Activities

The focus of a coordinator is to support the effective functioning of the team toward its mission.

Examples of key coordinator activities include the following:

  • Host team meetings, working to ensure a welcoming space for all team members.
  • Promote representation, participation, and engagement from member agencies.
  • Be a centralized hub of information and communication about and for the SART.
  • Keep records for the SART, such as a list of members and contact information, meeting agendas, and meeting minutes.
  • Coordinate outreach and orientation for new member agencies and new team members.
  • Be a resource to team members on effective SART functioning, available local, state, and national resources for SARTs, etc.
  • Be a champion for the whole team regardless of what individual discipline the coordinator represents.
  • Promote a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach that increases access for all victims.
  • Network with local and community systems professionals to promote the SART and its work (e.g. community needs assessments, protocol, training).
  • Prepare SART meeting agendas and review with other team leaders or members as appropriate. For more information see the Agendas: Critical Meeting Tool section of the SART Toolkit.
  • Attend all SART and SART subcommittee meetings.
  • Promote a learning environment and work to ensure that team members are aware of local resources, victims’ needs, and current best practices for sexual assault response and intervention.
  • Build and strengthen cultural competency for self and team.
  • Understand and facilitate team growth toward systems change.
  • Monitor, understand, and support the rhythms of teamwork through cycles of high activity, low activity, and breaks.
  • Engage the SART in addressing sustainability.
  • Provide and promote leadership in program planning, and working toward the accomplishment of the team’s mission and vision.
  • Research and present materials and guides to keep the team productive.
  • Develop project budgets.
  • Coordinate evaluation efforts.
  • Prepare and submit required reports.
  • Facilitate meetings unless this role is assigned to someone else such as a chairperson or specified facilitator.
  • Research and schedule trainings for SART members.
  • Establish relationships with technical assistance providers and plan use of their expertise as needed.
  • Work with other team leadership to support the effective functioning of the team.

Teams with a paid coordinator will also have a job description and likely some grant guidelines (or other requirements that may come with funding for the position) that also shape the coordinator’s activities.

If SART Members Take Coordinator Role

Some teams divide the coordination activities among team members rather than hiring a coordinator. This can work well when team members communicate easily and frequently with one another and responsibilities for specific activities are clearly understood.

When a coordinator is also the only representative of a member agency, discuss how the team will ensure that the duties associated with both roles can be done well. Discuss expectations team members have for the coordinator and for each other to ensure the effectiveness for the team.

You may also consider rotating the coordination responsibilities. For example, just because the law enforcement officer has time today and for the next six months, that does not mean they will always have that time. Plan periodic check-ins or service terms to ensure that the coordination arrangement chosen continues to work for everyone.

Facilitator Activities [156]

A facilitator is typically assigned the role for a specific meeting or process such as visioning and planning, case review, conflict resolution, or group interviews. Sometimes a team member is identified for this role alone, and other times the coordinator or chairperson may also play this role.

Examples of key facilitator activities include the following:

  • Prepare for facilitated sessions; design and use processes that best fit the goal or objective of the group session.
  • Establish parameters for the conversation or meeting, including any necessary norms, expectations, or ground rules.
  • Create a climate of safety and trust for participants to become fully engaged and benefit from the diversity of the group.
  • Maintain flexibility and remain objective, nonjudgmental and non-defensive.
  • Practice and model active listening.
  • Identify the difference between constructive and distracting conflict and recognize its role in the process.
  • Help team members name underlying assumptions that may be informing their positions.
  • Support the group through conflict resolution that facilitates the constructive functioning of individual members, member agencies, and the team as a whole.
  • Cultivate the team’s energy to address its objective for the given meeting or meetings.
  • Facilitate the team’s awareness of multiple and shifting viewpoints that arise in the process of effective decision-making.
  • Think imaginatively and help the group generate multiple options and evaluate them to inform their decision-making.

Most people facilitate meetings within their agencies or at SART meetings without any specific facilitation training. SARTs are made up of multiple agencies with overlapping and complicated missions and priorities, so objective, trained facilitators can be invaluable in ensuring everyone’s voices are heard and that all members feel comfortable sharing their views.

A trained facilitator can be crucial to developing psychological safety where all team members feel respected and engaged. When the concerns and experiences of all team members are valued, better group decision-making develops.

Sometimes your team may want to bring in an outside facilitator for a meeting or process you are using. Other times, one of your own skilled team members may play this role. Consider choosing a team member to receive specific facilitator training.

For more information on facilitating team meetings, see the SART Meeting Logistics section. For more information on psychological safety, see the Creating Successful Team Norms section of the SART Toolkit.

Chairperson Activities

The chairperson provides leadership during team meetings and is the face of the SART to agency leadership and within the community, sometimes in tandem with the coordinator.

Examples of key chairperson activities can include:

  • Consult on preparation of meeting agendas.
  • Lead team meetings, following the prepared agenda.
  • Facilitate team meetings if someone else is not assigned that role.
  • Be a resource to the coordinator on effective team functioning, including relations with member and community organizations.
  • Be a voice for the team in media relations in coordination with other team leaders.

Some SARTs elect a team member to this role for a specific term (e.g. one year), while others rotate this position among members for a series of meetings. This role can be formal or informal as is fitting for the work and nature of the team.

Some SARTs find it helpful to separate the role of chairperson from that of a specific coordinator, as the coordinator may have other active roles in a team meeting, such as reporting on projects. It also expands accountability for the success of the team beyond one person.

Fiscal Agent Activities

A fiscal agent provides an administrative home for the SART for a given period, especially if it involves managing financial resources.

Examples of key fiscal agent activities can include the following:

  • Construct and monitor program budgets.
  • Construct and monitor program work plans for grant applications.
  • Make payments, maintain records, and perform required reporting.
  • Hire, supervise, and support staff funded to work with the SART (e.g. SART Coordinator).
  • Ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws and any relevant grant guidelines.
  • Seek funding and promote sustainability of the team’s efforts, along with other members.
  • Communicate regularly with the team on the status of the work, resources available, and ideas for future team activities that may require funding.
  • Maintain effective relationships with funders and share team successes.
  • Be a voice for the team in media relations in coordination with other team leaders.

Providing an administrative home for the SART is an important leadership role. The fiscal agent is often the primary voice for SARTs with funding agencies and others outside the local community. They also often shape the role of a coordinator and design the projects that get funded.

Fiscal agents are often the SART’s biggest champions. Effective collaboration between the fiscal agency leadership and other SART leadership is important for effectiveness and sustainability.

Subject Matter Expert(s) Activities

Subject matter experts provide information, insight, and questions based in an area of expertise. Every team member can bring this leadership to the team within their own area of knowledge. Additional experts may be invited in for short- or long-term participation around the work of the team as needed.

Examples of key activities for subject matter experts can include the following:

  • Describe best practices and their local application to other team members.
  • Explore and consider implications of practice for other organizations and systems.
  • Participate in the work of the team (e.g. protocol development, community needs assessment, case review, training, evaluation) to ensure the most effective and appropriate practices and policies are developed and implemented.
  • Use expertise in concert with others to devise the approaches to improve responses to sexual assault.
  • Strengthen commitment to a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach.
  • Expand the methods and mechanisms to enhance offender accountability where and when possible.
  • Participate in training others on best and preferred practices as determined by the team.
  • Stay up to date with best practices for their field.
  • Be able to identify national technical assistance providers or other subject matter experts in their field.

Every team member brings knowledge and expertise to the team about both the agency in which they work as well as their part of the response to sexual assault and working with victims or offenders.

Considering the range of what SARTs need to know (e.g. sexual assault and homelessness, barriers for Deaf and hard-of-hearing victims, investigating sexual assault of elders, prosecution of non-stranger sexual assault, victims’ experiences of local resources, approaches to offender treatment and monitoring, and forensic evidence collection), subject matter experts have a responsibility to share what they know and seek external support, clarification, or confirmation as needed.

Staying up to date in their field on new information is part of the leadership role of all team members. SARTs benefit greatly when team members commit themselves to bringing the best information to the team on behalf of their agency, discipline, and community.

Member Agency Leadership Activities

The leaders of member agencies provide institutional supports for the team’s work, including representation on the team from staff knowledgeable about both sexual assault and the agency’s response. Leadership support provides a visible commitment to improving responses to sexual assault in coordination with the SART’s efforts.

These are examples of key activities for member agency leadership:

  • Demonstrate commitment to the SART’s purpose and efforts both internally to their own agency and externally to other agencies and the community.
  • Allocate tangible resources to support the efforts of the team. Examples include: assigning agency representation on the team; providing free meeting space; covering mileage and time for agency representatives to the team; participation in grant-seeking and grant-management; co-sponsoring contracts for services such as training, evaluation, consultation, and special projects; increasing training for agency staff; and printing materials.
  • Keep informed about the work of the team and be explicit about expectations and aspirations for the team’s work.
  • As needed, provide information (e.g. reports, data, policies) about the agency’s work to address sexual assault that will facilitate the SART’s efforts around system monitoring and improvement.
  • Commit to agency excellence in sexual assault response, which includes adopting policies and procedures that promote best practices and reinforcing them in hiring, supervision, and training.
  • Develop and enforce best practices policy regarding allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other misconduct by agency staff.
  • Support continuous improvement by giving and receiving meaningful feedback about the practical implications of the team’s efforts and the opportunities and constraints the agency faces on its path toward excellence.

Clearly defined roles and expectations regarding leadership produces a stronger SART. Understanding what needs to be done and who is responsible for those tasks increases sustainability and prepares a SART for turnover, particularly when a key member leaves and the team feels the impact.

Working as a Leadership Team

For some SARTs, assigning leadership roles among members helps clarify responsibilities, brings additional energy and ideas to the roles, and makes the roles more visible. Leadership teams may be official, unofficial, formal or informal.

To increase effectiveness, the leadership team can hold separate coordination meetings to discuss the direction of the SART, identify facilitation styles and issues, and provide feedback to one another.

In addition, leadership teams may hold periodic meetings with fiscal agency leadership and member agency leadership to discuss the direction of the SART, give and receive feedback, and consider ongoing funding obligations and opportunities.

Leadership Turnover

When key SART members leave the team, it can be disruptive. While it can lead to a great opportunity for the team to gain the insight, energy, and experience of a new person, the change typically means a break in the way things have been done.

The best way to deal with inevitable leadership turnover is to prepare for it. This can include having written job descriptions for various leadership roles, keeping written records of agendas and minutes, developing an orientation for new team members, and having outgoing leaders meet with new leaders to orient them to the leadership role and highlight any notable issues requiring attention.

In turnover of significant positions, like a full-time paid coordinator, the team may also benefit from reviewing its work plan and making adjustments during the transition period.

Leadership Resources

All About Staffing — Hiring and Keeping the Best Employees

This staffing guide reviews workforce planning; outsourcing; recruiting, retaining, and screening applicants; volunteerism; and legal considerations.

Best Practices Guidelines: Crime Victim Services (PDF, 29 pages)

This guide from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety covers best practices in direct services, community partnerships, business practices, and leadership for crime victim service providers.

California SART Report: Taking Sexual Assault Response Teams to the Next Level (PDF, 158 pages)

Page 94 of this report discusses SART leadership, particularly promising practices around succession and development. There are also a few case studies presented as examples of leaders who are champions for SARTs.

Free Basic Guide to Leadership and Supervision

This guide reviews core management skills, staffing, employee training, employee performance management, and personnel policies.

Multidisciplinary Team Leaders: What Is the Role of the Coordinator? (multimedia, 1:29)

This webinar from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault discusses the role of a SART leader/coordinator, including critical elements necessary for the position.

Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Coordinator (PDF, 2 pages)

This sample job description by Tu Casa, Inc. for a SART coordinator provides a starting point for SARTs to develop a coordinator job description.

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