Community-driven work is really challenging. Without trust, this work is even more challenging!
What is Healthier Together about?
My involvement with the Healthier Together initiative began in September 2014. I was working at a nonprofit deeply embedded in the Delray Beach community when Palm Healthcare Foundation (PHF) announced their plans to invest $1M over 5 years into the Delray Beach community in addition to 5 other communities throughout Palm Beach County (read an overview of the Healthier Together initiative). Their approach was an exciting one. The PHF staff explained the project would use a collective impact framework to not just impact health indicators, by it would build capacity for action across many sectors in our community (read more about the Collective Impact framework). They said the project required genuine interest in making a difference, and that in order to do this successfully, egos needed to be checked at the door. In order for see sustainable impact, they explained, all voices must be represented and equal. They said as the funder, PHF would be a guide in the journey but the journey itself would be community-driven. They explained that the initiative is to create meaningful, significant and lasting change.
I had two questions: 1. This is AMAZING…in theory – how is this ACTUALLY going to happen? and 2. Where do I sign-up? As a community resident and as an employee of a community-based agency working with the most vulnerable children and families in Delray Beach, this was the kind of change I was interested in.
The work began…
Both Healthier Delray Beach and Healthier Jupiter launched in Fall 2014. A steering committee was formed in each community. Both groups hired Project Directors to coordinate the work. Visioning activities and facilitated discussions took place about what a healthier Delray Beach and a healthier Jupiter could look like. Voices from all corners of the community were sought to understand community resources and assets, to identify challenges and gaps in services and to think through possibilities. A Theory of Action was created for each community with CEOs and recipients of services standing shoulder to shoulder weighing priorities and perceptions of the complex issues. Programmatic steps were outlined to tackle the issues.
A tone was set…
As the first two communities fully engaged in the Healthier Together process, both have been successful in the first year because a culture of collaboration has been established. Community organizers have shown a genuine commitment to making a difference in their communities. PHF has modeled the culture of collaboration by working alongside the residents and participating in the process. Trust is an important part of this work where people feel safe to contribute, to share their experiences, and to listen and engage with their colleagues, neighbors and community partners. The video below documents parts of interaction among community members at a community meeting where the Healthier Delray Beach initiative’s change theory for behavioral health takes shape.
And impact is evident and growing!
Healthier Together is a unique opportunity for Palm Beach County residents. The initiative will positively impact health, but it will also bridge sectors, connect people who otherwise would not be connected, and provide a platform for those who may not have a platform to share experiences, ideas and to contribute to making a difference in their neighbors and communities. Ultimately, and in many ways the critical component for a community’s ability to affect change, the cultural of collaboration built on the foundation of trust will continue to grow as barriers are tackled.
I joined the PHF team in late spring 2015. My experience from the community perspective shapes my view at the foundation. As a partner in the Healthier Together journey, I’m looking forward contributing to PHF’s commitment to establishing and maintaining a strong sense of collaboration and to building a sense of trust across all sectors and neighborhoods throughout this community-driven work. This is really challenging work made much easier because of this commitment!