A few weeks ago I attended the 3rd annual Public Health Symposium. I love attending events like these because in truth, I’m a sucker for a good keynote speaker. Every few months, I need that inspirational message of change from a skilled speaker to help recharge my batteries and provide new perspective.
Keynote speaker Monte Roulier, Co-Founder of Community Initiatives in Columbia, MO, really delivered by reminding me of the importance of context. My work, your work, our work—none of it happens in a vacuum—we are all part of a greater movement of people working toward healthier communities. Community Commons has even created a map of the work being done across the US. Like raindrops on a pond, the ripples of community initiatives spread out, intersect, overlap, and reach the far corners of our country, touching the lives of millions of people.
Once we see how our work in one small corner of the world has connected us to others, the larger context of our shared visions can spur us on to greater achievement. Inspired by Monte’s challenge to look beyond ourselves, the room full of conference attendees took on a new life for me as a room full of context for CCMU’s work—dozens of other community health improvement efforts building a greater movement in Colorado.
What else did I learn from Monte? The seven attributes of a high-functioning community health initiative:
- Move forward with a spirit of inquiry while coalescing around a shared vision and agenda
- Adapt to emerging opportunities
- Think like social entrepreneurs by borrowing from others while building your own success story
- Use data to guide, not drive your efforts
- Artfully blend policy, program, and promotion
- Lead with a spirit of stewardship by practicing the art of collaborative leadership
- Establish formal structures and processes
I have the great privilege of working with many health coalitions across the state, and their commitment to their community—whether it be geographic, demographic, or otherwise—is deep and unyielding. I can say with pride that many of these groups already model these seven best practices. Together, we are more than the sum of our parts, with each small success driving the greater movement forward and building momentum for larger systems transformation. As I continue to build relationships with groups across Colorado, I look forward to watching our pond grow more restless with the impacts of so many valuable community change efforts.