This post was originally published by Imagine Forsyth here.
The event addressed the history of collaborative initiatives like these in Forsyth County, the current state of the ongoing work in aging, health and wellness, and education, and plans for the immediate future to engage the community at the grassroots level in decision-making processes in new and innovative ways.
All four host organizations share similar missions of working at a systems level to improve certain outcomes for Forsyth County residents. They also share a common set of core values: an equity-based perspective, inclusive stakeholder engagement, and a dedication to data-driven decision making.
“Imagine Forsyth is building a civic infrastructure within our community, based on collaboration, that will enable us to work together on solving our biggest systemic health and wellness challenges like never before. What’s exciting about this approach is that it puts grassroots resident voice at the center of the process, so that big community-level decisions that arise out of it are inclusive of and value community voice by design. We’re looking for this process be data-driven and strongly focused on community equity.” – Nikki McCormick, Second Harvest’s Director of Agency Relations and Partnership Director of Imagine Forsyth
A major goal of the event was to generate open discussion at audience tables. Each table was staffed with a trained facilitator to guide and capture these conversations. Following the event, staff performed a qualitative analysis on the discussion transcripts to identify key themes to inform activities in 2019; those themes are below. Click here to view the full, compiled transcripts from the table discussions.
Question 1: How can we value community voice in a concrete, equitable way?
-Active community engagement and awarenessUse community as a resource in identifying solutions
-Community is ready for action
-More and better communication is needed
-Leadership buy-in is required; need for more elected officials to engage in the work
-Building trust in the community is critical
-Need for representation to reflect community
-Especially more Spanish speakers
-Access to services and knowledge is critical
-Don’t just quantify everything, there’s a need for storytelling
Question 2: As a community, what are our biggest obstacles and assets in approaching this work?
Resources are available
Philanthropic giving, colleges, etc.
We have lots of data to work with
System-wide issues (e.g. public policy and systemic racism)
-Lack of true community representation (Especially Latino and the elderly population)
-Limited capacity of organizations to be more engaged
-Organizations are still siloed
Each participant was given a “commitment card” to write their commitment for collaboration in 2019. Here are some of the highlights:
“My goal is to provide a vehicle for communicating with seniors to keep them informed and to tell their stories.”
“I plan to collaborate with after-school programs to remain connected to youth in our community. Teach art to people of all ages, not just children.”
“Practice using my Spanish more; challenge my own internal biases more and more and challenge others when their biases come out.”
“Listen more and talk less.”
“Bounce ideas off community partners — they don’t have to be perfect for meaningful conversations to take place; encourage community members to lead and direct the work: sporadically hearing community member feedback is not enough.”
“Voice opinion/comment at city hall meetings; volunteer for boards, committees; volunteer to work on community projects.”
“Fail fast, fail often; ask questions and have courageous conversations.”
“Advocate for state-level policy as needed and move the needle in the community.”
“To attend and participate in community events. Work to find out what I can contribute to do to really help with making my community better for everyone not just myself.”
The Folks in the Room
Just as gathering community discussions and perspectives are a major goal, so to is understanding who is in the room. The purpose of this being to work to make our convenings more diverse and representative of the demographics of the broader community over time.
Lea Metz, local graphic facilitator, was on hand at the event to capture conversation topics visually. The result is a truly special artifact that captures the tone of conversations that day:
What’s Ahead for Imagine Forsyth?
Imagine Forsyth is about strong relationships, strong neighborhoods, strong futures. A health and wellness-focused collaborative, Imagine Forsyth is focused on building community partnerships in preparation for Medicaid transformation in Forsyth County.
In 2019, Imagine Forsyth will identify and report out on core community health and wellness measures, and work at the grassroots and organizational levels to identify collaborative action priorities. Learn more at ImagineForsyth.org.