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The Power of Collaborative Solutions – the early foundations January 24, 2011

Posted by tomwolff in : Coalition Building, Collaborative Solutions , add a comment

Coalition beginnings and why they matter

How did your coalition start up? What was the driving force? And does that piece of history really matter now?

Coalitions start up in many ways. Some emerge organically from the community in response to a crisis. Others result from a funding opportunity that requires a “partnership”. So does it matter how your coalition began and what the driving force was? Can it still matter years later? The answer is emphatically “Yes”. History matters.

I recently presented at a conference on coalitions, “Stronger Together: The Power of Collaborative Solutions for Building Healthy Communities”, organized by the Non-Profit Center of Milwaukee. Following my keynote I was the discussant for a panel of local coalitions. Our first question for the panelists concerned the driving force that led to their coalition starting up. The answers were fascinating for their variety:

As our discussion proceeded it became apparent that history matters. As a clinician I was trained to understand the histories of my clients, so I brought that assumption to my coalition work and found that here too we need to understand the history of our communities and our coalitions.

Some examples:

The early role of the grassroots: Coalitions that start from grassroots community action carry that legacy and its’ commitment to having residents at the table as powerful partners. Even as they add the provider community that legacy remains. Whereas coalitions that begin as agency or government driven will often add residents later on but their history of being aa after thought often has residents feeling as if they are second class citizens and can be hard to overcome (although I have seen it done).

The early role of funding: Some coalitions start around funding; others start around a community need and have no money. This also creates a legacy. When the funded coalition loses its money it often closes down – it cannot imagine doing business without funding and staff. Whereas grassroots coalitions that get money and then lose it can return to its original roots of operating without funding.

So how has history of your beginnings left a legacy for your coalition?

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The Power of Collaborative Solutions – Global applications January 14, 2011

Posted by tomwolff in : Coalition Building, Collaborative Solutions , 1 comment so far

Out of the Box Prize: Now YOU can help choose the winners from among ten amazing global innovations.

For many years I have been a partner and contributor with the Community Tool Box (CTB) (ctb.edu.ku) team on the development of this rich web site with 7,000 pages of free downloadable material on community health and development. The CTB is used by hundreds of thousands community members from around the world.

With this global view in mind, the CTB established the Out of the Box Prize to honor innovative approaches to promoting community health and development worldwide. By the closing date of October 31, we were overwhelmed by the positive response we had received – more than 300 groups from 42 countries had applied! Applicants came in from around the globe – from the Americas to Zambia, and many countries in between. Applicants’ work included efforts to improve community health and development in a variety of creative ways — addressing issues of importance to communities including the environment, HIV/AIDS, addressing Millennium Development Goals, rallying neighborhoods together for change, and improving the public’s health.

Now all of you can be part of the process of picking the top finalists! After making difficult decisions our international panel of judges has narrowed the list to the top ten and now it is time for the public to pick the finalist. So become part of the process. You can review the inspiring innovations of the ten finalists by visiting http://ctb.ku.edu/en/out_of_the_box/finalists.aspx. We also invite you to vote for up to three of your favorite projects to receive the Grand Prize of $5,000 or the Second Prize of $2,000. To vote, simply go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PCMD7Z8. (Voting ends on January 31, 2011 and winners will be announced February 15, 2011.)

You will really enjoy reading about these amazing community innovations.

As someone who read many of the applications a number of trends in the best submissions struck me:

They are asset based – They demonstrate deep respect for the communities they worked with. The start with the assumption that the residents have the skills to do the work.

They employ grassroots models: The interventions were delivered by the community residents themselves.

They promoted clear cost effective solutions.

Sustainability was built in – the interventions were designed to be self sustaining from the start

They took a community wide perspective .They understood the vast scope of the issues and that the problems the sought to address exist in a context of the broader social determinants of health.

So which of the top ten inspired you the most?

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The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Does Spirituality have a role? January 10, 2011

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Spirituality – a key force in community building and collaborative solutions

The publication of The Power of Collaborative Solutions has led to numerous requests to speak, consult and train across the US and indeed all around the hemisphere – British Virgin Islands, Mexico, Ottawa and within the US to San Diego, LA, Milwaukee, Kansas, Vermont, and multiple sites in my home state of Massachusetts. The past year has been a a whirlwind.

I have been gratified to receive so much heartfelt thanks for the book’s clarity, practicality, usefulness and inspiration. For me, some of the most interesting feedback has been about what has inspired readers. Here the focus has been on the last chapter of the book “Engaging Spirituality as Your Compass for Social Change”

People note how seldom we talk about spirituality in our community helping work. It is almost a taboo topic. Somehow, talking about spirituality seems to be likened to religion, and health and human service workers have told me that they don’t feel that that is appropriate and thus try not to go there. For many of us spirituality does not  mean religion. I quote Leland Kaiser in my book who clarifies the difference:

“Spirituality is often confused with religion. They are very different things. Religion refers to a very specific set of beliefs, a tradition, a prescribed set of practices. Spirituality refers to a broad set of principles that transcend all religions. Spirituality is about the relationship between ourselves and something larger.”(p.200)

Once I open up the topic of spirituality in my talks or workshops or when people read about it in the book they frequently confide in me that their spirituality (however they define it) is central to their work in communities. It is why they do the work and is what keeps them going.

As I note in Chapter 8 “Spiritual principles can sustain us as we help communities move towards sharing abundance, honoring the natural environment, promoting social justice and compassion, and operating from a stance of collaboration rather than competition. A spiritual grounding lets us use loving compassion as a guide for our decision making. It helps us honor every member of our community as a valuable asset and appreciate resource”. (p.200)

How is your spirituality a part of your community work?

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