The launch of coalitions often have a similar story. Key partners come together, form a collaboration, and move forward in a collective manner—all with the best intentions and similar goals in mind. Unfortunately, what happens next is all too frequent. A competition begins—be it for resources, ownership, or a host of another needs.
Over the course of my four years with Central Iowa ACEs 360, I have been pleased at the collaborative manner with which our coalition has moved the ACEs movement forward. We have incredible leaders who think systemically and with the whole community in mind. When partners come to the table, it has been with the focus of “how do WE advance the movement,” rather than a sole focus on how it benefits a single entity. That being said, as resources have become scarcer and external stress from political and social environments has created additional pressures, I have constantly considered my role in fostering that continued collaboration amid competition.
One of the most valuable benefits of the HealthConnect Fellowship is the opportunity to have dialogue with leaders with a vast array of experience. In February, Ralph Smith joined the fellows for a discussion, and provided thought leadership on a variety of topics. As a leader who has had significant experience in coalitions, I asked Ralph how to foster collaboration in times of scarcity and competition. Ralph shared that his perspective has been to view disagreement and different approaches to work as “positive stressors.” He shared that the perspective of “positive stressors” provides an opportunity to review the direction of coalitions and/or their goals to determine if work is moving in the right direction.
With this in mind, I have actively worked over the past few months to reframe coalition challenges as “positive stressors” that provide the opportunity to reflect on our collective work. Here are two ways efforts have shifted as a result.
Reducing trauma requires commitment and systems change over the course of generations. Beyond outputs from trainings and reports, Central Iowa ACEs 360 has not focused on documenting the incremental successes and promising practices in our work over time. The documentation of our work needed to be higher on the priority list. The shift? We have recently dedicated time and resources to concretely document the history of our coalition though video interviews, conduct qualitative analysis of our technical assistance efforts, and proactively increase our presence at conferences and workshops.
Historical trauma, epigenetics, and social determinants of health are critical factors that are interwoven with ACEs science. While attending any committee meeting or training for Central Iowa ACEs 360, we have highlighted this. However, we have not been proactive in interweaving these factors with our messaging and strategic planning. This can alienate potential partners and systems. Our message has often been received as solely focused on parents and disregarding community stressors. The shift? Conversations of equity and historical trauma will be foundational in every strategy we will now move forward. Policy messaging and communications materials are receiving critical review to ensure our language affirming the movement, not alienating allies.
These are just two ways I have reframed work recently. I frequently look at challenges in meetings and say “this is a positive stressor.” Competition and defensiveness will not move our work forward. Opportunities for reflection and, if needed, course correction will advance the movement.
Iowa funders are making shifts to center communities and advance equity.
How working together to improve housing is leading to better health outcomes.
An incentive program has provided a model for increasing access to nutritious foods and improving health outcomes.
How DMU is transforming the way health sciences education is delivered
A needs assessment of Oakridge Neighborhood residents is informing ways to improve health and well-being
How AMOS engaged hundreds of advocates to push for a children's mental health crisis response system
New report highlights central Iowa Latinos contributions and disparities and elevates Latinx leaders
The Vision Council has led conversations on how Iowa's families and children can be safe, secure, healthy, and well in our communities.
Outcomes from Mid-Iowa Health Foundation's HealthConnect Fellowship, October 2019-June 2021
How nonprofit leaders brought attention to the Latinx community and built new systems of support during the pandemic
The Dream Cube, a monolithic structure constructed of pillows piled 8-feet high, popped up in downtown Des Moines late last fall. The provocative piece sparked conversations about the potential of our youth—if they have a safe place to dream.
dsm Magazine features a unique collaboration that is engaging youth who’ve experienced homelessness in identifying new solutions to address this issue in central Iowa.
Iowa ACEs 360 shares this story about how supervisors in the Polk County Dept. of Human Services’ Child Welfare Division are addressing trauma in their workforce.
Teenagers in jumpsuits lying on yoga mats, their eyes closed, their bodies still. This is the image Megan Hoxhalli describes as remarkable for juvenile detention, a place where youth arrive shaken, dysregulated, and scared about their future.