The power of positive stressors

Jul 12, 2018

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.

Positive Stressor: What impact is your coalition actually making?

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.

Positive Stressor: There is more to trauma and toxic stress than just ACEs.

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.

Related Issues & Ideas

Report

Champions for Change: A Collective Commitment to Children's Health

View Champions for Change: A Collective Commitment to Children's Health
Website

Make It Okay messaging in multiple languages

View Make It Okay messaging in multiple languages
Article

8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits

View 8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits
Website

Iowa Coalition for Collective Change

View Iowa Coalition for Collective Change
Website

Iowa Public Health Association

View Iowa Public Health Association
Report

Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa

View Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa
Report

Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health

View Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health
Report

United Way Community Impact Report

View United Way Community Impact Report
Website

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

View Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program
Website

CAMHI4Kids Children's Mental Health System

View CAMHI4Kids Children's Mental Health System
Website

Community Catalyst System of Advocacy

View Community Catalyst System of Advocacy

Re-Imagining How Iowa's Systems Work Together to Best Serve Families

The Vision Council has led conversations on how Iowa's families and children can be safe, secure, healthy, and well in our communities.

View Story
View Story

Champions for Change: A Collective Commitment to Children's Health

Outcomes from Mid-Iowa Health Foundation's HealthConnect Fellowship, October 2019-June 2021

View Story
View Story

Elevating the Latinx Community

How nonprofit leaders brought attention to the Latinx community and built new systems of support during the pandemic

View Story
View Story

The Dream Cube: Art for Social Impact

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.

View Story
View Story

How Youth Are Driving Community Efforts to End Homelessness

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.

View Story
View Story

Protecting Those Who Protect Our Kids

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.

View Story
View Story

A New Approach to Supporting Youth in Juvenile Detention

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.

View Story
View Story

A closer look at mental health in schools during the pandemic

Community response
Nov 29, 2021
View Post

Get to Know Dr. Nalo Johnson

Foundation news
Nov 24, 2021
View Post

4 questions for nonprofit and community leaders

View Post

5 questions for leaders in philanthropy

Funder practices
Nov 5, 2021
View Post

5 ways to think about your personal brand as a part of your work

Leadership
Nov 1, 2021
View Post

4 issues impacting children’s health during the pandemic

View Post

7 lessons learned about systems change work

System change
Sep 9, 2021
View Post

The Foundation's role in the HealthConnect Fellowship

Funder practices
Sep 8, 2021
View Post

Go ahead: Brag a little

Leadership
Aug 5, 2021
View Post

Planning from strength: questions to ask your team

Advocacy
Apr 26, 2021
View Post

Preparing yourself to center the voices of those impacted by issues

View Post

Vision vs. Tactics: How we can achieve the change we want to see

Action planning
Feb 22, 2021
View Post

System-change achievements advocates are making for central Iowa’s kids

View Post

How we can begin to find peace in 2021

View Post

Disconnection matters

System change
Nov 24, 2020
View Post

3 questions to reshape your policy agenda

Advocacy
Oct 30, 2020
View Post

What you should know about homelessness in central Iowa during the pandemic

Community response
Oct 26, 2020
View Post

Leading system change, even in times of uncertainty

System change
Jul 22, 2020
View Post

We must all do our part to be anti-racist

View Post

Lessons in preventing burnout

View Post