Working with 8 programs in the state of Minnesota this week, all of whom are putting together projects in local communities that work on acute health issues by creating upstream solutions. This is the third residential retreat with the 8 propoenent groups. all of whom are engaged in a year long planning process through which they are learning participatory leadership practices and are getting soaked in the Art of Hosting.
There are two things going on here. First is the design of an actual project that will move “upstream” and tackle one or more social determinants of health. For example, a group working on indigenous health and nutrition issues is building an indigenous food network that aims to bring people into better relationship with food through growing and cooking while addressing the need for available healthy food. While there is a program aspect to this there is also a capacity building aspect to it too.
Alone, small projects that are are linked to social determinants of health don’t stand much chance of long term success, especially if the long term sustainability of the project is anchored to a three year implementation grant. But a key piece of the work we are doing is also teaching hosting practices. Our cohort last year began work on their projects around creating healthy communities but have since been using participatory methods to organize in the community. They have been tackling racism, systemic abuses in the education system and saying no to arbitrary policy decisions. One hundred people in the community are signed up for Art of Hosting training in the fall which will probably also result in 25 new projects – safefail probes if you like – activated to effect changes in the community.
I’m skeptical about any given project to make a difference, but projects that are led with the purpose of learning how to lead help to develop practices that launch and spread leadership throughout the community. To me this is “there” to get to from “here.”
Now if only evaluators would catch up.