Midpoint recap: A look at Health Forward’s community forums

We are midway through our 10-part series of community forums, and we think that’s a perfect time for reporting and offering some assessment of what we’re hearing.  

We have enjoyed engaging with community members and have appreciated benefiting from their personal knowledge of the places where they live, work and play. Below is Bob Hill’s recap of the meetings and forums to date. 

We want to hear from you! Take part in discussion about health issues in your community. Attend a community forum near you

I’ve had the privilege of organizing, observing and taking part in the community forums as an objective entity outside of Health Forward. Below I’ve outlined some preliminary takeaways for Health Forward and for the many participants in individual conversations, stakeholder meetings, and the five community forums that have been held thus far.

  1. Health Forward is healthy, nimble, and creative
    It has been a great privilege to work alongside Health Forward’s dedicated staff, who have proven to be flexible, sensitive, and over-the-top creative in all the preparations for the stakeholder meetings and community forums. The board and CAC members have been similarly nimble and adaptable in their involvements.
  2. A base level of anxiety regarding health care in general
    It will come as no surprise that there is a base level of stress and, in some cases, worrisome anxiety across Health Forward’s six-county service area about the future of health care. This agitation is largely connected to the uncertainties in Washington, D.C., and troublesome decisions that have been made and are being made by state legislatures. There is also, however, great comfort and encouragement in the wider community because of Health Forward’s presence and its mission of supporting those who care for the underserved and uninsured. And this has to do with more than the financial resources Health Forward provides. I’m hearing and sensing in the stakeholder meetings and community forums that in the face of trying times, Health Forward provides wisdom and reassurance because its staff and governing bodies are steadfast and broadminded in their commitment to the community.
  3. Convening Capacity and Advocacy
    Health Forward’s capacity to convene meaningful conversations and to invite community attention and action is a recurring theme. There is immense respect for Health Forward and its persuasive powers in the larger civic community and alongside other philanthropic entities. There have been also consistent expressions of appreciation in all of the meetings for the Health Forward’s advocacy capabilities. In other words, Health Forward is seen as a “champion” for those whose work is supported by Health Forward grants. The Health Forward can advocate in ways that small agencies can never do so alone or even in concert with other agencies.
  4. Congruence between Health Forward’s emphases and needs in the community
    Communities and stakeholders are affirming Health Forward’s financial support of mental health, healthy communities, and safety net. While conversations at the forums range from the concrete to the highly abstract, participants have repeated and emphasized the need for continued support in these areas. This should be reassuring about Health Forward’s general direction, now and into the future.
  5. The community-at-large is keenly interested in how Health Forward will use the information gathered from the community forums
    In all of the community forums, participants have asked how Health Forward will use the information (including the “Big Ideas”) being generated by this process. Health Forward plans to use this information to inform its policy agenda for 2018-2019, and to contribute to Health Forward’s strategic planning now and into the future. Others have expressed interest in using some of these ideas in their own work moving forward.

Quotes Along the Way

Throughout the process of the community forums – and especially in the individual meetings that have been conducted thus far – a rich array of commentary has been offered by hundreds of conversation partners. The affirmations, questions, and assessments related to Health Forward and this series of dialogue sessions have been tremendously heartening and, on occasion, challenging.

“I think the project is wonderful. And I love the Health Care Foundation’s emphasis on partnerships. People are waiting to be asked about these important issues from their perspectives.”
~ A long-time, civil-rights leader 

“It’ll be good for the Health Care Foundation to get out in the community and see what’s going on in the real world. Sharing research will be important.”
~ A leader in the Latino community

“The needed focus for the Health Care Foundation remains paramount and constant: inclusion, diversity, and cultural competence.”
~ A former CEO in the health care field

“Focus on how you build strong relationships. It will be important for the Health Care Foundation’s staff to do good follow-up and report back to the community.”
~ A member of the philanthropic community regarding the focus and results of the community forums

“The Health Care Foundation is one of the only foundations that has a consistent record of funding inner city issues through the mediation of community groups. But a lot of small grants that are well-intentioned, at the end of the day, may not accomplish a whole lot. They may be so concerned with the grant issues that they may be missing opportunities to coordinate several groups to focus on specific issues.”
~ A prominent leader in the African-American community about Health Forward’s process, integrity, and the possible limitations of its impact

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