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Bringing a Health Equity Focus and Facilitative Leadership Practices to Advocacy Efforts

By Danielle Sherman on February 23rd, 2017

Active Living By Design (ALBD)’s Community Action Model includes six Essential Practices that are critical for creating meaningful and sustained community change. Based on my professional and personal experiences, I have found that these essential practices are helpful in guiding many different types of partnerships toward change.

For example, I serve on a national task force that is focused on identifying best practices and recommendations for those working at the intersection of active transportation and healthy food access. In this role, I strive to bring a health equity focus to the work that we do, but it has been challenging to make equity actionable. Initially, I recommended conducting a Power Analysis to help uncover policies and practices that perpetuate oppression within systems. Although well-received, the idea was not a good fit for our efforts and we moved on. However, without a clear process for focusing on health equity, we discovered that it was difficult to sustain the conversation. With this in mind, the task force recently discussed other ways to address the needs of people who often experience great disparities. As a result, we developed an idea to leverage various community engagement tools as a way to incorporate equity into our work.

In addition to a health equity focus, the ALBD essential practice of facilitative leadership has enriched my personal advocacy work. As the newly appointed Sisterly Relations Chairman for my local sorority, I am leading a group of members to plan and implement activities that foster sisterly behavior. My primary responsibilities include building leadership capacity and sharing power and influence among committee members in order to effectively and creatively achieve shared goals. I have planted the seeds of facilitative leadership by expressing the need for participation and shared commitment from all of the members. At the same time, I acknowledged that everyone’s contributions would look different. In some cases, I delegated activities to individuals based on their interests and talents. In doing so, our group leveraged individuals’ complementary strengths to produce actions and outcomes that, because they were generated by and best serve the committee, have been well received by our local chapter and community.

In my efforts to incorporate health equity and facilitative leadership in my professional and personal lives, I have learned that:

  • Ideas for making equity actionable will come as you continually brainstorm. Incorporating a health equity focus into your work may not be an easy task—especially for those who have not struggled personally with the effects of oppression in their daily lives—but is crucial to creating community change. Therefore, it is key to strive for an intentional process for achieving it.
  • Expressing the need for participation and shared responsibility from all members requires delegation of certain activities. When you create space for others to lead, it is imperative to align individuals with opportunities that best use their perspectives and talents.
  • Having a healthy equity focus and using facilitative leadership practices helps partnerships to understand who they should involve and strive to serve.

I will continue to apply the six essential practices to foster healthy, equitable, and engaged communities where I work and live. And I know there will be many opportunities for continued learning as I do.

Danielle Sherman

Project Manager

Community advocate, planning superstar, and work-life balancer.