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Healthy Community Change, All Day Every Day

By Sarah Strunk on July 29th, 2015

By day we’re known as Active Living By Design, a multidisciplinary and cohesive team that is committed to creating healthy communities for everyone. But our passion for healthy community change doesn’t end with the work day. On any given night or weekend, you can also find at least one of us volunteering in our own communities. Here are a few examples of how that has informed our work at ALBD.

Set a Big, Round Table

As board president of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP), Risa Wilkerson knows that working at all levels and across various entry points is critical for long-term success. From the inception of the first federal SRTS bill, the SRTSNP has worked with hundreds of partners to strengthen the field at local, regional, state and national levels. And they’ve tied their work to multiple priorities, such as health, safety, equity and community development.

Mary Beth Powell serves as president of the board of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters Foundation (NCLCVF). She’s learned that many of the issues that resonate with citizens and community leaders aren’t directly tied to the environment, but may include related concerns such as jobs creation.

As board vice-chair of Farmer Foodshare, Tim Schwantes has gained appreciation for the complexity of systems-related work. Whether addressing food security or limiting junk food marketing to kids, he understands that it’s critical to work with “upstream” partners that are working on related elements of the system. Roles are connected, levels of influence are intertwined, priority areas have multiple entry points, and relationships are critical. Meeting people where they are, on issues that affect them directly, is an important place to start a conversation.

Use Both/And Thinking

ALBD has long advocated for policy, systems and environmental (PSE) changes as sustainable strategies for creating healthier communities. But through my work as board chair of Girls on the Run of the Triangle, I’ve also seen the benefits of high-quality programming to promote physical activity and healthy eating, as well as its impact on self-esteem, health and leadership for hundreds of young girls in my community.

Similarly, Phil Bors has been involved with the Chatham (County) Soccer League as an ex officio board member and grant writer, securing money to support soccer league scholarships and a bilingual outreach coordinator. To complement ALBD’s belief in the value of PSE change, our work with these organizations reminds us that families—particularly those in low-income communities—still need high-quality, affordable, organized programs.

Embrace All Voices (Even Those That Bark)

As a member of the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board, Sarah Moore has seen how community members can be catalysts for action. In one case, persistent advocacy from two residents convinced the board to make a recommendation they wouldn’t otherwise have considered. And resident feedback from a recent Pedestrian Safety Forum was so illuminating that it’s now being compiled into a report that will help the town make even better planning choices in the future.

Joanne Lee’s love of dogs has drawn her to a variety of community activities, ranging from volunteering with A New Leash on Life, a program in which incarcerated men train dogs to be ready for adoption, to serving as a board member for an organization that supports and sustains the Greenville Off Leash Dog Area. But it has been through her engagement with Spay Today, which addresses the feral cat population, that Joanne has drawn many parallels to her work at ALBD. This, in particular, is one we should all take to heart:

Even if an issue doesn’t touch us directly, if it’s happening in our community, it affects us, too.

Sarah Strunk

Strategic Advisor

Healthy communities networker, integrator and distance runner on the go.