While volunteering as a poll monitor yesterday, I helped voters successfully cast their ballots and documented their experiences to improve the process for future voters. As I stood near both Democratic and Republican representatives of Wilson County, NC making their case to voters in the final hours, I was reminded of a powerful lesson: ultimately, change begins with us, not the candidates. Through our unceasing work to create healthier, more equitable communities, we are all shaping the demands, discourse, and choices that voters have on Election Day. And while we can safely assume that changes will occur, we can’t necessarily predict what those changes will be. Sometimes those changes will make your work easier. Sometimes they will add an entirely new dimension to the challenges you face. No matter what the path ahead will be, there are ways to ensure that you and your partners are better prepared to navigate it.
Preparation is at the foundation of creating policies, systems, and environmental change for community health and is not limited to the early stages of a community-change initiative. Rather, it is the ongoing and deliberate process of collecting and evaluating relevant assessment data; prioritizing and planning; building capacity; and leveraging resources.
Collecting and evaluating relevant assessment data provides a basis for decision making, identifying issues, and making improvements along the way. There are several things to consider, such as:
An ongoing and deliberate process of collecting relevant assessment data also informs prioritizing and planning action steps, which are important for determining the direction and effectiveness of your partnerships’ efforts. Things to consider during this stage are:
Another important component of preparing for success is building capacity. It is a key driver of sustainability and involves:
Finally, prepare for uncertain times by leveraging resources already available to your partnership. To ensure that these are leveraged in ways that lead to sustainable success, consider:
For a few examples of how communities across the country have prepared for success, check out Flint, MI, New Orleans, LA, and Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
I encourage you to prepare continuously for the transformation you want to see—and for the change that you can’t see coming.