Over the past 14 years, Active Living By Design (ALBD) has collaborated with amazing professionals and change agents who are talented and committed organizers of healthy community initiatives. Typically, our connection formed because we provided coaching and technical assistance to dozens of partnerships and project directors supported by a variety of multi-year grants. In the course of these engagements, we have developed lasting relationships and a better understanding of people as a sustaining resource.
Community leaders like these contribute and gain valuable experience in coalition building, assessment, resident engagement, planning, evaluation, and advancement of important policy and environmental changes. However, despite the impactful and rewarding experiences of local coordinators, transition is a fact of life for many. When grants come and go, experienced coordinators are often forced to move on (or up, or over) to new opportunities.
Losing an effective, collaborative manager of programmatic details, co-workers, partners, and residents can be a major setback for a community initiative. After all, diverse partnerships depend on project leaders who possess invaluable communication, coordination, and people-management skills.
However, “turnover” is not a four-letter word. While losing an experienced action leader is sad, frustrating, and can potentially stall a successful initiative, it can also open growth opportunities for others and expand the reach of healthy community change to new places and organizations. In some cases, project leaders are recruited to other organizations and higher-level positions because of their potential as emerging leaders. Others may transition into roles with much greater influence by joining advisory boards, serving in elected office, accepting state positions, or becoming directors of nonprofit mission-driven agencies.
It’s natural to look for sustained impacts of health initiatives on communities and whether financial resources outlast an initial grant. Let us also consider the positive effects of personal and professional transitions.
ALBD continues to rely on and learn from the community leaders with whom we have worked. We call on them to share their perspective, connect to resources, and offer advice. We hope to extend their wisdom to our readers as well.
Keep an eye out for our “Where Are They Now?” series, in which we will feature “alumni” from previously funded healthy community initiatives. The ALBD Newsletter and Blog will visit with friends and colleagues from various past grant initiatives to see what they’re doing now and learn from them once again. Our readers will meet new leaders and may even be reacquainted with former peers. We will explore the sustainability of former initiatives and learn how their mobile markets, park projects, master plans, and complete streets policies played out. Former project coordinators will share how they used their community change lessons in new settings. We will also ask their advice about thorny issues, insights from their experiences, and reflections on past strategies they would approach differently.
This month, our blog will feature leaders and change agents from the former Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities partnership in Buffalo, NY, and highlight the influence they continue to have in the city and beyond.