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Leading in a Supporting Role

By Joanne Lee on August 1st, 2014

She approaches her healthy communities work like a skilled photographer. She works patiently to capture that perfect shot, that moment when someone has an “aha” moment. Based on her range of experiences, she uses different lenses and considers various angles and perspectives to support meaningful changes in the communities she touches. She often works behind the scenes, with great impact.

I first met Jaime Love in early 2013 when the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) grantees began their last year of funding. The project director for the Hamilton County, OH community partnership had just announced her resignation and Jaime was transitioning into the role. Even for the most capable and nimble organizations, transition in key staff can be challenging. Having worked with this community partnership as their project officer since the beginning of the four-year grant, I knew that whoever stepped into the project director role had big shoes to fill. Yet, from our first conversation, it was apparent that Jaime had studied her subject. She was knowledgeable about the history and status of HKHC both at the local and national levels. Though her role with HKHC was new, Jaime had been with the lead agency, Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH), for more than a decade.

Jaime’s career path has evolved much like the healthy communities movement–transitioning from individual- to community-level approaches, and moving into influencing systems and practices. She taught patient education classes early in her career, then moved to a more grassroots, community-driven approach, recruiting African American women into the “Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better” national campaign. Jaime then realized she wanted to effect change on a broader level and launched her career in public health. At HCPH, Jaime helped residents form WeTHRIVE! coalitions that led policy, systems and environmental changes to improve healthy eating, active living and tobacco-free opportunities and environments in their own communities.

While working in these different settings and at various levels, Jaime recognized that a common barrier is resistance to change. “People don’t like change. People are scared of change and change is hard to do.” Jaime feels this challenge also provides opportunities to yield the greatest rewards. “Seeing that ‘aha’ expression on people’s faces and knowing that they’ve figured out that they can make and influence change–that’s my inspiration and motivation. And it translates from individuals to coalitions and the community as a whole.” Jaime sees her role and calling as a leader in a supporting role, to “be a listener, a convener and helper.” As professionals in the field, “what we have is information, and that information should be shared so people can decide what to do with it. And we can help them decide what to do with it without dictating or even leading that decision.”

During her tenure with HCPH, Jaime often partnered with staff from a local regional foundation, Interact for Health, formerly known as the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. Through these interactions, Jaime and her HKHC partners sought opportunities to align local funding with approaches that supported policy, systems and environmental changes, including bringing an Interact for Health executive as a partner to the 2012 HKHC annual grantee meeting. Interact for Health was restructuring their grantmaking portfolios, and participating in the HKHC meeting reinforced that they were on the right track. This restructuring included a shift from health care to a new portfolio of healthy eating and active living community investments.

To be successful, Interact for Health knew they needed someone with both content expertise and community-based experience to help develop and oversee these investments. They hired Jaime as their Heathy Eating and Active Living Program Officer last fall. The significance of moving into this role as a funder is not lost on Jaime, and she will always honor and draw upon the valuable experiences she gained during the times she was a grantee. She will continue to be a listener, a convener and helper to the communities she supports, and work with them to achieve that perfect shot at healthier communities.

And her influence is impacting not only the communities Interact for Health supports, but also the organization itself. “This is new to us,” said Jim Schwab, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Jaime’s been getting us up to speed on PSE (policy, systems and environmental) approaches.” Interact for Health recently implemented opportunities for staff to “walk the talk” by offering fresh fruits and vegetables in the staff break room and incentives to encourage stairwell use in the building. A program to incentivize Interact for Health staff to participate in the Join the Fun physical activity programs they fund is also helping to bridge a culture of health across funder and communities.

As Jaime continues to present various frames and perspectives to her funding colleagues and community members in her region, she is developing a portrait of how to be a strong and supportive leader, and an album of collective healthy communities that are benefitting from her support.

Joanne Lee

Senior Project Director

Adventurous strategist, cross-cultural explorer, and human and animal welfare champion.