This Thanksgiving season, I paused to reminisce about the diverse people with whom I’ve crossed paths and partnered over the past decade. During that time, the field had begun talking more about collaboration when describing the type of partnerships that are needed to create healthier communities. In our work, partnership refers to the relationships between coalition members, while collaboration is the process of working together toward a common goal. Collaboration is also an integral part of Healthy Places by Design’s 3P Action Cycle and has been at the core of our organization’s work since its inception.
I reconnected with some of the community leaders whose work I remember most vividly and invited them to share their reflections about collaboration. These changemakers’ experiences range from three to more than 40 years, across a variety of rural and urban settings, and from multiple disciplines.
When I asked about unexpected aspects of collaboration that they’ve learned, they discussed power and disruption, sustainability, collective impact, skill and capacity building, and trust.
There is much to learn from the valuable experiences of these community change makers. When asked to share one piece of advice about collaboration they’d give to an emerging community leader, the aspect of time was an overwhelming theme—time to build relationships and patience with the process of change.
Time to reflect and celebrate, and for self-care is also highly encouraged.
Additional gems of advice included:
Reflecting upon and reaching out to these committed and passionate community leaders re-inspired me. Whether you’re a new or experienced partner in efforts to create healthy communities, I hope their insights do the same for you.
1 Gaston Family Health Services
2 Community-Centered Health
3 Urban and Regional Planning, University of Buffalo
4 Pitt County Planning/Parks and Recreation
5 Create A Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative
6 Healthy Neighborhoods initiative
7 Community Impact for Health, United Way of Central Alabama
8 Shape Up Mississippi