More than 100 people came out for the inaugural “Making Connections IN Health” event on Thursday, September 19, 2019. Those participants represented the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, IU Simon Cancer Center, Indiana Department of Health, Indiana University, IU Health, Purdue Extension and Anthem, as well as others from county health departments, hospitals, school corporations, foundations, health centers, and other local and state coalitions.
Nationally-recognized keynote speaker, Fran Butterfoss, PhD, is the founding president of “Coalitions Work,” an organization that helps coalitions and partnerships reach their full potential. Her main message was meant to inspire participants and the coalitions to “Ignite,” a process that she describes like building a fire in four parts.
1. Before you build: conduct environmental scans and decide purpose of collaboration
2. Build the fire: gather the right people, develop leadership, build structure for success
3. Make the fire work: motivate people to commit, participate and share resources, initiate strategies
4. Sustain the blaze: identify financial/in-kind support to maintain strategies, expand/end collaboration when goals are reached
“Coalitions have to be dynamic,” said Butterfoss. “So if they have just enough structure and just enough process, it means they’re changeable. They should change as conditions change. They change as their memberships change. They change as the issues change.”
Butterfoss identified several strengths of our statewide team, Connections IN Health, such as having a basic structure established, as well as branding with various communication channels. She also pointed out some challenges they face, such as partnerships with other local coalitions.
“The first year of Connections IN Health has been about building our team and figuring out where we should start our work,” said Gina Claxton, program manager for Community Health Partnerships. “Now that we’ve done that, we’re ready to hit the ground running to learn from and collaborate with new and existing partners.”
Claxton says now that they’re almost a year into the Connections IN Health program, they wanted to bring in Butterfoss to give them advice to guide them to the next level.
“We know we’re not going to make any impact at all if we just work individually,” said Claxton. “Bringing together as many people as we can around the table in shared leadership, which was one of Butterfoss’ main messages, that’s part of our vision as well.”
Butterfoss emphasized the importance of collaboration and working together to achieve a common goal. She said some of the keys to making coalitions effective include transformational leadership, high levels of trust/reciprocity, and frequent communication and training.
“Bringing together people who are passionate and care about something is easy,” said Butterfoss. “Keeping them together is the key. That’s where it gets hard. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”
Connections IN Health is focusing on asthma, physical activity, nutrition, cancer control, health equity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and tobacco. If investigators or organizations are interested in partnering on these efforts, contact project manager Karen Hinshaw.