Essays on People, Place & Purpose

Investing in What Works for America's Communities

‘Healthy Neighborhoods’ Convening Looks for the Ounce of Prevention to Save a Pound of Cure through Collaborations for Collective Impact

by Admin

More than 120 experts from across a wide range of fields explored the role of collaboration in transforming neighborhoods into healthy, vibrant places at the inaugural Health Neighborhoods Regional Convening in Oakland, California on February 6. More than 120 residents and leaders of organizations working in affordable housing, community organizing, social service, education, health care, banking and grantmaking discussed the importance of “collective impact” efforts and how they advance comprehensive community development. “We must collaborate to find the ounce of prevention that will save our partners a pound of cure,” stated Joshua Simon, executive director of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), a Partners in Progress project grantee, which organized the meeting.

“The 20th century ‘solution’—that is, revitalize buildings and construct new ones, and the rest will follow—no longer stands,” declared panelist Nancy O. Andrews, Low Income Investment Fund president and CEO. Ms. Andrews reminded attendees that in its place a movement —not one or two individual organizations toiling on their own—is emerging. Rather, community development organizations working as “community quarterbacks” are bringing together nonprofits, government agencies, businesses and residents to form partnerships, pool expertise, marshal resources and capitalize on their complementary strengths to affect change.

EBALDC is serving as a community quarterback in Oakland, coordinating a team of 10 partners with diverse areas of expertise to improve health in two neighborhoods between downtown Oakland and Emeryville. Motivated by the Alameda County Public Health department’s statistic that a child raised in West Oakland is likely to live 14 years less than a child growing up in the more affluent Oakland Hills, EBALDC committed to a new focus in 2012. In adopting a Healthy Neighborhoods approach, EBALDC is building on 40 years of experience in affordable housing and commercial development, and is strengthening its work by partnering with other Bay Area organizations with expertise in areas including health care, education, safety and growing fresh food locally.

The 10-partner collective for which EBALDC serves as quarterback is known as the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative, or SPARC. During the past year, SPARC has endorsed a five-year action plan to improve community wellness, safety, jobs and affordable housing for some 8,000 residents living in two West Oakland neighborhoods. Members are working together on eight action items, such as reducing emergency room and hospital visits by residents with high blood pressure, reducing community blight, increasing affordable housing units, and tracking and reporting partners’ data to make sure members meet their objectives.

At the Healthy Neighborhoods Convening, SPARC partners and other community-based collaboratives working at the intersection of community development, health, and collective impact shared work they are leading in neighborhoods throughout Oakland and networked with each other to advance momentum and further develop partnerships. Along with SPARC, other organizations focused on collective impact presented, including the Oakland Strategic Neighborhoods Initiative (OSNI), Building East Oakland Healthy Communities, Best Babies Zone and Bridge Housing’s Vincent Academy.

At the conclusion of the event, Mr. Simon led a call to action and summarized a few lessons learned during the day’s discussion, including: the importance of measuring the right things, noting that “what’s measured matters”; identifying preventive steps that save effort and money in the long-run; and aligning objectives between partners.

“Together, with all of the attendees in the room, we have the collective ability to change an alarming statistic on life expectancy into a place of opportunity and good health for everybody,” he said.

By Monique Beeler and Romi Hall of EBALDC

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