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First Anniversary, New Director, Commission on Health

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Good food, stories, discussion and debate have characterized the first full year of Backyard Initiative gatherings like this one at the Cultural Wellness Center, 1527 East Lake Street.

by Janice Barbee

The Backyard Initiative, a partnership between Allina and the surrounding community, will be celebrating its first anniversary on January 30, 2010. Come to the Cultural Wellness Center to hear about the accomplishments of the past year and plans for 2010.

The Backyard Initiative’s assessment process is already producing a great deal of knowledge. Community residents have conducted 21 Listening Circles, the notes from which are now being analyzed by residents. They will create a report for the community and Allina that will be presented at the January meeting.

The walk-around is now over 1/3 completed. Community residents hired by Wilder Research are walking around the Powderhorn Park, Central, and Corcoran and the four Phillips neighborhoods to ask people about their health and the health of the community. Residents designed the questions and they will be interpreting the results. The great majority of residents have been interested in participating, especially as they learn that other residents are asking the questions.

New BYI Project Director

Allina hired a new project director for the Backyard Initiative in early November. The new staff person, Paula Fynboh, has begun attending Backyard community meetings and meeting with community residents and organizational leaders within the Backyard. She is also participating in the listening circles analysis team. Prior to joining Allina Hospitals & Clinics, Paula was a Project Manager for Grassroots Solutions, a national consulting company specializing in community engagement and also served as the Interim Executive Director with the Phillips West Neighborhood Organization. Paula is also a resident of the Backyard.

November Dinner and Dialogue Gatherings
Residents met over dinner twice in November. On November 5, the GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer) community hosted the gathering at a home in Powderhorn Park. People told stories of how difficult it has been to be a part of the larger community. They also talked about how this community has been more welcoming than many for GLBTQ folks. The meeting ended with affirmations about the importance of every person being respected and having a voice.

Creation of a “Commission on Health” in the Backyard
The focus for the second large dinner and dialogue gathering in November was on plans for the creation of a Backyard Commission on Health. Residents are now developing the purpose of the commission; the following list of possible functions is being discussed in detail:

  1. To monitor the health of the community. To watch changes in health over time (starting with baseline from Listening Circles and Walk-around). To use the definition of health in its vision of health.
  2. To listen to the people in the community about their health concerns; to keep in touch with the pulse of the community. To walk around, talk to people, listen and watch for what’s happening. To organize regularly scheduled gatherings, community dinners and dialogues, forums hosted in different places around the community.
  3. To establish a “report card” to inform the community about the quality of services and outcomes of organizations serving Backyard residents. These would be organizations which have as their mission to improve or sustain health according to the BYI definition of health.
  4. To educate people in the community about issues and available resources. To feed back the information gathered in the assessment, in the community dinner and dialogues, and from the “report card” on community organizations. To provide health information for both the prevention and managing of ill health. To create a structure to keep the community informed about available resources.
  5. To build community capacity for taking responsibility for its own health. To support initiatives/projects that the people develop to sustain or improve health.

The members of the BYI group are also discussing who the commissioners will be. The current proposal is that the majority of commissioners will be residents of the community and will be people who have been involved in the Backyard activities. There will be teams of people from cultural communities who live in the area. It is proposed that there also be commissioners from Allina, the Minneapolis Department of Health, and the media.

The Commission is a work in progress; it will be formed in 2010.
The next BYI dinner and dialogue will be on Thursday, December 10, from 5 – 7 PM at the Cultural Wellness Center, 1527 East Lake Street (in the Franklin Bank Building). All community residents are welcome.

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