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1st Anniversary of the Backyard Initiative

Update on the Backyard Initiative

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center
1st Anniversary of the Backyard Initiative
Community residents celebrated the first year of the BYI at the Cultural Wellness Center (CWC) on January 30th. Atum Azzahir, CWC Executive Director and facilitator of BYI community meetings, reviewed the progress that has been made:

  1. A community-authored definition of health
  2. A set of guiding principles for BYI work in the community
  3. An understanding of community dynamics before and after engagement
  4. Attention paid to the history and culture of the people in the Backyard
  5. The formation and development of Citizen Health Action Teams that have been working on designing projects to improve health
  6. The work of the Assessment and Analysis Teams that has transformed conventional assessment into a community-owned process, and
  7. The concept of a Community Commission on Health was developed and the formation of the Commission was approved by community members.

Participants left with a written report on results of the Listening Circles, a process in which community residents developed questions, were trained in facilitation and note-taking, recruited people for the Listening Circles, facilitated the discussion and took the notes, analyzed the notes using qualitative methods, and approved the report.

Since the BYI began, close to 300 residents have been involved in ongoing BYI meetings hosted by the Center. In addition, approximately 250 residents, participated in the Listening Circles that were held in the community. In the BYI Walk Around, more than 650 residents were interviewed, either in person or via telephone.

Quotes from people who have participated in the BYI throughout 2009:
“There is more than meets the eye in the people on the street, in the stores, and in the cars passing by.”
“The big institution is just people who have to be encouraged to come outside.”
“People want to work together but don’t know how.”
“We have more than we know, we know more than we say, we say more than you hear. Talking must be accompanied by listening.”
“The food was great! I love listening to different cultures speak of their experience.”
“Money is needed because it tells us we have done something worthwhile.”
“We don’t really need more money; we need more linkages to each other.”
“Help us to transform historical relationships between groups into working relationships which create and produce health. Please!”

The BYI Community Commission on Health is Launched
On February 16 the first official meeting of the BYI Community Commission on Health was convened at the Cultural Wellness Center with 25 people in attendance. They are members of the Backyard Initiative who have participated, struggled, and built a vision in the first year of the BYI and are committed to improving the health and healthcare of residents in the area. The Community Commission of Health will consist of about 35 members, drawn from the following:

1. The Allina BYI Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs)

  • Rebirthing Community: Bringing Elders & Youth Together
  • Establishing Anchor Families for children, youth and families
  • Mapping/Community History & Profiles
  • Alternative/Traditional Cultural Health Practices
  • Dakota/Lakota Language Revival
  • Assessment/Analysis Work Group
  • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (GLBTQ)
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Organizational Coalition Building
  • Environmental Health

2. Members of the Backyard Cultural Communities
3. Elders & Youth
4. Allina Staff: 3-5 seats, including SEIU
5. Media: The Alley and others as invited
6. Gretchen Musicant, Commissioner of Health
7. Minneapolis Department of Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED)

The Backyard Community Commission of Health will have the following purpose:
1. To protect and build the partnership and to assure the work of community is valued.
2. To monitor the health of the community.
3. To listen to the people in the community about their health concerns; to keep in touch with the pulse of the community.
4. To establish a “report card” to inform the community about the quality of services and outcomes of organization serving Backyard residents.
5. To educate people in the community about issues and available resources.
6. To build community capacity for taking responsibility for its own health.
7. To research, study and produce knowledge about conditions in the community and design solutions to change them.

All residents of the Backyard area (East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Ventura Village, Phillips West, Central, Powderhorn Park, and Corcoran) are welcome to attend BYI meetings. It is never too late to join a CHAT team. Contact the Cultural Wellness Center (612-721-5745) for more information.

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