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Wednesday November 22nd 2017

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A Process for Valuing the Work in the Backyard Initiative

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

When the Backyard Initiative began three years ago, residents of the neighborhoods of Central, Corcoran, East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Phillips West, Powderhorn Park, and Ventura Village were invited to a meeting to look at Allina’s plans for improving the health of the residents. One of the central messages of that meeting was that community residents need to be active participants in that planning and in the implementing of any health-improvement projects. People are tired of programs that are done for them, or to them, or on their behalf. People want to present their own ideas based on their own experiences. People want to participate in projects that involve and impact what they care most about, what they most value. And the evaluation process for reflecting on the learning and identifying and assessing the accomplishments must be owned and implemented primarily by the participants themselves. Only then can the process support improvement of the projects and help others in the community to learn how not to repeat the same mistakes and to build upon what residents have developed.

Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) have been implemented in the Backyard area over the past year, and CHAT members are now going through a reflection process to harvest what they have learned, what they have achieved, and what they will do differently going forward to most effectively improve the health of the community. The Dakota Language Revitalization CHAT was the first CHAT to be approved by the Community Commission on Health (made of up members from each CHAT), and the members of this CHAT were the first to go through this reflection process. As part of this process, they answered the following questions:

  • What progress have you made toward your goals?
  • What challenges did you encounter?
  • What lessons have you learned?  What lessons have relevance to the broader community (other CHATs and 45,000 residents of the Backyard)?
  • What connections did you make to other CHATS, other organizations and/or community groups?
  • What was participation like in the CHAT?  Did you have growing or diminishing numbers?
  • How many activities did your CHAT sponsor? How many people have participated in CHAT sponsored activities?
  • In what ways did people’s leadership skills develop?
  • Did you have conflict in your CHAT?  If so, how was it resolved?
  • What ideas do you have about how CHATs can support each other and collaborate?
  • How were decisions made in your CHAT?  What was your model of governance?
  • What worked well or not so well in managing your finances and budget?

Implementing this evaluation process has re-energized CHAT members to re-commit themselves to the work of the CHAT.  Their fear of failure has been transformed into an appreciation of the learning from successes and failures and how that learning can help to make their future efforts, and the efforts of other CHATs, more rewarding.

Look for learning reports on each of the CHATs in future issues of the Alley.

All Backyard residents are welcome to come to the Backyard Initiative community meetings on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 5 PM at Hope Community, 611 East Franklin Avenue. Call the Cultural Wellness Center for details: 612-721-5745.

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