Tag Archives: affordable housing

Public Health in Action – Linked Up/In

links-of-the-chain-517550_960_720

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead’s quote eloquently describes what I see on a regular basis living and working in Durham, North Carolina. Since moving south from Washington, D.C. two years ago, I’m consistently humbled and inspired to hear what various groups are doing to improve the local community.

I recently attended a meeting hosted by the North Carolina Chapter of the B Corporation and heard a brief presentation from local B Corp Seth Gross, owner of Durham-based brewpub, Bull City Burger. In his remarks, he described how he opened Bull City Burger in 2011 and noticed a significant turnover in staff he had during his first year. After thoughtful consideration, he decided to focus more time, effort and resources on creating a work environment that was conducive to staff retention and a greater community impact. Bull City Burger was one of the, if not the, first restaurant to become certified as a B Corp in 2014. His leadership, willingness to share his story and advice to other restaurateurs and business owners have inspired countless others. North Carolina boasts 37 certified B Corps throughout the state.

Seth’s story with Bull City Burger is just one story among so many others that reflect the city’s level of community engagement.

My interview with Rob Shields, below, takes a deeper dive into the non-profit organization ReCity and its role in “rewriting the story” of Durham.

*********

“Durham incubator works to aid youth employment” local ABC news clip: http://abc11.com/video/embed/?pid=1722793

Rob Shields, Executive Director of ReCity

Me: How did you end up doing the work that you’re currently doing?  Describe your journey to your current role as Executive Director of ReCity.  Describe why you’re passionate about addressing youth disconnection…why others should care about the work you’re doing.

Rob Shields: I’ve been in the youth development space for my whole career – sports coach to a campus-based youth ministry Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) to my current role as Executive Director at ReCity – and although my roles have differed, my professional interests have been in serving youth.

Through the years, I became more aware of division within communities. It really opened my eyes to the reality that communities of color experienced in daily life. The gap between rich and poor was huge and I became discontent with structures and systems that reinforced widening of that gap. From there I wanted to focus on community development and envisioned a thriving community where all individuals had opportunities to succeed. And that’s what attracted me to this role at ReCity. I wondered if this model could this be the solution to magnify programs that were already working and facilitate connections to foster collaboration between those programs. We aren’t trying to compete or reinvent the wheel, but our driving force is how best to serve the community.

I have a strong conviction and belief that talent is equally distributed but opportunity isn’t. And this bothers me. Everyone has dignity and we all have God-given skills and abilities and I want to be part of a city that has opportunities for all to find their way. The gap between rich and poor is too wide and ReCity would ideally play a role in creating the city as it should be.

Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?

RS: I draw a lot of inspiration from my Christian faith. My belief in serving a god that is redemptive and restorative in nature. I’m inspired to follow in his example of being involved in work that restores and I feel called to do so. My wife and kids are another source of inspiration and perspective. The startup world is tough and it’s so easy to lose one’s identity in work. My family provides me a constant reminder that I have other priorities that I’m responsible for. They bring balance by slowing me down to a marathon pace when I’m normally sprinting.

Me: Can you tell us more about ReCity and your vision for the next 5 or 10 years?

RS: ReCity is a co-working space for nonprofits and mission-driven organizations committed to restoring opportunities for disconnected youth and their families in Durham. Our space empowers our partner organizations to work alongside each other to close the opportunity gaps in our community through strengthening collaboration and pooling resources as well as social capital to achieve collective impact.

In five years we envision ReCity playing a role in rallying the city to act collectively to address social issues like youth disconnection. And since youth disconnection is a complex mix of underlying core social issues, a focus on youth disconnection specifically would simultaneously address disparities and injustices in other areas like education, housing, and transportation among others. We hope to provide a path to stable employment to 1,000 youth by our third year.

In 10 years, I can see our model as a template to address any complex social issue in any city. The beauty in our model is its simplicity. Living out shared values together in a shared space can accelerate the collaboration needed to solve complex problems plaguing cities nationwide. At the core, these issues are not unique to Durham and we hope that others can find value in what we’re doing.

Me: What role does the community have in addressing social issues like youth disconnection, poverty, unemployment, etc.?

RS: Community leaders are vital in shaping our work. We fully recognize that it’s their community; they are the most invested and are the key stakeholders, which is why we follow their lead when it comes to planning and decision-making. ReCity’s role in addressing youth disconnection in Durham has evolved since our inception because of their unwavering support, input and feedback.

Leaders in the community have the biggest voice in addressing social issues, and since ReCity doesn’t provide direct programs like many non-profits, we have to be very selective in working with organizations that are well-respected in the greater Durham community. These organizations must use appropriate methods when addressing core issues, with a focus on personal and professional development over reinforcing the need for ongoing services. Durham’s population is culturally diverse, therefore the youth we serve are equally diverse. 56% of ReCity partner organizations are minority-led, which is critical for us because one our driving core values as an organization is to reflect the diversity of the community we serve.

Me: What are the current needs in the Raleigh-Durham metro area (or focus in on the city you live in) as they relate to social determinants of health (i.e SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)?

RS: Affordable housing is a huge concern, which is why I’m excited our network has added partners doing amazing work in this area like Housing for New Hope and Jubilee Home. Providing shelter is only one aspect, but creating paths to social mobility and wealth creation through home-ownership is the key. If we can make progress in raising rates of home-ownership, there’s potential to break generational cycles of systemic injustice and poverty.

Access to regular, reliable transportation is another issue, especially for the youth that our network serves. ReCity has started to consolidate services and resources among our partner organizations and we hope to one day be a “one-stop shop” for every type of resource needed to serve children and families more efficiently and holistically. We also hope innovative partnerships can help improve access to regular, reliable transportation. Private companies already have the vehicles and drivers – it’s a matter of reallocating funds to local transportation companies like Uber or Lyft to serve our target populations. Often times, the highest impact isn’t a result of new programs being created, but from intentionally re-purposing or redirecting the resources that are already in place. And that’s what ReCity is all about.

Public Health in Action – Actions Speak Louder Than Words

fitdc

Source: article.wn.com

Muriel Bowser was sworn into office this past January and remains focused on delivering a fresh start for the District of Columbia (DC).  Mayor Bowser, a native of Washington, pledges to tackle problems past mayors haven’t: chronic homelessness, economic divide and disappearing affordable housing.  Engaging residents through community forums for their input and new ideas appear to be a long-term strategy for progress.  One such initiative that caught my attention was the 1 Billion Steps Challenge (currently at 3 million), under the larger FitDC umbrella.  The FitDC website serves as a resource and platform to engage residents on nutrition and fitness.  Currently, ten coaches are in place to motivate residents to improve their health and well-being.  I connected with Darryl Garrett, appointed the “Senior Coach” for older city residents (In 2013, individuals 65 and over comprised 11.3% of the population), and asked him a couple questions.

Let’s see the world of health and well-being from Darryl’s perspective.

Me: How did you end up doing the work that you’re currently doing?  Describe your journey from your work in the federal government to your leadership in health coaching in the DC community.

Darryl Garrett: I spent 25 years at CIA and then took an early retirement at 48. I then worked for a couple of defense companies before becoming an independent consultant working inside the intelligence community (IC). I’ve been doing that for about 12 years and was wondering what to do with the last third of my life. I continue to enjoy the mission and people in the IC—it is more like a calling than a job—but thought it would be fun to do something different.

About four years ago I and my wife started working with a terrific trainer—Deshaye Tillman—and I became inspired by the transition that occurred as he helped people become healthier. So I started studying to be a personal trainer and applied and got into the third running of Georgetown University’s Health Coaching Certificate program. That program will end in September. Then I will see if I can start a business of health coaching, while continuing to work part time in the IC.

At about the time I was starting the health coaching program at Georgetown I saw a news story about DC Mayor Bowser’s FitDC initiative. I applied to be one of the community health coaches and was blessed to be picked as the FitDC coach representing seniors. It has been an absolute blast working with the FitDC team: it is a diverse and interesting group that mirrors the city, I think. And as an old CIA hand who avoided the public light, it has been an amazing experience going to photo shoots and getting my first Twitter account!

Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?

DG: I try to remember that it is not my life, but life and I am a part of it. I try to make the best of it but at the end of the day billions of people go to sleep without thinking about me and my problem at all. I am not the center of the universe. I also have several networks of friends and colleagues that I rely on for support.

And sometimes I drink a little bourbon and have some popcorn!

Me: What do you think it will take for our healthcare system to improve?

DG: I remember being on a consulting team for a large IT company that had several retired military flag officers. One of them was also a doctor and had been the Surgeon General for his branch of service. He once said something that stuck with me: “Everyone knows that the US medical system is broken. And no one wants to fix it because everyone knows how to make money from it.” I took that to mean that the system is so complicated that any reforms upsets the revenue flow, so there is some group or groups who will oppose almost any change.

So I don’t see that changing radically in the near future. However, estimates are that 60-70% of chronic diseases could be eliminated or at least controlled by lifestyle choices. Many of our most severe challenges—diabetes, obesity, cancer, smoking, high blood pressure—can be effectively combated with exercise, healthy eating and adhering to medication plans.

When I started training at 60 years old, my bio markers after a few months dropped into a normal range where they had not been since my late 30s. That is the power of exercising and eating healthy food.

Me: Why is holistic and community health so important?

DG: People often have the information on how to stay healthy or prevent a disease, and yet many people cannot do it. I think there are several reasons for this:

  1. People don’t like to feel they are being told to do something. They often get resistant.
  2. People know the large goal “exercise more” but struggle with breaking it into small, actionable steps.
  3. People start and encounter relapses, obstacles and challenges and give up.
  4. Once starting it is hard to continue something long term on your own.

So community health can help to break down these challenges. Health coaching can help a person visualize something that is powerful for him or her: so instead of “I need to exercise.” The vision is “I want to be able to play with my kids at the park like the other moms.” Setting a powerful vision of health helps a person relate why they are doing something new and perhaps difficult to something that is important to them.

Working with initiatives such as FitDC and other DC and community programs also make it easier to stick to a program. Hard programs can be made fun and having buddies give you a team to help you overcome obstacles, break down goals into small steps, and stick to a plan over the long term.

Me: What are the current needs in DC and where you live, as they relate to social determinants of health (i.e SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)

DG: DC, like many cities, has areas of great access to healthcare and healthy food, and other areas where that access is a struggle. As a representative for the senior residents I know that some of them cannot drive and must rely on public transportation. While the city has a robust transportation system, it can be hard to carry many bags of groceries on a bus or metro…and relying on cabs can be expensive for some. Seniors sometimes can be challenged by navigating the healthcare system and understanding complex medication regimes, which can lead to poor adherence to treatment plans.

That is why I am proud to be part of an initiative that will help focus attention on the importance of moving and eating healthy. We currently have a Billion Step Challenge in which each ward has a community “Ward Walk”, and citizens are encouraged to log their steps each day. We hope to get to a billion steps in the next year.

Public Health in Action – Mobilizing for Collective Impact

durhamcares

At one point or another, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “think global, act local.”  That phrase has always stuck with me, but context is everything.  Living in Durham, the phrase has resonated with me so much more than it has in the past.  I regularly consider how my actions may affect my local community.  And after living and working on the national level, I see more clearly now that the issues are either solved or propagated at the community level.

I started following the non-profit, DurhamCares, a few weeks ago after they were mentioned in the same tweet from another mutual Twitter-er (who also happens to be quite active in the community).  Long story short, I had a great conversation with one of the staff members at DurhamCares and feel strongly that their mission closely aligns this blog – disrupting the status quo by reducing silos.  DurhamCares understands that issues are interconnected and leverages skills that have produced results in other industries, specifically business and journalism, and applies them seamlessly in a non-profit environment.

On to the interview with Elizabeth Poindexter, Marketing Coordinator of DurhamCares!

Me: Tell us about your past experiences in journalism and the path you’ve gone through to get to DurhamCares.  Also, mention the skills you’re leveraging at your previous roles in your current one.  I plan to introduce DurhamCares, but feel free to describe the future vision of it in terms of communication and marketing strategy.

Elizabeth Poindexter: I am a 2010 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduation, I worked for three years as a digital journalist and bureau chief for two television news stations and one newspaper. I learned a skill set in the journalism school that I’ve found to be applicable in other settings. Learning how to shoot and edit video, take photographs, and write well are valuable skills I still use at DurhamCares. At DurhamCares, we focus on content creation and content marketing strategies. Working as a one-man-band reporter taught me why people care about issues, how to mobilize communities, and how good content is part of that effort. While reporting, I saw stories making a difference, and I am thrilled to continue that work at DurhamCares.

I use very similar skills even though I’ve switched career paths. DurhamCares works to fully understand the scope of issues our community faces. Each DurhamCares issue-based marketing campaign has months worth of research behind it, so we can best understand the most compelling facts about each issue. In addition to research, we work to show people why they should care, which is why storytelling is important. DurhamCares also creates issue-based content, including infographics and videos, and I’ve led production for those projects. Overall, working as a journalist taught me the value of content creation. In my current role at DurhamCares, I focus on marketing that content to our target audiences to mobilize volunteers and donations toward Durham’s nonprofits.

Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?

EP: We’ve worked since summer 2013 to fully develop our issue-based collaborative marketing campaigns, which we solidified in early 2015. Our marketing campaigns leverage the concept of collective impact. We know of a few other organizations around the country leveraging collective impact to impact community development, and we’re testing that model here in the Triangle. Our marketing campaigns went through several iterations, and we are constantly learning how to best bring nonprofits together and focus on a single issue while applying this concept of collective impact to our work. As we’ve developed our campaigns, it is gratifying to hear when nonprofits have used a campaign tactic to bring in donations or to recruit more volunteers. I come to work every day knowing I’m making a difference, whether I realize it or not.

Me: What do you think it will take for our society to view health more seriously?  As in, why is health lower in priority to careers and education and relationships?

EP: DurhamCares plans to launch a marketing campaign around the issue of health care access in May 2015. We’re counting on experts to help us author what that campaign should look like, but I’ve learned a lot already. In my opinion, health is a necessary building block for other aspects of our lives. Health care and health access have many implications in our lives and can impact our careers, education and relationships in the long-term. Both mental and physical health play a huge role in our community’s success. I believe prioritizing health issues our neighbors face could lead to building a healthier community in the long term.

Me: What are some things/concepts/ideas/insights you’ve learned in journalism that have helped you at DurhamCares?

EP: Storytelling is at the core of journalism. People are a lot more likely to connect with issues if they feel an emotional connection, and people are less likely to remember statistics and facts. I focus on storytelling at DurhamCares, and we try to show people how issues are relevant in their lives, even if it’s not immediately obvious. From a more practical standpoint, learning about content production and content management are also valuable skills to have. DurhamCares also has a strong social media presence, which we use to raise issue awareness. Lastly, networking with Triangle media outlets and knowing how reporters work is valuable in raising awareness through more traditional news outlets.

Me: What are the current needs in your city as they relate to social determinants of health (ie SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)?  Social determinants of health are any factors that directly or indirectly affect health.  For example, being homeless could cause stress and malnutrition which could drastically affect one’s health.

EP: DurhamCares focuses on nine different issue areas, including senior care, health care access, and youth. We’ve learned over the past couple years that each issue is connected to another in some way. I attended a conference a couple of years ago, and one woman’s story stuck with me. She lived in unaffordable housing, which is a growing issue in Durham as plans for light rail transit are made. This woman had battled mental health issues because of her living situation. I’ve realized a lot of these issues operate on a continuum. Perhaps the woman was previously homeless, unable to find a safe, affordable place to live. Maybe she had no choice but to live in unaffordable, substandard housing, which developed over time into a mental health issue. Unaffordable housing can result in frequent moving, which can result in an unstable home life, unstable schooling, etc., for families. It’s up to the community to care about issues that impact everyone so we can plan for a great future in Durham.