How COE fits with existing community work

By Kruse Scholar Amy Jones

Back in January, my fellow Kruse Scholar, Andrea Stoesz, wrote about smaller, but effective models that mirror many aspects of Communities of Excellence and are currently being used by public health professionals around the world. Andrea focused on the One Health model, which connects the health of people to the health of environment and animals. I think she made an important point in her post that Communities of Excellence is coming on the heels of other effective frameworks and models of community engagement and revitalization and is meant not to devalue the work that’s already being done, but to complement and make more robust current work.

As the Communities of Excellence framework begins to be implemented in communities across the country, it becomes even more important to recognize and appreciate the work that has been done and is being done by health departments and non-profits and not to minimize the impact they have had on their community. In Minneapolis, I think about organizations such as the Pillsbury United Communities who has multiple locations throughout the city and who tailors their work at each location to meet the needs of the immediate communities. All centers focus on education, youth and family, wellness and nutrition, employment and training, and asset creation, but do so in unique ways that best fit with the culture of the community they serve. Additionally, each location works cross-collaboratively to partner with other organizations in the community and unify their efforts. For example, in the Cedar Riverside community, the Brian Coyle center works with organizations such as the Confederation of Somali Community of Minnesota, Pan African Legal Aid, the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Plan and EMERGE, a job training and housing support organization. 

Pillsbury United Communities framework focuses on “reclaiming the strength of multi-service, community-focused nonprofit with deeply embedded relationships across neighborhoods, institutions and sectors.” Furthermore, the framework recognizes that “the complexities of poverty, systemic barriers, and the legacy of injustice are interconnected…[and] will not be solved with simple solutions, one program or one path.” Their non-linear approach to close gaps includes:

  1. Prepare through fact gathering and information exploring
  2. Discover by reviewing current realities and analyzing what is needed
  3. Ideate by generating new ideas and improvements
  4. Design a plan a determine measures of success
  5. Implement by putting the plan to work
  6. Evaluation to verify what works and adjust where needed.

With a well-developed framework and proven success in their communities, it begs the question - what role could cross sector collaborations such as Pillsbury United Communities play in the implementation of Communities of Excellence? To me, it seems obvious to identify and seek out organizations that already have a shared vision with that of COE and use them as a springboard for the COE framework. Defining their community is something that Pillsbury has already considered, yet the COE framework provides a different set of questions in defining their community that may expose other gaps and identify new directions. Part of effective community engagement is recognizing and utilizing resources that the community already has. Organizations working in communities who already have a multi-service, cross-collaborative framework should be helping to lead efforts to implement Communities of Excellence. COE will push communities who are already doing great work to do even better work. It pushes these organizations and people to create not just good communities, but excellent communities.

Read more about Amy Jones here

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