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Andrea has been with HC Link since its inception in 2009 and is currently HC Link Coordinator located at Health Nexus. Andrea has an extensive background in physical activity and health promotion and has worked in local recreation centres and public health units as well as provincial NGOs and agencies. Andrea is a student of French and is passionate about working with Anglophones to build their capacity to engage Francophones
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Webinar Recap: How to Engage Francophones: when you don't speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

Supporting our clients in engaging their Francophone communities is an area that HC Link has been working in for the past several years. We've delivered several webinars and produced many resources – in both languages – on the topic. But this week, Estelle Duchon and I delivered a webinar with a slightly different spin: how do you engage Francophones in your community work when you don't speak the language?

For many people working in the areas of community-based planning, health promotion and healthy communities, we want to fully engage and work with all of the people who live, work and play in our community. When it comes to working with the Francophone community many feel that this can only be done if we are fluent in French. In our 90 minute webinar, Estelle laid out three easy steps to engage Francophones regardless of your French capacity.

Step One: Examine Your Motives: be very clear about the purpose and objectives for your engagement strategy, and also have a plan in place for what you will do with the results. The Francophone community has, in many cases, been consulted often with sometimes invisible results. By properly identifying what you want to accomplish you'll be able to put the appropriate plans in place. You'll also be able to clearly communicate what you are doing, why, and what will happen as result of participation. In this way, you'll be able to manage expectations.

Step Two: Understand Francophone Contexts in Ontario, your community and your organization: Before beginning an engagement strategy with Francophone communities (or any community for that matter) it's critical to understand the history and contexts of that community. For instance one of our participants remarked that she didn't realize that many Francophones in Ontario are new Canadians from 29 of the world's countries that speak French. This can have huge implications regarding culture and beliefs. It's also important to investigate the history of your organization's past engagement strategies (if any) as these can colour (positively or negatively) future participant's expectations.

Step Three: Find people to work with: For many of us who don't have the capacity or comfort to work in French, this step is really key. Are there colleugues in your organization or networks that have the capacity to liaise with communities in French? Also investigate existing networks and initiatives that you could partner with. Take the time to establish a trust relationship with new partners as well as with the communities themselves.

We had terrific audience participation in this webinar thanks to HC Link's new webinar platform which includes a chat board. In fact, 78% of evaluation respondents rated opportunities for participation as excellent! Participants shared ideas for engaging Francophones and also shared what their organizations are doing to boost French capacity in the workforce. Unfortunately due to some technical challenges we weren't able to record the webinar, but the slides have been posted for you on our website.

 This blog post just gives you a smattering of the information that Estelle and I presented – there is lots more out there, including in these resources:

Working Together with Francophones: Understanding the Context and Promising Practices

Working Together with Francophones @ a Glance Part 1: Understanding the Context

Working Together with Francophones @ a Glance Part 2: Legislation and Institutional Support

Community Engagement @ a Glance

Have you experienced successes or challenges in engaging Francophone communities in your work? Please leave us a comment and tell us about it!

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Austerity and Innovation

 

I just returned from an exciting lunch event at MaRS in downtown Toronto (where incidentally, I had what were quite possibly the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life) that I thought might be of interest to HC Link’s clients. The speaker was Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) in the U.K. Geoff began his talk with a picture of a painting depicting a beautiful  1800s British wooden sailing ship being towed by a less-than-beautiful tugboat to the shore, where it would be destroyed. Innovation, says Geoff, can be painful as we make way for the new.  But innovation can yield exciting results, particularly in frugal times. Two examples of ‘frugal innovation’ that he used were the Aakash (a $60 tablet computer made in India) and www.couchsurfing.org. Then Geoff challenged us to think: what are the public sector equivalents? How can we mobilize the creativity often seen in the private sector and by imaginative entrepreneurs in the fields in which we work?


In the private sector, 10-15% of budgets are devoted to research and development to foster innovation and new ideas. In the sectors that we – in healthy communities and health promotion – work in, we see far less (if any). To illustrate the effect of this, Geoff showed a graph (which I was not able to find on the internet, so use your imagination) that showed a correlation between health care spending and mortality over time. The more you spend, the more people die. Though slightly tongue-in-cheek, Geoff used this example to show what can happen when we use the same old techniques to cope with ever-changing and complex situations withoutUntitled innovating.
All over the world, countries, governments, organizations and businesses are facing massive cuts in spending/funding. Those of   you working in local communities are no strangers to this reality. But we can – as others have- use this as an opportunity to do things differently. To innovate. And see what happens.


Here are some examples. In Sutton, England the public library faced massive cuts and could no longer purchase new inventory. The solution: Sutton Bookshare – where people list the books on their own bookshelves via the library website that people can pop over and borrow. Now, using the existing infrastructure of the library’s borrowing system, not only has the library solved their problem, but the solution fosters a sense of community. Another example is Big Society Capital – a new bank that lends money to those creating socially innovative projects. The new bank is funded by the millions of pounds sitting in unclaimed bank accounts. Couch Surfing, and similar concepts for car-sharing in Europe also solve the problem of needing a place to stay or a car to drive, but not having the money for a hotel/car rental.


My brain is still spinning from the session. But I think the one take-away for me (other than the cookies!) is that - when you take the ‘problem’ of funding cuts (or the resulting cuts in service due to funding cuts) to the community, the solution can often be found. Many of you are doing just that in your community work – and are finding innovative, community-based solutions that are working for you. I invite you to share those ideas using the comment box below – let’s start a conversation about innovation!

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Working together with Francophones in Ontario

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

On January 26th, more than fifty participants from across Ontario joined Estelle Duchon and I for a French language webinar called Collaborer avec les francophones en Ontario (Working together with Francophones in Ontario). Professionals from community organizations, French language planning entities, and public health units learned (or refreshed their knowledge!) about the demographics and contexts of Franco-Ontarians, the history of FLS services in Canada and Ontario and what's working well regarding Francophone engagement.

Francophone engagement is an area in which HC Link has been working and supporting its clients for a number of years- in both English and French. This webinar (which will be available in English in the spring) builds on our earlier document entitled Work Together With Francophones In Ontario: Understanding The Context And Using Promising Practices (Collaborer avec les francophones en Ontario : de la compréhension du contexte à l'application des pratiques prometteuses). In just a few weeks we'll be releasing two @ a glance documents (in both English and French) which capture the highlights of the earlier, comprehensive resource.

During the webinar, we had excellent participation and discussion from the participants. One participant reminded us that these days, there really is not one Francophone community. Demographics show us that Francophones in Ontario come from not only Ontario and Quebec but also Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe and their faith practices include Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism as well as traditional and African faiths.

Another discussion point that surfaced (and surfaces in every Francophone engagement workshop or session I've been involved in) is that engagement is not simply asking people what they want, or consulting them in some way. Engagement is about providing opportunities for meaningful involvement throughout the entire process. It's about an openness to have others involved, a willingness to have them participate, and a recognition of the incredible benefits of doing so.

HC Link looks forward to continuing work in this area – and supporting you with your efforts to meaningfully engage the Francophone communities in your area. Keep watching for our new resources and English webinar!

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Linking for Healthy Communities Wrap-Up

 

By Andrea Bodkin

Well, we’ve just finished HC Link’s first conference, “Linking For Healthy Communities: Building from within”. It was a fabulous two day event, held at the BMO Institute for Learning, attended by more than 130 participants, staff and speakers.

Our keynote speaker was John Ott, co-author of The Power of Collective Wisdom and the trap of collective folly. Not only was John our keynote, he also worked extensively with the planning committee to shape the event as well as with the many speakers of the breakout sessions to ensure synergy in themes. John also provided many opportunities for reflection throughout the two days, which gave participants a chance to really take in and process what we were hearing.

After attending such an event, I always like to spend some time absorbing what I heard and learned. I thought I might share these thoughts with you. In fact, one of the first things that John said to us on Tuesday morning is that the most important moment of the conference is Thursday at 8 am. After the conference is all over: how will you carry the work forward? So the following is my attempt to carry what I learned forward. And yes, at time of writing it is 8:15 Thursday morning!

 

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Welcome!

This is a pretty exciting day.

This is the day that we get to share with you our new name and brand: HC Link (Réseau CS, in French)!

Like most healthy communities and health promotion work, this celebration isn’t so much about one day as it is about the months and years of work that have led up to it. Today really is about the journey that we, HC Link, have been on — and that many of you have been on with us.

Our journey started more than two and a half years ago when our funder, the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport, asked us to form a virtual consortium to support its new Healthy Communities Fund. Since that time, we have journeyed from four resource centres working together to one strong collaborative organization with four provincial partners: Health Nexus, OHCC, OPHA and PAD. We have brought our history, our expertise, our passion for working with communities together under one brand: HC Link.

The re-branding alone has been a journey in itself! Several months ago, we hired Fingerprint Communications to do our re-branding. As part of this process, Fingerprint consulted with several of our clients from a variety of regions and sectors to get a clear sense of the positives and negatives of the name Healthy Communities Consortium and our work. The results were really interesting… there was a split perception of the Consortium where clients felt that the Consortium was credible, expert, helpful and a go-to source but at the same time disorganized, chaotic, confusing and a mish-mash. Fingerprint’s mission became to select a new name and identity that described not just who we are (as the name Healthy Communities Consortium does) but what we do in an understandable and simple way. After a lengthy process to identify potential names, Fingerprint conducted focus groups with our clients in French and in English to test the name. Our new logo and communications materials were also focus tested.

As a result, we have our new name. HC Link represents how we — as four separate organizations — have created new linkages with one another and how we’ve linked with clients over the past two years.  While “Link” describes the connecting function that we have, we added a further descriptor “HC” (healthy communities) to anchor it. The tagline “your resource for healthy communities” defines what we do: we provide supports for those working in the field of healthy communities.  

In our logo, the person icon represents the people function of HC Link — that we are people that are open to receiving information, ideas and people and that we also transmit thoughts, ideas and resources (represented by the bubbles and squares).

Our new communications materials are all clean, simple, ordered and structured to try to address the concern around confusion. On our new website, there is reference to the four member organizations that make up HC Link, but it is not highlighted to prevent confusion and create the sense of one organization.

One of the key challenges Fingerprint experienced was in trying to describe our services using language that would be accessible and understandable to the broad range of audiences that we serve. We’ve selected these four categories to describe the types of services that we deliver, in both languages:

  • Consultation
    ….. “how to” advice and support on issues that concern you
  • Learning and Networking Events
    …..  webinars and workshops on relevant topics
  • Resources
    ….. links and articles on tools and methods for developing healthy communities
  • Referrals
    ….. linking you to the right information source

We hope that you like our new name and brand and enjoy our website and new materials. Our services and our commitment to you, our clients, remains the same even though the name is new!

In ending….a little story. At the end of August we held a meeting for all of the staff and consultants who work with HC Link, and in conjunction with this meeting we launched our new name and brand internally. As part of the celebration we had balloons in our new blue colour with our logo in black, with which we decorate

d our meeting room and the door opening into it. To open the meeting, we asked each staff and consultant to share a peak experience from working with HC Link over the past two years. Anderson Rouse, Finance and Administration Coordinator with OHCC, shared the following:

“I arrived at the building this morning without really a sense of where I needed to go. I couldn’t find a map or a room directory so I just wandered through the building feeling a little lost. When we have one of these meetings the room could be booked under any name….Consortium or one of the four organizations in it. You never really know what to look for. Finally, I saw the HC Link balloons on the door and I thought “That’s where I belong!”

After two years of ambiguity, our new name on a balloon is what made Anderson feel like he was a part of something concrete and real.

Finally, with our new name and brand the staff and consultants at HC Link know who we are and what we do. Now we can go out into the healthy communities and health promotion world, confident with our image and our services, and meet your needs. And we can’t wait to do it!


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