Connecting the Dots in the Thunder Bay District
By Anne Ostrom, Coordinator‐Healthy Communities Thunder Bay District
Our Healthy Communities approach evolved and grew out of our local Take Heart Partnership. A steering committee was formed to guide the 2010/11 planning and community consultation process required for the Ministry's Healthy Communities‐Partnership Stream. From the start, we agreed we would focus on local needs and that our scope and vision would extend beyond the Ministry's six priority areas.
We decided to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to inform decisions around the idea of a new Healthy Communities network, partnership or alliance and what that might look like. We wanted to know whether people thought this was something that was needed, and if so, what role it would play in taking action on the identiﬁed needs of our local communities. Kim Bergeron was the consultant assigned to provide guidance to us as we worked through the process of what to ask.
Kim helped us frame survey questions so that we could get honest and detailed feedback from our stakeholders on what was working well and what needed attention. She also shared innovative strategies to better connect stakeholders throughout the district. Having access to a consultant with strong community development experience gave us the external perspective we needed. As a result, we gained greater insight into the diﬀerent functions of a partnership that we needed toconsider as we moved forward together.
The great thing about consultation support is that knowledge exchange is a two‐way street.
When we reﬂected on our experience with this process, Kim and I felt that the steering commitiee took the time needed to get this piece of work done right.
There was a lot of feedback and ideas exchanged both over the telephone and through email. Our members learned how to eliminate unintentional bias from survey questions and we ended up with a survey tool that got us the information we needed the ﬁrst time around.
You might be wondering how this story ends. Our survey results indicated that people valued having a "common voice" around the broad concept of healthy communities and the ability to connect with others doing community work. An unexpected result of the steering commitiee working together to develop the survey was that smaller "spin‐oﬀ" partnerships developed where two or more stakeholders connected to work further on initiatives outside of the Healthy Communities work. As someone who has worked extensively in the area of community development and partnerships, I ﬁnd the HC Link consultation service is an excellent way to tap into a broader network of experience and channel it to build local capacity.