Little Earth Community Partnership

Report date
March 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Community Engagement in many domains: It takes a comprehensive effort to engage a community, which must happen in many ways across many programmatic fronts: Food sovereignty & healthy food education, resident-led recruitment, talking circles: hearing the voice and ideas of the residents regarding their health – thereby creating implementable solutions that directly target community identified needs. By contributing their wisdom they create engagement and trust in a process in which they are now active participants.
Engaging key residents who are important lynchpins in a community network is highly effective in building community-wide relationships founded on existing bridges of trust which sets the stage for engaged participation. In our case, we engaged a long term resident, who had great knowledge of the community, and had forged relationships throughout the community, putting her in a unique place to help build trust in the program and the mission. This piece was incredibly effective for our community, and her buy-in with the work that we are doing was absolutely a large part of the reason we experienced such a large turn-out for the health survey.
Building and sustaining trust is the fundamental key to establishing positive relationships, community buy-in, program effectiveness and resident ownership of their own well-being. Historically, the impacts of loss of identity, disruption of family and societal system, loss of culture and systematic oppression when coupled with the dynamics of poverty in urban communities has created a condition of distrust prevalent in much of the community. (institutional racism) While we have mentioned trust in each of our previous answers, approaching specific activities with a mind towards building and sustaining trust is an important element of program design that needs to be intentional and included from the very earliest in the program planning process.

Key lessons learned

1a) Talk with the residents, find ways to build relationships. The more we do this work, the more we see evidence that supports the idea that residents MUST be engaged in positive ways that build trust between the program and the community. 1b) The Institutional Review Board (IRB) was an unforeseen requirement. Choosing to do a peer-reviewable, community based participatory research project came with requirements that were unknown at the time we formulated our program plan. Those requirements dictated a radically different schedule of events and a work plan. As a result, we had to shift our development process to accommodate a multi-month IRB approval process on the front end of any work that we were to do with the community.
Look for where there is, or needs to be, energy: Capitalize on those areas where positive energy exists already surrounding community interest/engagement/activity. If there isn’t any energy somewhere, and it is needed (like focusing on healthy behaviors), then that idea needs to be identified and staff needs to facilitate the generation of interest, curiosity and positive energy from the community to sustain participation. In essence, this is the driving concept behind how you can strategically direct community engagement efforts.

Reflections on the community innovation process

Crafting powerful questions, By incorporating cultural elements that focus on spirit, emotion, body and mind, we are making an intentional effort to awaken the remembrance of the holistic understanding and relational world view that is shared by many first nations people. At Little Earth we find that prior to establishing the evidence based practice, there is a process of testing hypotheses that includes paying attention, on a micro level, to what works and what can yield community innovations. By way of example, we found that crafting powerful questions is key to increasing the collective understanding of the issue and generating ideas. Asking people curious and evocative questions creates connection, trust in themselves and knowing that their voice is heard. The person has an experience that suggests self-efficacy and that they matter. Which opens them to receiving more information and self-reinforcing positive behaviors.

Progress toward an innovation

Our breakthrough occurred by the engagement of a community leader, with a strong history of activism, familiarity with all resident families on property and a high motivation to reinforce positive health outcomes for community members. By doing so we were able to shape the work with immediate and informed input from community leaders and effectively engage community members in the health survey. Practical micro-practices that came from this included things like every day she secured updated contact information; made reminder calls; used social media to spread information; conducted a ground campaign that engaged residents in and out of doors in the community; asked each person that completed a survey to tell others in the community who had not taken a survey to come in and complete one; welcomed each resident when they arrived to take the survey and closed out each survey.
This level of engagement is directly responsible for the number of survey participants.
Implementation of this breakthrough could occur through ways such as staff increasing the frequency of resident contact, and becoming known to the community and investing in their own personal relationship with the comm

What it will take to reach an innovation?

The real breakthrough will be when residents use their value for self-determination to make lasting shifts in health promoting behaviors on multiple scales, i.e. self, family, community, policy etc… So while we did achieve our breakthrough, we are constantly keeping in-mind that our ultimate goal is seeing a shift in health-related behavior on a community-wide scale. The steps for continuing this work are listed in the next question.

What's next?

The Little Earth Health Initiative will be an ongoing program. Based on our learning in the health survey, and from our additional efforts at community engagement, we have determined the next steps for our program should include the following:
1. Bridges to Primary Care: This will be a collaborative working group that involves stakeholders from the community, local professional health organizations such as hospitals and clinics, and educational resource partners such as the University of Minnesota. The purpose of this working group is to identify the obstacles to residents receiving primary health care, and work with health care providers to access resources to remove those obstacles.
2. Resident Health Advisory Council: this council will serve as part of the Bridges to Primary Care working group, however will have a broader scope, identifying health issues within the community on a broad scale. This Council will also help drive programming design and community engagement efforts in future health related endeavors.
3. The Little Earth Urban Farm will continue to grow in importance as a health teaching and community engagement tool. As a resource that can provide real-world

If you could do it all over again...

Practice being out there, connecting with people, ascertaining needs and identifying what will work. If we could go back and impart to much of our programming – not just health-related- how successful it can be if you find those positive keystones within the community to help make connections and build energy around the programming, it would have a profound effect on how we do our work across the board.

Additionally, we would have clued ourselves in on how time-consuming it is and the specific requirements surrounding the IRB process. That was one area in which we found out after the fact that an IRB would be required for this work. Plans, schedules and everything needed to be readjusted.

One last thought

In this year we did one major thing –the health survey – and that was supported by many things dealing with community engagement. This coming year we will have a focus on 3 things (Bridges to Primary Care, Resident Health Advisory Council and Little Earth Urban Farm) that will be more successful if we can capture the same kind of community engagement success as we did this year. In the same way that a stone, when cast into a pool, creates a ripple moving outward, we also have created a ripple with the Health Survey this year. Next year we need to build on that progress and capitalize on the momentum that we achieved this year. This has been a year of awakening - of building residents knowledge of healthy behavior and behavioral impacts. Now we are moving into a period of awareness. This coming year will be about program expansion, curriculum, continuing to inform people about the effects of behavior choices and engaging people in the realities of where they are with their health.