Ramsey County

Report date
February 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Collaboration has been instrumental to our progress this year. We have had a really solid, consistent team, which has enabled us to stay on the same page as we advance. It has really felt like we are all working together to achieve the same goals. In addition, because of our close working relationships, each of us has pulled our own weight on the team, despite each of us having busy, full-time jobs.
Our community engagement strategy has also been integral to our success. One of the decisions we made early on was to transition from our proposed traditional engagement framework, consisting of community meetings and focus groups, to a more integrated model facilitated by Marnita’s Table called Intentional Social Interaction, or ISI. ISI is a model of engagement across race, class, and culture that is designed to be inclusive by ensuring each conversation includes at least 51% people of color and 1/3 youth under age 24. By embracing this inclusive approach, we have not only been able to achieve authentic input from a wide variety of stakeholders, but the stakeholders have had an opportunity to genuinely engage with each other and learn from each other’s perspectives. This has not only helped us generate ideas to consider as we move forward, but it has helped people feel valued and heard and helped advance the system change we’re seeking by helping system professionals gain additional perspective as to how end users experience our systems.

Key lessons learned

We have learned multiple lessons in our work to-date around community engagement. The first is that community engagement is just plain hard. It’s hard to engage people in projects at the right level and in the right way. Timing matters. If you engage too early before enough decisions have been made, people ask questions that the decision-makers haven’t decided yet; if you engage too late, people feel that everything has already been decided and their input won’t be valuable. The approach matters. The challenge is not to provide too much guidance so as to predetermine the outcome, but enough to get concrete, meaningful input. With our project, everyone generally agrees that the status quo isn’t acceptable and change needs to happen, but the very important question that lacks consensus is, how?

Reflections on the community innovation process

As described above, our ability to effectively collaborate has been integral to our progress thus far. Our core leadership team is comprised of high level leaders from each organization who have the decision-making ability, access, and influence to either make decisions themselves in short order and/or get answers to questions and decisions made quickly by system leaders, which has largely prevented us from getting held up as issues have arisen. Our close working relationships have made for a cohesive team, which has enabled the project to continue moving forward.

Progress toward an innovation

We have definitely made progress in terms of getting everyone to the table - community members, system leaders, elected officials - and collectively aligning our efforts in a single direction. Prior to embarking on this collaborative effort, we all agreed there are challenges and disheartening outcomes, but no one knew what to do, on a large scale, to change these disparate outcomes. We have also made progress in terms of coming up with actual strategies to enable the data sharing we feel is essential to our ability to better serve the children and families in our community. We are in the process of proceeding down the path to execute those strategies, which puts us meaningfully closer to operationalizing our vision and achieving our innovation.

One last thought

Again, as our work has evolved and new opportunities have arisen, the Bush Foundation’s flexibility in enabling us to make changes throughout our project has been critical to our ability to be successful and to leverage this opportunity to gain others. Thank you!