South Dakota State University

Report date
August 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Our relationships with community partners & their networks in the community were instrumental to involving the community with the process. For example, the Director of the Chamber of Commerce directly contacted business leaders through the Chamber newsletter; this lent credibility to the message and got the businesses to buy in to the process. In addition, the OB Director from the hospital is personal friends with the Brookings Mayor and invited him to give opening remarks at the public deliberation event. The PR & Marketing Director for the hospital also provided a list of various community organizations’ contact information, which allowed us to give promotional presentations about our event to groups such as the Brookings City Council, the Brookings Economic Development Corporation, Kiwanis Club, the Boys & Girls Club, Women’s Grace Connection, 1 Million Cups, East Central Behavioral Health, and WIC (Women, Infants, & Children).
The collaborative nature of our grant team allowed us to have expertise and leadership for each stage of the project. For example, Dr. Jenn Anderson led the development of focus group protocols, and then went on maternity leave and Dr. Rebecca Kuehl led the execution of the focus groups. Over the summer, Dr. Sara Drury led our full team in analyzing the focus group data to create a public deliberation guide. Then, in the fall, Dr. Kuehl led the organization of the public deliberation event, and when she went on maternity leave, Dr. Anderson assumed those responsibilities to execute the event. Finally, Drs. Drury, Kuehl, and Anderson collaborated to create a report from the community conversation and lead a “Next Steps” event for community members to take ownership of the desired actions for this issue. At each stage of the process, all team members contributed their perspectives and also were willing to help out with all of the activities (ex. focus groups, media promotion, and the deliberation event).
The positive response of the community helped build momentum for the event and allowed the message to resonate in the community. We sought out multiple, strategic media appearances in the weeks leading up to the event. Our project appeared on the local radio, and in the local newspaper, the state newspaper, local TV news, statewide news, community partner websites, breastfeeding-related websites with national and international readership. Additionally, our team was present at local events like “Think Local” (a showcase for local organizations) and the Hobo Day Homecoming parade. We also dispersed Save the Date cards and flyers throughout the community. Presenting at 1 Million Cups allowed us to connect with key community leaders such as the director of the Children’s Museum, a city councilwoman, a local maternity business owner, and others. These community members requested us to present our project to places like the City Council and are continuing to connect with us in efforts to enhance breastfeeding support in Brookings. We also created a Facebook page that helps us to keep community members up to date on our progress and directly connect with them.

Key lessons learned

Successful promotion is a double-edged sword. Our team successfully generated public awareness about workplace breastfeeding support. However, as we prepared for the event, we discovered that our community had such a high level of awareness that they assumed that either a) the event had already occurred and/or that b) steps were already being taken to increase breastfeeding support in Brookings businesses. For example, when we met with the Brookings Economic Development Corporation in early September (2 months prior to the event), we discovered that every member of that board had already heard about the issue and that some believed we had already held the event. A second example is a large corporation in Brookings, who heard about these efforts and reportedly “didn’t want to wait for the event” to make changes in their workplace. While this initiative is admirable, and speaks to our successful promotional efforts, this possibly undermined the public deliberation event’s potential impact.
Community-based research is different from basic research, because it can have greater community impact, but there is also less control over each aspect of the project. For example, one of our community advocates reached out to Baby-Friendly USA as a representative of our project, without alerting the team leaders to this activity. This caught the project leaders off guard, and so we needed to respond to this issue by transferring responsibility for communication with Baby-Friendly USA to a leader on our project that had the authority to speak with this organization. Ultimately, this turned out to be a very positive component of our project, because we were instructed that we could not use the Baby-Friendly language for our project, so we developed our own name for the project “Brookings Supports Breastfeeding.” This was very positive, because it localized the effort and really provided us with a unique identity that we were forced to choose after intentional dialogue about the purpose and goals of our project. Our new challenge with this identity, is that some people in the community might perceive us as a permanent group.

Reflections on the community innovation process

We had two levels of collaboration: the key institutions and the team members. First, collaboration among the different institutions represented some of the major industries (e.g., education, business, and health care) related to the issue of breastfeeding support in Brookings businesses. Because these institutions were all involved, this gave our project a higher level of credibility. Second, as we noted above, the collaborative aspect of our grant team allowed us to be able to reach more members of our community. The members of the grant team were community leaders in relation to their respective institutions and industries, and so their professional and personal networks were key in reaching the whole community, and not just one stakeholder group. Additionally, partnering with institutions allowed our project to maintain momentum, even when original team members needed to step away from the project. For example, at least one person from each institution needed to step away from the project for a period of time, and in each case, the institution was able to provide alternative personnel to keep the project going.

Progress toward an innovation

We believe we have positively impacted the flow of open communication about breastfeeding in our community. Through the public deliberation event, as well as our continued social media presence on Facebook, we have observed that community members are not only more aware of the needs of breastfeeding employees and customers, but are also more willing to discuss and work toward solutions. In this way, we feel that community members have taken the issue and the responsibility for enacting solutions into their own hands, and created a more sustainable approach to generating community breastfeeding support. Prior to our project, only a handful of breastfeeding advocates (mostly associated with the local hospital) were working in an isolated fashion to increase the number of women breastfeeding and to support their efforts. Now, it seems that the community at large is beginning to take on a more substantial role in working toward providing support for breastfeeding employees and customers. Additionally, different organizations within our community have publicly made efforts toward increasing breastfeeding support.

What it will take to reach an innovation?

Although we feel we did make progress with community innovation, one particular challenge was in getting HR managers and policy decision-makers to attend our public deliberation event. Our work will continue to engage these stakeholders in the community issue of breastfeeding support, but it’s definitely a challenge in persuading managers and CEOs to take a personal interest in the issue, especially as many of these managers and CEOs tend to be men, and therefore tend to not consider breastfeeding as an important work issue. Hopefully the increased awareness of the issue, coupled with women’s increased confidence in talking about the issue, will help to improve the climate for breastfeeding support across businesses in our community.

What's next?

The South Dakota Department of Health contacted our group for assistance in making Brookings a pilot community for their Breastfeeding-Friendly Communities initiative across the state. We are working together with the SDDOH to develop a focused approach to increasing breastfeeding support for employees and customers in our community. So far, we have identified two major areas to focus on. First, providing businesses with signage that indicates support for customers wishing to breastfeed. Second, encouraging area businesses to create and communicate policies that support breastfeeding employees. Our group aims to provide informational resources to businesses to help them achieve these goals.

If you could do it all over again...

We would recommend that we be more specific with grant member duties and with who we really wanted to have in this conversation about breastfeeding support in Brookings businesses. Some of our grant team members, though highly involved, were not always clear about their specific role in the project. In retrospect, we, as Co-PIs, should have more clearly communicated specific duties for each member. However, this flexibility with duties was useful in that multiple members stepped up to help out when various team members were on maternity leave.
Our recruitment would be more strategic than simply requesting “business leaders” for the focus groups and public deliberation event. Specifically, we would try to recruit people in businesses who could create, implement, and enforce policy in relation to breastfeeding support. Although our focus groups were informative in identifying challenges, possible actions, and community assets, most of the representatives from the local businesses were HR managers or women who had experienced this issue firsthand. As a result, our findings were not quite as specific in terms of thinking about the next step of implementing and enforcing policies.

One last thought

We based this report on our interim progress report, since both major components of our grant project had already been completed at that time. We added additional reflections on our grant progress in relation to our progress toward innovation and the remaining challenges. Additionally, during this grant project, we have been able to publish one research article in the Journal of Human Lactation, and have one book chapter about our research process in press, as well as another book chapter under review that reflects on student engagement and learning through this project.