South Dakota State University

Report date
February 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 their 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 has close to 400 likes.

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.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

In the community innovation model, we felt that the collaborative component was the most important to our project. 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.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

In addition to the key elements listed above, we felt that the approach of facilitation, rather than top-down leadership, was key to our project. We approached this project as facilitators, rather than leaders, meaning that we wanted the effort to emerge from and be sustained by the community. We wanted the effort to emerge from community needs and assets, for the community to engage the issue of breastfeeding support in businesses during our grant, and for the community to take over the actions related to this issue once the grant is over. In this way, our project really started from the ground-up, and remained that way throughout the process of community innovation. Taking on this role of facilitator also helped our project to continue to have community support and buy-in, because we were not forcing any ideas or solutions on the community; rather, those solutions came from the community members and leaders through our process of conducting focus groups and holding the public deliberation event.

Understanding the problem

The biggest thing we learned after engaging with the community, was that this is not an issue of building support for breastfeeding, per se. Business leaders and community members in Brookings generally support breastfeeding. However, where breastfeeding mothers run into challenges is in communicating about their breastfeeding needs, especially as employees in the workplace. We found that this can feel like a “taboo” topic. Women often feel uncomfortable discussing it with their (often male) supervisors. Nursing mothers are often at a place in their careers where they have very little power over workplace policies and/or their own schedules. Nursing employees are apprehensive about bringing up support for pumping because there are not formal policies in place at their workplace--therefore it feels like they are asking for ‘special treatment.’ We were intrigued to learn that this is not so much an issue of convincing employers that breastfeeding is beneficial, as much as it is an issue of providing employers and employees with the tools they need to articulate the specifics of workplace breastfeeding support (i.e., policy creation) and to enact that support on a day-to-day basis.

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. First, 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. Second, 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.

One last thought

The focus on the community is what really made this project successful. As we proposed this project, we focused on discovering a genuine community need that could be addressed, in part, with existing community resources. Our community partners identified a specific need: developing greater community support for mothers who want to continue breastfeeding after returning to work or who want to breastfeed publicly in local businesses. We kept the focus on the community during the project, by asking specific citizens about their experiences and creating a public deliberation guide for the event that was based on community feedback. At the public deliberation event, community members took the lead in shaping that discussion. Community members and students (not on our research team) facilitated the small group discussions and took notes on those conversations. Finally, we developed a final report on the event and held a follow-up event to help coordinate community leadership of implementation.