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Welcome to HC Link's blog! Our blog will provide you with useful information on healthy community topics, news, and resources, as well as information on HC Link’s events, activities, and resources. Our bloggers include HC Link staff and consultants, as well as our partnering organizations, clients, and experts in the health promotion field.

Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

We look forward to engaging in thought-provoking conversation with you!

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Video Interview with David Courtemanche on what makes for effective advocacy

At our 2015 Conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change we were fortunate to sit down with keynote speaker David Courtemanche, leadership consultant, to ask for his views on what makes for effective advocacy and how policy change can impact health promotion.

In this interview, David talks with us about the skills that are often neglected in advocacy and how we can better develop these to become more effective advocates. He highlights that our perspective is a very big part of influencing change and encourages us to think about policy in terms of people taking action or taking a different direction. David goes on to demonstrate through an example, “the magical power of policy.”

Watch the full 4.5 minute video interview below!

 

 

A few key points from the interview:

  • “Advocacy is a process of influence.” It requires strong leadership and relationship skills because you need to connect with people in positions of influence that can affect change.
  • Advocacy training focuses a lot on how we speak and present, but skills that are necessary and often neglected include effective listening and trust building. We need these skills to better understand the people we are trying to work with.
  • People often view policy work as dry and boring, but when you understand how policy can affect the health of a community it becomes much more powerful.
 

For more on our conference, please see highlights below:

confhighlightsimage
Linking for Healthy Communities 2015 Conference Highlights
offer photos and highlights from all plenary and concurrent sessions, including links to slides and additional information. It also provides ways HC Link can help build upon the connections and momentum started at the conference.

 
 
 
 
 
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Using “Visioning” as a Facilitation Technique

By Lisa Tolentino, HC Link Community Consultant

This is the seventh blog in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches written by HC Link staff. This post focuses on using guided visualization or “Visioning” to identify Healthy Community goals.


Visioning is considered a critical step in developing healthy communities and creating change. It is a creative way to bring community members with diverse perspectives together to develop a collective vision of a Healthy Community. Used in many sectors and spheres of life, from business to mental health and sports, this tool can be very effective in assisting with problem-solving, inspiring hope and building confidence. It is also a method for generating joint ownership and commitment for taking action toward achieving change.

In a community visioning session, the vision is often “expressed in pictorial form, using images and symbols to convey [an] ideal community” (pg. 4). It allows participants to travel beyond the current political, economic, social and/or environmental challenges being experienced, to articulating what they would like to see occur in the future. The result is an idea, dream, mental image or picture that is shared by many people living, working and playing in a community. (From the Ground Up: An Organizing Handbook for Healthy Communities, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, http://www.ohcc-ccso.ca/en/from-the-ground-up)

Visioning is different than traditional problem-solving in that it offers hope, encouragement and the possibility of fundamental change by generating a common goal. With traditional problem solving, a group can become bogged down in details and even disagree on how to define the problem. It also focuses on the negative, whereas visioning allows a group to move away from this toward something more positive. With visioning, passion and creative thinking are spawned, and people are given a greater sense of control. (The NGO Café, Global Development Resource Centre, http://www.gdrc.org/ngo/index.html)


What is needed to hold a Healthy Communities Visioning Session?

This is a list of some key elements that will help to make any visioning session a success:

  • Involvement from a large number of people from a defined geographic area, community of interest and/or affiliation.
  • A diverse cross-section of people who are able to participate in a meaningful way (such as those who are marginalized and/or representative of various ages, incomes, abilities, etc.).
  • Multi-sector participation (e.g., from education, government, business, health, media).
  • A location that is familiar, inviting and physically accessible for participants.
  • Ideally, access to transportation, refreshments and childcare should be available or provided.

How do you facilitate a Visioning process?

There are various ways that you can facilitate a visioning session, depending on who is in attendance and the circumstances involved. Regardless of the situation, each one has the same premise, which is that participants are asked to envision the kind of community that they would like to be a part of in the future. The objective is to allow people to dream and collect as many ideas as possible; no concept is too small, big, or “out there” to be included.

The first step usually involves asking participants to make themselves comfortable and close their eyes. They are then asked to spend a few minutes quietly thinking their own thoughts. Sometimes a facilitator will take them on a hot air balloon ride above their community and into the future. Or they may be asked to simply go for a walk and imagine a newspaper headline 20 years from now. In each case, the facilitator will also ask them something along the lines of: "What would your community be like if you had the power to make it the way you wanted?”

Participants are then asked to formulate pictures in their minds as they travel through the physical space. The questions a facilitator asks can be both abstract and quite detailed. For instance, “How are buildings and public spaces arranged? What do they look like?” They might also be asked where people are, what they are doing, and how they are interacting. Questions could focus on topics like workplaces, transportation or the natural environment. In every instance the goal is to help participants actually “see” what they hope for.

This technique has been used in many real-life situations with great success!

Following this exercise, the facilitator will slowly bring participants back to the present day and into the room again, asking them to keep the features that they just saw in their minds. Then, in small groups, participants will be asked to talk about what they saw using key words or phrases that capture their image of a Healthy Community. The facilitator may even provide some guides or categories like housing, health care, crime rates, and/or public engagement.

In each case, group members will be asked to make short, clear and positive statements about how the community will be in the future. The statement will be in the present tense, like a newspaper headline. Statements may include things like: “There are lots of bike trails”; “You can walk safely at night” and “Transportation is efficient and affordable”. These statements will be generated until they run out of ideas or time.

These will be read aloud as a large group and then members will be asked to highlight the major differences between the present and the future that they have created. People may express that some things are impossible to achieve. The facilitator will remind them that 50 years ago it was difficult to imagine some of the changes that have taken place today, such as the existence of the internet, and that anything could be possible.

When today's problems seem overwhelming, visioning presents an opportunity to move beyond them and focus on a positive idea of the future.

Next the facilitator will work with the group to gather elements of the vision under common themes, and find areas of consensus. These vision statements could then be made into a list of ideas or even presented in a graphic form. Some communities have had the ability to hire an illustrator to draw images as participants spoke, such as the one below from Haldimand-Norfolk. Maps, photos and other images can also be added after the fact.

 HNHCvision


Simply articulating a vision can be a powerful tool for making a Healthy Community a reality. The next step after any visioning process is to develop a plan to achieve that vision. In Healthy Communities processes, visioning is usually followed by community-wide priority-setting and decision-making.

If you would like help hosting a Healthy Communities Visioning session in your community, be sure to request a service from HC Link!

 

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Peer-led health promotion interventions: The importance of collaborative, multi-sectoral approaches

By Seher Shafiq, Parent Action on Drugs

On March 7th 2016, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) and HC Link hosted a webinar titled “Effective peer programming on substance use for the transitional years”. Peer education is defined as “the teaching or sharing of health information, values and behaviours between individuals with shared characteristics”.

To my knowledge, PAD has the longest standing peer education programs (in the area of substance use) in all of Canada! The numbers don’t lie: over the past 30 years, PAD’s peer education programs have reached 3000 classes, trained 10,000 peer educators, and had approximately 90,000 youth involved overall. Having done a backgrounder on peer education effectiveness before the webinar, I was excited to hear the diverse, real life experiences from our webinar presenters.

Suzanne Witt-Foley (Consultant, PAD/HC Link) and Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy (Consultant, PAD/HC Link) opened the webinar by noting that it’s important for educators to focus on ‘health literacy’, and that PAD’s Challenges, Beliefs and Changes (CBC) program has information that is balanced, accurate and promotes skills practice. Patricia did an overview of PAD’s peer education programs, recognizing that the Masonic Foundation of Ontario has provided almost 30 years of support to these programs.

Next up was a panel presentation from diverse voices that have been involved in the CBC program. Both Allison Haldenby (Guidance Counsellor, East Elgin Secondary School) and Jacky Allan (Public Health Nurse, Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health Department) emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach to coordinating a peer education in schools, and discussed how they worked with school nurses, public health units, elementary schools, high schools, and students to organize, promote and deliver the CBC program.

As a Youth Addictions Counsellor at the Canadian Mental Health Association of Muskoka Parry Sound, Brittany Cober provided an interesting mental health perspective. Brittany mentioned that she often notices the youth in peer education programs form an “automatic bond with each other” in a way that they don’t with adults, and this is what makes peer education programs so successful. Brittany was speaking anecdotally from her own personal experience, but I couldn’t help but think how similar her experience was to the research on peer education effectiveness. For example, a 2009 study on peer education found that “peer educators were...seen as very credible by the majority of the participants...with the experimental group significantly more likely to find the peer educator more credible than the control group”.

The most interesting part of this webinar was that the audience was able to hear from two students who participated in the CBC program for three years: Jack Gaudette and Kennedie Close from East Elgin Secondary. Jack shared a powerful story about how he was “pushed around” in elementary school and was worried about starting high school. However, high school wasn’t what he expected – in a good way! Being involved in the peer education program helped both Jack and Kennedie “fit in”, get involved, and have fun. Jack and Kennedie keep participating in the program each year because it’s “been a blast every year”, and I’m sure their enthusiasm motivates other students to join the program. Having helped develop PAD’s youth engagement model as part of our strategic plan, I was particularly happy to see that youth voices were represented in this webinar!

Overall, it was a great webinar that illustrated the importance of taking a collaborative, multi-sectoral approach to a preventative health intervention. With drug policy staying high on our new government’s policy agenda, I am sure PAD’s peer education programs will be even more important moving forward.

Webinar slides and recording

 

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1-2-4-all: Engage everyone in group conversation

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This is the sixth blog post in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches written by HC Link staff. This post focuses on a particular Liberating Structure technique called 1-2-4-all.


1-2-4-all is one of my favourite Liberating Structures. It’s a great technique to ensure that everyone is able to participate and have their ideas heard. Used to gather ideas and information from the group, 1-2-4-all can be used for a variety of purposes from priority setting to strategic planning to brainstorming. In this post I’ll describe the technique itself, and how it can be used in a variety of ways.


What is 1-2-4-all?

As I mentioned, the primary purpose of 1-2-4-all is to gather information from a group of people. The exercise begins with a very broad and open ended question so that the information that we gather from participants is not directed in any way. The strength of 1-2-4-all is that everyone is engaged in the conversation (even people who don’t normally participate in group conversation), and then when the groups become larger (4 and all) themes can emerge. Ideas and solutions come from the participants in the conversation, which facilitates buy-in.

This exercise is meant to be done rapidly. As a facilitator, it’s important to explain that so that participants share their ideas briefly and stay focused on the precise question. The exercise unfolds in this way:

  • 1 - The facilitator asks the question to the group. Each person has a couple of minutes to reflect on the question and write down their thoughts on a cue card (2 mins)

  • 2 - Next participants get into pairs and discuss their thoughts (2 mins)

  • 4 - Each pair joins with another pair to talk their ideas (4 mins)

  • All- The large group comes back together to report back on their ideas (8-12 mins)

More detailed instructions on 1-2-4-all can be found on the Liberating Structures website.


How to use 1-2-4-all

1-2-4-all is an extremely flexible technique. It can be used to gather input from the group on which of a series of options they prefer, to brainstorm ideas on next steps for the group, to establish a vision for the group, to identify strategic directions etc. Recently I used this technique in focus groups to determine the types of planning tools that people needed in order to accomplish their work. Most often, I use 1-2-4-all to facilitate strategic planning sessions.

I start with a very broad question, usually something like “What are the possibilities for this group?” I have found that by the end of two to three hours, we have all of the content for a strategic plan that can then be discussed and refined. Usually I’ll give each group of 4 a piece of flipchart paper to document their ideas. I then break the “all” portion down into two sections: the first is for each group to report back on their ideas. Then I give the group a break (mealtime is perfect but a coffee break will do) and I then theme all of the ideas and begin to slot the information into the different component of a strategic plan. For example, individual reflections tend to work out to be vision and mission statements, reflections from pairs tend to be objectives or strategic directions, and when people get into groups of 4 they tend to get more specific and action-oriented. I use sticky notes for this portion (colour coding the different components) so that it’s easy to move things around and it’s easy to understand. After the break, I present the information back to the group to validate it, and then we begin to actually move things around and make decisions about how to proceed.


Defining the question

It’s important to spend time in defining the precise question for the 1-2-4-all exercise. Generally speaking a broad question work best- and you may also need some prompts to illustrate the question for your group. For example, for the exercise I mentioned to identify planning tools, I used the question “What is the ONE thing that you need in order to be able to accomplish your work?” (other than more time and staffing resources). The prompt that I used was “I wish I had something that helped me to do.....” For the strategic planning question “What are the possibilities for this group?” I use prompts such as “what could we accomplish if we worked together?” or “if we could make anything happen, what would it be?”

I’ve found it helpful to write the question on a flip chart or power point to keep it front and center as the groups work on it.


Learn more about it!

The Liberating Structures website contains detailed instructions for 1-2-4-all (as well as a variety of other techniques).

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An Introduction to Engaging in the Review of your Official Plan - A Webinar Follow-up

By Lisa Tolentino, HC Link Community Consultant

On February 24, 2016, Community Planning Consultant Kate Hall and I presented the second webinar in a series on Civic Engagement. During this session we provided two examples of how we have been engaged in reviewing and providing input into Official Plans (OPs) to support the creation of Healthy Communities. At the very end of the webinar we received a great question, and I think that others will benefit from the answer, so I have decided to include it here...


Q: In your experience, how much of the feedback given to them do municipalities incorporate? In other words, how many pages is an ideal submission?

From our experience here in Haliburton County (and also judging from the submissions that we have seen from elsewhere), we think that something in the 5-10 page range for each topic area is manageable, but that it is really the "format" in which comments are provided that is important. For example, an easy to read chart that includes the policy statement from the current OP, along with the recommendation that you are making (i.e., the suggested change or addition), as well as the rationale from the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) will greatly help those who are receiving the submission to make sense of things.

In addition to the Rural and Urban Checklists by Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Healthy Communities (that we referred to during the webinar and which can be used as templates), I have attached a sample submission here for you to view. It is what was submitted by the Communities In Action Committee (CIA) to the County of Haliburton in April 2015 regarding the incorporation of active transportation policies into their Official Plan. As you will see, in addition to the chart, general comments were provided in the form of a preface, as well as some terms for definition.

Finally, the length of a submission will also depend on the municipality and the complexity of the additions/changes that you desire. For instance, if an OP currently has little or no reference to a topic, then more detail will likely be required. For further assistance with reviewing an Official Plan in your area, feel free to contact HC Link to request a service.

Materials and recording from this webinar

Materials and recording from webinar 1 in series: Engaging Citizens for Healthy Communities: Current Challenges and Approaches

Registration is still open for the third webinar in the series: Inclusive Civic Engagement.

 

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