By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Consultant
This week I moderated the second webinar in HC Link's Policy Webinar Series: Working with Municipalities- Stories from the field. As the title would suggest, the focus of the webinar was to discuss strategies and techniques for working with municipal staff. In addition to Paul Young from HC Link, we had 3 terrific community members share their stories: Jean Montgomery, a community volunteer from Haldimand-Norfolk; Melanie Davis from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, and Janet Dawson from the Peterborough County-City Health Unit. The inspiration for this webinar came from a workshop in North Bay in November 2012 on the topic.
There were several themes that emerged throughout today's webinar that are important to keep in mind with working with municipalities (or for that matter, working with a sector other than your own). In no particular order:
- Do your research: know what it is the municipality/partner does, how they are structured, what their mandate is. Be familiar with the legislation and documents that they deal with/produce, such as official plans etc
- Educate: you can't assume that the municipality/partner knows what you do! Be prepared to make them aware of the role that you can play within their mandate or work.
- Build relationships with individuals: have conversations, coffee, lunch with key people that you will need to know and work with
- Identify win-wins: be clear about common ground where you can each get what you want. Also identify how you can help them: for example many municipalities find it challenging to engage their communities whereas it's in the mandate of public health to do so.
- Leverage volunteers: volunteers who are not attached to a particular agency may have more freedom/latitude to build relationships
- Say thank you and congratulations: it might seem very simple, but acknowledgement can go a long way. Take every opportunity to congratulate staff on their accomplishments and say thank you for a job well done.
- Be persistent, be patient and don't give up!
Resources mentioned in today's webinar:
Communities and Local Government: Working Together. This resource manual from the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition is designed to assist local government and healthy community groups in working more effectively together.
Public Health and Land Use Planning: How ten public health units are working to create healthy and sustainable communities. This report examines the ways in which ten public health units in Ontario are working to influence land use and transportation planning processes to help create healthy and sustainable communities.
Where to go to from here:
New to policy work? Check out our "Getting Started with Policy" resource to learn more about policy and how HC Link can help you with your policy development efforts.
Check out the recording and handout from the first webinar in our policy series.