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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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Public Health Ethics Part 1 of 3: Does Your Philosophical Orientation Matter?

 

By Stephanie Massot, Public Health Practicum Student at Health Nexus

This is the first blog post in a series on public health ethics. This post focuses on the importance of understanding your/your organization’s philosophical orientation.


One of my first year-long courses during my undergraduate degree in Health Education at the University of Victoria was Philosophy 100. I know I spent many hours poring over the writings of well-known philosophers but what seems to have stayed with me are disordered images of Waking Life, a film that captures a range of philosophical issues, and an overall feeling that philosophy was a ‘nice to know’ but not a ‘need to have’.

Fast forward 11 years later to the final academic term of my Master of Public Health at the University of Toronto and I am creating a course in Public Health Ethics, which has strong roots in philosophy. Since I worked in the nonprofit sector, I know that many decisions have ethical implications, such as resource allocation or selecting which organizations to collaborate with. You have an impact on the public health system if you or your organization puts any energy towards keeping people healthy and preventing injury, disease and premature death. For many of us this occurs by taking action on the living conditions that affect our community members. As members of a public health network, having an understanding of public health ethics and tools available will result in better decisions and improvements in the health and satisfaction of the people we serve.

Now how to take on ethical decisions in public health?

Whenever you have to make decisions, whether you are aware or not (typically therein lies the problem) you always come from a particular philosophical orientation. Since you may not be cognizant of your philosophical orientation, as a public health practitioner it is important to develop reflexivity and understanding of your orientation because if tough, moral decisions occur in your public health work (which they will) and especially if the decisions have to be made quickly, you want to be aware of where you and your colleagues stand.

Population and Public Health Ethics: Cases from research, policy, and practice is a useful resource for familiarizing yourself with philosophies that are particularly influential in the public health arena and to use case studies to expand your understanding. A quick summary is below and you can ask yourself, ‘in Canada, our governmental system is most aligned with which philosophy? Our neighbours down south?’

ethicsblogimage

 

The answer for Canada is liberalism and for the United States it is libertarianism. Although these philosophical orientations sound similar, libertarianism is about having individual freedom through as little government involvement as possible whereas liberalism is basically about having individual freedom guaranteed by governments (see bolded text in the above chart). The context of your work (country, specific organization) should always be a consideration when you are thinking about ethics because context will influence your decisions.

I may not be able to quote you passages from Socrates and Plato, but I will aim to create a space for discussion where colleagues can co-inquire about values, assumptions and concepts that build a foundation for equitable decision-making and of course, ask more questions.

 

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Using Popular Theatre as a Facilitation Technique

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link Consultant

This is the eight blog post in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches written by HC Link staff. This post focuses on using popular theatre for warmup/centering activities and even as a learning tool.


Without being an actor or director in any way whatsoever, I have pursued a lifelong passion for using popular theatre activities in community learning, community development and social change settings. These activities all value equity and inclusion, as well as a holism that engages creativity, non-verbal communications and full body awareness in our analysis, learning and organizing efforts.

Some techniques take a significant amount of time and are difficult to explain in writing. For this blog post, I am sharing few warmup/centering activities and the technique of image theatre, which can take anywhere from 5-90 minutes.

For more reading on popular theatre and theatre of the oppressed, try these titles:

Practical Books

Games for Actors and Non-Actors
By Augusto Boal. (New York: Routledge, 1992)

Educating for a Change
By Rick Arnold, Bev Burke, Carl James, D'Arcy Martin, Barb Thomas
(Toronto: Doris Marshal Institute for Education and Action & Between the Lines, 1991)

Essays

Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism
Edited by Mady Schutzman and Jan Cohen-Cruz (London: Routledge, 1994)


In the right group, your courage to do things differently will pay off in surprising ways!


Centering Activities (5 minutes)

Source Augusto Boal’s book: Games for Actors and Non Actors

DSC 0507There are hundreds of theatre and improv games that can help “center” members of a group together, build listening skills, and exercise people’s timing in response. Here are two fun ones that I learned from Augusto Boal’s book. To choose games appropriately for your group, consider the lightness or seriousness of the gathering, how well people know each other already, as well as physical ability and language differences among group members.

 

 

 

“Name & Motion”

* Engages group members to listen, observe, and move

* Requires only limited “theatrical risk-taking”

* Generates lots of smiles and breaks down inhibitions

Instructions:

- Have everyone stand up in a circle. As the facilitator, explain and demonstrate how this introduction game works:

- Each individual, when they are willing, takes one step towards the center of the circle and makes a motion (preferably large) while calling out their first name. Everyone else must then together repeat the person’s “name and motion” two times (like an echo response).

- Allow time for each person to introduce their “name and motion” and be welcomed by the group through their “name and motion”.

“Pass the Clap”

* Engages group members to listen, observe, and move

* Focuses group members attention to one collaborative challenge

* Encourages a lighthearted approach to mistakes

Instructions:

- Seated or standing in a circle, the facilitator claps in the direction of someone next to them. This person is asked to pass the clap to the next person in the circle, and so on the clap will pass from person to person around the circle.

- Do this a few times around, so that the clap passes around the circle and past the facilitator several times. Then, while the clap is passing on the opposite side of the circle, the facilitator can begin a second (and later a third) clap that will travel in its own timing around the circle (so several claps will be circling at once).

- The facilitator can keep passing the clap through the circle for a while, and then eventually gather the claps (by not passing them past the facilitator) to close the activity.

- Variation: It is also possible to shift from sending the clap around the circle, and send it instead to someone across the circle.

 

Personal Style Reflection - What animal am I most like in a group? (5 – 20 minutes)

Typecasting by others can heighten conflict. Allowing each individual in a group to share their uniqueness and offer insight into the qualities of their “animal” creates an appreciative and collaborative dynamic. I learned and used this activity from colleagues at the Self Help Resource Centre.

* Engages group members to reflect on what they bring personally to the group

* Uses metaphor to convey complex ideas in a non-restrictive way

* Provokes laughter – being lighthearted about the strengths and challenges of our unique personalities

Instructions:

- Post pictures, or a list, of 6-8 different types of animals.

- Ask people to reflect on which animal they most behave like, when working in a group setting.

- Invite each participant to share which animal they identified with most, and why.

- With larger groups, the same question can be explored more dramatically/playfully by asking people to act out their animal, find others acting like them, and then sit together in their animal group to create a list of what they see as the significant qualities of their animal in groups.

 

Image theatre (10 - 90 minutes)

(Source: Headlines Theatre, Vancouver & Mixed Company, Toronto)

Image theatre is a wonderful technique! It is less intimidating than roleplay, and can be used on its own or as a warm-up activity before roleplaying. This technique is also known within popular education groups as “human sculptures”.

* Engages group members in holistic thinking and analysis, and learning

* Works equally well for multi-lingual groups

* Helps groups analyze patterns within shared issues or experiences

* Great for experiential learners

Instructions:

- Begin with people’s experience. In small groups, on a given theme, share stories or jump right into identifying patterns or key elements of a problem. Ask the group to create a frozen image (no words) to convey their perspectives. For example: How does inclusive leadership work? Or What keeps you [parent] from getting more involved in your child’s school?

- Each group takes turns “exhibiting” and “viewing” the sculpture of other groups. Encourage people to explore all sides of the sculpture by touring around it. If the image includes people playing specific roles, after the sculpture has been viewed, the facilitator can point to the people one at a time and ask each of them to say a few words about “what is your character thinking/feeling?”

- Another variation is to ask people to return to their groups and develop a series of 3-5 images – evolving from the first – that bring about a positive change. When these image series are being shared, the facilitator claps her/his hands to signal the group to change from one image to the next.

Augusto Boal’s book: Games for Actors and Non Actors has an entire chapter on different image theatre techniques and describes dozens and dozens of such games.

SPOTLIGHT –Organizations are using popular theatre as a learning tool!

Popular theater uses theatre as a tool for social transformation. It typically involves the “audience” as participants and invites groups to explore attitudes and social problems and imagine a range of potential solutions.

Reflet Salveo, an organization that promotes access of Francophones to quality health services in French, used the popular theater approach as a learning tool within a workshop context. They hired actors from a French language community theater group (Les Indisciplinés de Toronto) to role play and demonstrate a series of possible scenarios in the context of hiring people with various disabilities. They allowed for audience feedback and found this was a great tool to generate discussion amongst participants.

 

Companies in Ontario who work with communities and are using theater as a tool for positive change:

Mixed company theatre uses forum theatre (an interactive approach that involves the audience in developing real-time strategies for dealing with social and personal issues) to educate, engage and empower audiences in schools, communities and workplaces.
Website: http://www.mixedcompanytheatre.com/

Sheatre uses issue-based theatre to find solutions to social problems. Artists and community members work collaboratively to express and explore a wide variety of issues that are important to their community.
Website: http://sheatre.com/

In Forma Theatre aims to engage community members in meaningful dialogue through participatory theatre.
Website: http://www.iftheatre.org/

Branchout Theatre believes in the use of popular theatre as a branch towards social change by connecting and empowering individuals and communities to communicate and transform the world around them.
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/branchouttheatreworkshops/home

 

 

 

 

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Webinar recap: new technology trends, tools, and applications

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link

May4webinar
Star Wars Day (May the 4th Be With You), seemed like a good day for a webinar on new technology trends and uses and some health promotion implications. As health promoters, we like to be sure we stay on the light side of the Force, and to do that we need to think about new technology as it develops as well as paying attention to research findings about the best ways existing technologies are used.

I discussed trends in new technology generally, including the Internet of Things, wearable technology, virtual reality / augmented reality, and the growth of the Internet as a shrinking collection of walled gardens.

Design trends I mentioned included the massive growth in mobile traffic, leading to trends such as responsive design (where the various parts of the page display differently depending on the size of your screen) and infinite scrolling (endless webpages that keep loading content, such as your Facebook homepage); the tendency for design to now be slightly less "flat" than has been the trend for the past few years; the increased use and acceptability of images and video; and the inclusion of nonstandard interface controls such as sideways scrolling (instead of the usual vertical scrolling).

I encouraged health promoters not to ignore the world of apps, which suffers from the same content-quality controls as the rest of the Internet. Whether we choose to create our own apps or whether we choose to help highlight the pros and cons of various existing apps, health promoters can play a useful role.

While research on social media has challenges -- by the time you conduct and publish your research, the technology has probably changed -- I discussed some findings from existing studies and reviews.

One main finding is that two-way communication in any kind of health promotion social media effort is critical for success. Just putting information out there is not enough.

Another main finding is that while many studies have assessed the reach of social media -- and of course it can be very good at expanding an intervention's reach -- many fewer have assessed behaviour change. However, one meta-review did find no negative behaviour changes occurred as a result of social media interventions, so at the very least we can be reasonably sure we are not causing harm.

HC Link has a number of resources on social media including policy and plan outlines, a starter sheet to fill out before you set up a social media account, and a communications inventory to help you figure out what you already have that you might effectively repurpose with social media.

You can view the webinar recording and download the accompanying handout on our webinar archive page.

 

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PAD’s SFPY program featured in United Nations commissioned study on global “good practice” programs

By Seher Shafiq, Parent Action on Drugs


After a long process, PAD’s Strengthening Families for Parent and Youth (SFPY) program has been selected as a global good practice in a report published by the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Background

In March 2014, the UN Inter Agency Technical Task Team on Young People (UNIATTTYP) for the Middle East and North Africa/Arab States, began a process to document good and promising practices in adolescent and youth. The geographic focus was the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, but the project also looked at programs globally in order to recommend some “best buys” in adolescent programming that could be applied in the MENA region.

This project was spearheaded by UNICEF MENARO, who had partnered with the Outreach and Practice Unit (OPU) of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut. The age group the project focused on was 12-24 year olds, and thematic areas included employability, social protection, civic engagement, and health (among many others).

The process

The first phase was research on the part of AUB, who selected a few of PAD's programs that could be considered good/best practices for youth aged 12-24. PAD’s programs were among the 169 potential good practices that the AUB had found regionally and globally. After looking at several of PAD’s programs, the AUB decided to focus on PAD’s SFPY program.

Second, the programs were rated based on a number of criteria: Effectiveness, Sustainability, Replication, Equity Analysis, Evidence-based, Innovation, Values Orientation, Youth Involvement. The SFPY program met this criteria and was selected as a potential good practice.

To validate the research made by AUB to this point, PAD participated in an in-depth interview about the SFPY program, where we shared more details with the researchers.

After the interview, the SFPY program was deemed by AUB to still meet the criteria listed above, and the researchers completed a report that explained the various aspects of the program.

The entire process above took around 8 months. After 8 months, the final stage of the process was for PAD to “validate” the write-up by the researchers. PAD and AUB had a back-and-forth consisting of report edits, and a few months later we were asked to provide some photos of the program.

Results

Last month, we were contacted by AUB who had finalized the report. After such a long process, it was exciting for us to see the final result. The AUB did a great job at summarizing the key aspects of the program and why it is considered a “good practice”. It’s interesting to see that a Canadian-based program has potential for global audiences as well!

To read the full report, click here.

To see the other programs featured by the AUB, click here.

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Mental Health Week Gets Loud!

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

This week Canada is celebrating both Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week using the hashtag #GETLOUD to raise awareness about mental health and mental illness. Mental Health Week celebrations have traditionally been an opportunity to impact stigma by talking candidly about mental illness. These same celebrations are now evolving beyond conversations of illness to also consider the role of mental health and well-being in our lives. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented that Mental Health Week is an opportunity to not only support those struggling with mental illness but also encourage conversations “...about what mental health is and what we can do to increase our collective well-being”.

Recognizing mental health as a positive concept and a resource for living creates space for promoting behaviours, activities, programs and strategies meant to improve resilience and well-being. This is a sentiment that is growing in Ontario. For instance, Phase 2 of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy includes an area of focus on mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention.

CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre has also created a video called Finding a Shared Language (ENG)/(FR) that reflects the growing importance of mental health promotion in our communities. The video outlines simple strategies for promoting mental health individually and in our communities by:

• Knowing and accepting that everyone in faces daily challenges
• Getting involved in your community and giving back
• Supporting and including different types of people in your community

Promoting Mental Health: Finding a Shared Language from CAMH HPRC on Vimeo.


These tips are just one way to #GETLOUD about mental health. How do you plan to join the conversation this week? Check out the events on the websites below to get you started!

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Commission of Canada

For mental health promotion resources, check out the CAMH HPRC website!

 

 

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Moving Ahead on Rural and Community Transportation: March 29th, 2016 Forum

By Lisa Tolentino, HC Link Community Consultant

On March 29th, 2016 HC Link partnered with the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI), Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) and Routes Connecting Communities to organize and host a forum for rural and community transportation stakeholders. Moving Ahead on Rural and Community Transportation was held to enable participants to share experiences and lessons learned, and help support peer-to-peer networking. Significant steps are being taken by many municipalities and other stakeholders to improve community transportation in rural areas around Ontario. Representatives from diverse organizations that are implementing community transportation initiatives were in attendance as over 100 people from across the province attended both in-person and online, via live-streaming/webinar.

RuralTransportationForum
Things kicked off with an exercise to provide opportunities for networking and to get to know who was in the room, and online. The majority of participants represented municipal and regional government, followed by the non-profit sector. Others working within the private and education sectors were also in attendance. Representatives attended from the following regions and districts:

•Grey-Bruce                      

• Haliburton

• Hastings

• Kawartha Lakes

• Kenora (Dryden)

• Lambton (Sarnia)

• Lanark

• Leeds and Grenville (Brockville)

• Lennox-Addington

• Muskoka 

• Niagara

• Norfolk

• Nipissing

• Northumberland

• Perth County (Stratford)

• Peterborough

• Simcoe

• Timiskaming

• Wellington/Waterloo

• York (Georgina)

A presentation was then given by Cathy Wilkinson from Routes Connecting Communities, which is a transportation provider serving the northern part of York Region. Their volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to provide available, accessible and affordable transportation to people who are restricted due to life circumstances such as financial hardship, health issues, and geographic, social or cultural isolation.

Cathy’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion with three other transportation service providers in the province, including: 1) Brad Smith from Ride Norfolk, 2) Heather Inwood-Montrose from The Rural Overland Utility Transit (TROUT), and 3) Rick Williams from Muskoka Extended Transit (MET). The panelists focused on sharing the challenges and successes that they have experienced in delivering public transit in their respective areas.

Next the Ministry of Transportation offered an overview of what Community Transportation (CT) is to them, and highlighted a few examples of initiatives that they are currently funding across the province. This is a $2 million, 2-year pilot grant program to provide financial assistance to Ontario municipalities for the development and implementation of community transportation initiatives. As part of the CT Program, 22 municipalities have undertaken projects to either start or expand collaborative projects in their regions. MTO representatives also announced that they will soon be supporting communities around the province with increased networking and engagement opportunities with respect to Community Transportation.

 Following lunch, participants broke into small groups to discuss five topics:

  1. Building Community Support - demonstrating the need and/or making the case for community transportation

  2. Collaboration & Partnership Building - managing different organizational mandates and moving forward

  3. Revenue Generation & Funding - using both traditional and innovative or creative approaches to generating funds

  4. Marketing & Promotion - of new and/or existing transportation services

  5. Technology - procuring vehicles, using integrated software, and other forms of technology

The day ended with a live streaming presentation by Caryn Souza from the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). The CTAA consists of organizations and individuals who support mobility for all Americans regardless of where they live or work. Their membership includes community transit providers, public transit agencies, organizations providing health care and/or employment services, government, college and university planners, private bus companies, taxi operators, people concerned with the special mobility needs of those with disabilities, manufacturers and many other organizations who share a commitment to mobility. Caryn explained that there are many different programs that the CTAA is currently involved in, from mobility management to transit planning and ridesharing across the nation.

Overall, the day was full of information about Community Transportation in both Ontario and across the USA. Participants said that it was great to be in a room with others who have the same struggles as they do, and that they had the opportunity to learn from one another and as well as brainstorm solutions. Many said that they were able to foster connections with other people working on-the-ground and that they learned something that they will be able to apply in their own communities. HC Link was also pleased to have had the chance to help facilitate this group of passionate and committed people!

If you would like more information about this event, please contact Lisa Tolentino, Community Transportation Network Coordinator, Lisa@ohcc-ccso.ca.

 

 

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Paving the Way: A peer sharing session on defining the policy problem

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This blog post is part of a series on the topic of developing health public policy written by HC Link staff and our partner organizations. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact a.bodkin@hclinkontario.ca

Today I hosted a peer sharing session, along with Kim Bergeron from Health Promotion Capacity Building at Public Health Ontario. Called “Paving the Way”, today’s peer sharing session built on last month’s online discussion (of the same name) on defining the policy problem. Using a teleconference line and webinar platform, we had an interesting discussion about some of the approaches to and challenges with defining the policy problem. Our discussion focused around four main themes:

Language

Developing a shared and common language is important, particularly when working with a variety of stakeholders on policy development. One of our participants is working with community members, the police, landlords and service provides to develop a policy. I can imagine that such a diverse group would not only use different language, but might even use the same words to mean different things. Kim suggested drafting a glossary to create and define common terms to use throughout the policy development process. Developing a common agenda, part of the collective impact process, has useful tips for this step.

Evidence

A participant shared their experience of using evidence in the problem definition stage, by collecting data such as literature reviews, rapid reviews, community assessments etc and analyzing these data sources to identify the nature of the problem and identify potential policy solutions. This gave rise to an excellent question from another participant: Do you collect all of the evidence and then consult with stakeholders and the community, or do consult with stakeholders and the community and then collect the evidence that you need to support it?

I suggested trying to find the “sweet spot” between collecting evidence and working with the community. At HC Link, our definition of evidence includes not only published literature and population health data, it also includes lived experience and cultural knowledge. We view the experiences and input of the community and stakeholders as one source of evidence, rather than separate from it.

Another participant who does international development work in the area of maternal and child health shared that their organization does data collection and community engagement concurrently through two different departments.

Timing

Developing health public policy is one of those health promotion strategies where time seems to operate differently from the rest of our work! By that I mean the sheer length of time that it can take to develop, implement and evaluate a policy (often having to go back and repeat a step, or jump ahead when there is sudden media support around the issue, and go back again). Kim reminded us that we may have to work with the election cycle, and sometimes at different levels of government (each running on their own election cycle). And of course, carving out the time to work with partners and do policy work!

Knowledge Exchange Strategy

Kim’s takeaway from today’s peer sharing session was on the important of developing a knowledge exchange (KE) strategy that runs the entire length of the policy development process: planning, implementation and evaluation. We often stop to develop a KE strategy at certain points of the policy development process, when actually KE should be continued at each and every stage, in particular when the community and stakeholders are involved.

Resources mentioned during today’s peer sharing session

FOCUS ON: Relevance of the stages heuristic model for developing health public policies http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/eRepository/Focus_On_Stages_Model_and_Policies.pdf

Are We Ready to Address Policy? Assessing and building readiness for policy work http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/Are_We_Ready_To_Address_Policy.pdf

Tools from Healthy Living Niagara to track municipal decisions

http://healthylivingniagara.com/active-transportation/understanding-municipal-decision-makers/

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Policy Talk: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

By: Seher Shafiq, Parent Action on Drugs

This blog post is part of a series on the topic of developing health public policy written by HC Link and our partner organizations. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact a.bodkin@hclinkontario.ca.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recently released a free online learning module to help better understand the Portfolio of Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention — a resource that guides teams on how they can improve their prevention work in the area of substance abuse.

I had the opportunity to go through the online learning module, and found it concise, informative, evidence-based, and interactive.

The module provides tools to help professionals in various sectors prevent youth substance abuse. It encourages the user to recognize that regardless of what sector they are working in, the work we all do as community service providers plays a role in substance abuse prevention. The module recognizes the importance of setting a strong foundation in the “youth years”.

The module also explains risk factors that youth are exposed to when growing up (ex. Conflict with the law, relationship issues, mental illness, etc.), as well as protective factors, noting the importance of minimizing the former and promoting the latter. CCSA also notes that substance abuse prevention does both of these things.

I have to admit, the discussion about risk and protective factors reminded me of Parent Action on Drugs’ Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program, which is an evidence-based, preventative program that promotes youth resiliency.

What interested me the most in the module was the data on costs associated with substance abuse. In 2006, Canada spent almost $40 billion on substance abuse. These costs were often associated with healthcare, law enforcement, and the court system. I also found it interesting that 30% of charges in violent crimes are associated with alcohol abuse use.

However, the most surprising data for me was that for every dollar spent on substance use prevention, the government saves $15-$18 dollars. This data should be eye-opening for policymakers. Two years ago, I did a project for the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and similarly found that reducing recidivism rates (i.e. people going back into jail after they’ve been released) through promoting preventative interventions like mental health counselling, affordable housing, and employment skills workshops can also produce similar cost savings for the government.

I can’t help but think of the billions of dollars the government could save if it prioritized prevention initiatives. Policymakers need to recognize that prevention initiatives work and show results – not just in dollar terms, but also through the positive impact on society.

As the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

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New Resource - Strategic Planning: From mundane to meaningful

By Pam Kinzie, Consultant 

Strategic planning is not a new process. In fact, the first mention of it in the literature related to military strategy in the fourth century B.C.! The Harvard Business School presented it as a new discipline in the 1960’s and by the 1970’s the elements of strategic planning commonly used today appeared.

Those who have participated in strategic planning before may be either enthusiastic about the prospect of developing one or jaded by a previous experience that did not accomplish the anticipated results. There is also a great deal of confusion about what a strategic plan is, why and how one should be developed.

StratPlanThumbTo that end, HC Link has released a new resource on strategic planning, Strategic Planning: from mundane to meaningful. This resource provides an overview of strategic planning including why, when and how to do it, who to involve, the key elements and what to consider when developing a strategic plan. It provides a simple, clear guide to strategic planning for community groups, coalitions and small non-profit organizations drawing on literature aimed at similar organizations. The resource will also provide information that will help you to develop a plan that will not sit on a shelf, but rather act as a living document to guide your program planning, budgeting and measurement of performance. “The best plan is useless unless it is acted upon.”1

Strategic planning is defined as “a process through which an organization agrees on and builds key stakeholder commitment to priorities that are essential to its mission and responsive to the organizational environment. Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources to achieve these priorities.”2

Another way to think of a strategic plan is as a flight plan for a pilot. Without one, the pilot and crew have no direction and no specific destination to inform the ticket-sellers or the passengers. The fueling station has no idea how much fuel to provide and the meteorologist can’t anticipate the weather en route. Indeed the mission is unclear. If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't matter which road you take (to paraphrase the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland).

Consultants may be helpful in providing objective assistance in the overall design of your planning process to involve all key stakeholders. They can obtain sensitive information through interviews and share it in a constructive way. Their key role is to focus on the process and provide relevant background information. Some organizations find it useful to have consultants facilitate planning meetings or retreats so that the stakeholders are free to participate actively. HC Link offers customized consulting services to community groups, organizations, and partnerships to support their work in building healthy communities. HC Link’s consultants can provide valuable resources, tools, problem-solving, advice and mentorship in a variety of areas. HC Link’s consulting services are funded by the Government of Ontario and are provided free of charge, when possible. Contact us to learn more!

We hope that you will find this resource useful in your strategic planning efforts. To learn more about facilitating strategic planning sessions, please read HC Link’s ongoing blog series on facilitation techniques:

 
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1 A. Suchman, P. Williamson, and D. Robbins. (2002) Strategic planning as partnership building: engaging the voice of the community a new perspective on strategic planning. AI Practitioner Newsletter
2 M. Allison and J. Kaye. (2015) Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Organizations: A Practical Guide for Dynamic Times, Third Edition, John Wiley and Sons Inc. 1.
 
 

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Emerging trends in tobacco use among youth


By: Kristy Ste Marie and Vicki Poulios, Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI)


When you hear the phrase, “tobacco use”, what comes to mind? My guess would be “smoking” or “cigarettes”. People might assume that this is the most common form of tobacco use, and indeed, among adults it might be. Among youth, however, the landscape has shifted, and things are not what they used to be. On March 22nd, we went over this in our webinar: Vapes, Hookah, and Chew: Emerging Trends in Youth Tobacco Use. The webinar was developed by the Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI), and was a partnership between YATI, PAD, and HC Link.

The webinar started with an overview of Vapes (e-cigarettes), Hookah, and Chew, where we defined the products and discussed their evolution. For instance, we took a closer look at the three generations of e-cigarettes, and provided a quick overview of what we know about the health effects and their effectiveness as a cessation aid. One common element among all of these products is the flavours – did you know that there are over 7,764 flavours for e-cigarettes alone?! Chew and Shisha (which is the product that is placed in the hookah or waterpipe to be smoked) also come in an assortment of flavours, like wacky watermelon, or Sex on the Beach. Flavours are a deliberate strategy by Big Tobacco (those who produce, promote and profit from tobacco) to make their products more appealing and get youth hooked on tobacco from an early age.

flavours

The next section of the webinar provided an overview of new provincial legislation that regulates these products, and examples of municipal by laws, and local policies that fill in some gaps. As of January 2016, the provincial government has banned the sale of flavoured tobacco products (with menthol being phased in by January 2017), and has prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19. This is very exciting, and a huge step forward for protecting youth from tobacco initiation. The government has also promised to soon introduce legislation that will regulate where e-cigarettes can be used, and how they can be displayed for sale, so stay tuned for that.

Next up, we had Tonya Hopkinson and DeiJaumar Clarke, from Toronto Public Health give us an overview of their youth-led action on Hookah Smoking. Their campaign assessed young people’s awareness of the harms associated with hookah smoking, and they then developed and disseminated various resources to address those knowledge gaps. They also advocated for a ban on hookah smoking in indoor public spaces in Toronto and were successful – it came into effect in April, 2015.

Finally, we had Jacquie Uprichard from the Central East Tobacco Control Area Network, with a presentation on their youth-led campaign, Know What’s In Your Mouth. This campaign aims to increase awareness about chew tobacco, decrease high-school aged youth’s intention to use it, and to reduce the use of chew among students.

We were so lucky to have these two examples of youth-led initiatives that aim to denormalize tobacco use among youth in Ontario – Big Tobacco’s favourite new customer is a young one, because then they get a customer for life. So it’s great to see youth involved in taking action, and saying “no” to Big Tobacco’s tricks.


Watch the webinar recording or view webinar resources for more information!

 

 

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Paving the Way: an online discussion on defining the policy problem

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This blog post is part of a series on the topic of developing health public policy written by HC Link and our partner organizations. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact a.bodkin@hclinkontario.ca.


This afternoon, Kim Bergeron (Health Promotion Consultant with Health Promotion Capacity Building Services at Public Health Ontario) and I were joined by 22 people to talk policy. Kim and I normally get pretty excited about the topic of policy, and we enjoyed having others to share our enthusiasm with. The purpose of the online discussion was to explore three concepts in defining the policy problem that we will be diving into more deeply over the course of the year.


The topic of the online discussion was on defining the policy problem. This is a tricky step in policy development, where often times we jump to policy solutions (or are given policy solutions by our agency/funder) rather than taking the time to explore the nature of the problem that the policy is intended to solve. It’s important to take the time to define the nature of the problem so that a) you can articulate it b) you can get the support that you need from community and stakeholders and c) you can select the policy option that best solves the problem.


Kim began by introducing the concept of determining the type of problem we have on our hands:

  1. Tame problems: are those where stakeholders agree on the nature of the problem and on the best way to solve it;

  2. Complex problems: are those where stakeholders agree on the nature of the problem, but not on how to best solve it; and

  3. Wicked problems: stakeholders agree neither on the nature of the problem, nor on its solution. They are not evil, but are those problems that are considered highly resistant to resolve. The first action to define the problem is to recognize what type of problem it is.


We then had a conversation about wicked problems, using the example of safe injection sites. We discussed that values, personal bias, political opinion and ideology often affect how people see the problem and solutions. The public and various stakeholders often disagree about the precise nature of the problem, and whether it is a downstream, mid-stream or upstream one. We discussed the importance of developing a shared understanding amongst your stakeholders, engaging them in the conversation, on the nature of the problem and the possible policy solutions to it. We identified techniques and shared resources on how to develop that shared understanding, including:

  • Dialogue mapping

  • Collective Impact: a recent blog post from Tamarack discusses the tensions in light of a “wicked problem” in Collective Impact

  • Deliberative dialogue: the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy has a collection of resources on Deliberative Processes

  • Finding areas of agreement and building relationships from there

  • Policy narratives: an article by Steven Ney and Marco Verweij discusses “Messy Institutions for Wicked Problems: how to Generate Clumsy Solutions”


Once you have identified the type of problem to be addressed and have developed a shared, collective understanding of the problem, there is a need to identify ways to communicate this information to others to build support and/or increase awareness. We discussed communication vehicles that we have used to communicate a shared understanding of a problem:


Kim and I are looking forward to diving into this subject more deeply at our peer sharing session on April 21. During this session, we’ll hear from 3 or 4 people about their experiences in defining the policy problem, and we’ll have the opportunity to talk more about our experiences, challenges and solutions. Registration for the peer sharing session is limited to 20 people to ensure that we can have a deep conversation. Register soon!

 

 

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Video Interview with Dave Meslin on advocacy and how to influence change

At our 2015 Conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change we were fortunate to sit down with keynote speaker Dave Meslin, community choreographer, to ask for his views on advocacy and what we can do to influence change.

“Everyone has an idea of how to make their neighborhood or their city or world a better a place, but most people have no idea how to take that idea and act on it.” In this interview, Dave shares the one thing everyone can and should do to influence change, and two things he has learned through his advocacy work.

Watch the full 2 minute video interview below!

 

 

A few key points from the interview:

  • Advocacy is the idea of people coming together and finding their voice.
  • Unfortunately, people tend to have a negative perception of what advocacy means (such as angry people marching in the streets), but there are so many fun ways to do advocacy.
  • One thing everyone can do to influence change is to start from within, and to find out what you are truly passionate about.
  • In advocacy, it is important to find a group that is totally aligned with your values. If a group does not exist that is fighting for what you think needs to be fought for – create your own! “There is nothing more fun than political entrepreneurialism.”
 

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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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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Facilitating a Priority-Setting Exercise

By Kim Hodgson, Community Consultant

This is the fifth blog post in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches that will be written by various HC Link staff over the next while.

Community groups and coalitions often request the services of an HC Link consultant to assist with strategic planning and priority setting. This is an exciting and often challenging activity for groups; they’re eager to deliberate and decide on where to put their energies, but at the same time, it’s easy for groups to become thoroughly muddled about what, in fact, they are comparing and ranking.

This is where a good facilitator can help you design a decision-making process that makes sense to your group, is transparent, and where decisions made can be justified and documented.

New partnerships and collaboratives may approach priority setting somewhat differently than those groups that have a long history and a list of initiatives and activities underway and completed. So where to start?

In the case of a new partnership trying to decide which activities support their newly crafted vision, mission and strategic directions, I always start the broader “buckets” – in this case the strategic directions or broad, overall objectives. It can be helpful to ask the group if there are particular strategic directions (i.e. communications, fundraising, partnership development etc.) that they feel are more important to focus on sooner than later. In some instances, the group will decide that there should be a particular emphasis on one or two, but more frequently, there’s agreement that all of the strategic directions need to be addressed.

In the case of existing partnerships that have a history of planning and implementing activities, it can be helpful to take stock of what’s working well or not, prior to generating ideas for future activities. This can be done through Appreciate Inquiry as outlined by Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition Executive Director Lorna McCue. This focuses the group’s attention on what is working well and what could be.

Generating Ideas

The next step is for the group to generate a list of activities that will support each of the strategic directions. Several methods or processes work well for generating these ideas, including the "1-1-2-4-all" exercise from Liberating Structures that Andrea Bodkin has written about previously in her blog on Priority Setting . The Appreciative Inquiry approach has this step built into its process.

Some groups like to generate activities by doing a mini-visioning exercise around the question: If we are successful in what we are doing in 3 years, what will be in place?” What do we need to do to get there? What activities need to be put into place? Are these activities the same activities that we are doing now? If not, what should we be doing?

Sometimes I have one group generate possible activities for one strategic direction, or sometimes everyone participates in a “free for all” – writing down any and all activities that come to mind. Regardless, the intent of this process is for the group to generate as many good ideas as possible.

The next step is to have participants present their ideas to the rest of the group, and visually group like ideas together. The group decides which strategic direction the activity supports, and we simply tape an index card or a piece of paper with the name of the activity under the relevant strategic direction.

In many cases, the group will come up with new ideas and activities that aren’t directly related to their current strategic directions or objectives. It’s important to capture these ideas in a way that shows that they are innovative, but don’t fit easily into previously agree upon areas of focus. The group can then decide if it’s worthwhile to broaden their objectives to include the suggested activity, or put it in a “parking lot” for consideration at a later time.

Determine how activities relate to each other

As ideas come forward, it’s common to find that one idea is a discrete activity within a larger activity i.e. “social media” and “webpage development” are components of a “communication plan.’’ In other cases, discrete activities support a common initiative (like “communication plan”) but one activity naturally occurs before another, e.g. development of key messages likely happens before writing media releases etc. The clearer a group can see how the possible activities relate to each other, the easier it is for them to do the final prioritizing. Otherwise, people are in the baffling predicament of having to compare, rank and choose from very different suggestions, e.g. "encourage more non-organized sports for youth 12 – 15 years" vs. “establish a Twitter account”.

Only when you have a the ideas/activities visually pieced together so that it makes sense to everyone should you proceed with having people cast their vote. I hope that by understanding these potentially confusing, “tricky parts” of priority setting that you’ll be able to carefully craft a priority setting exercise for your group that is logical, clear to all, and that ultimately gives the group clear direction for moving forward.

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Appreciative Inquiry

By Lorna McCue, OHCC
 
This is the fourth blog post in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches that will be written by various HC Link staff over the next while.

In recent years, HC Link consultants have increasingly been using an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach in working with community organizations, partnerships and networks. We find that it fits well with our overall Healthy Communities approach, which focusses on a creating a shared vision of a preferred future, developing asset-based strategies, and undertaking collective action. Whether we are working on governance, organizational development, strategic planning or policy development, AI principles can be brought into play with positive, energizing results.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

AI is a powerful vehicle for setting in motion a wave of positive organizational change. It is based on a very simple premise: that organizations grow in the direction of what they focus their attention on.   The practice of AI is grounded in an exploration of questions that will uncover an organization’s best practices and innovations, and the conditions that allow it to thrive. It then applies these findings to the daily processes and practices of the organization’s work.

AI was developed in the mid 1980’s by David Cooperrider and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University. Cooperrider saw that the traditional problem solving approaches did not lead to expanding human horizons and possibilities. He suggested that we need forms of inquiry and change that will help us discover what could be, rather than try to fix what is.  AI is based on the idea that organizational systems are not like machines that can be taken apart and fixed, but rather are social systems. As such, they are more like organisms, which are healthiest when they are focused on their positive life-giving characteristics, rather than their problematic aspects. Thus, AI seeks to “create processes of inquiry that will result in better, more effective, convivial, sustainable and vital social systems. It assumes this requires widespread engagement by those who will ultimately implement change.”

The initial set of principles for AI was that the inquiry should begin with appreciation, and be collaborative, provocative, and applicable. For many years Cooperrider resisted writing a “how to” book on AI, and encouraged people to be innovative in applying these principles, with the result that many different methodologies have been developed. However, he has since published a number of work books containing background information, examples, tools and resources, which are available or referenced on the Appreciative Inquiry Commons.

Assumptions of AI

  1. In every society, organization or group, something works.
  2. What we focus on becomes our reality.
  3. Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.
  4. The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.
  5. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).
  6. If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past.
  7. It is important to value differences.
  8. The language we use creates our reality.

Two Contrasting Approaches for Organizational Change

Deficit Based Thinking
(Organization has problems)

Leads to problem solving approach

Asset Based Thinking
(Organization has solutions)

Leads to Appreciative Inquiry Approach

What is wrong
  • How to fix the problem
  • Focused on the past
  • Analysis of facts and forces
  • Problem driven
  • Scarcity of resources
  • Resistance and withdrawal
What is right
  • How to build on the positive
  • Focused on the future
  • Development of relationships
  • Vision led
  • Abundance of resources
  • Energy and excitement

The Five “D” Process

AI is an ongoing, iterative cycle consisting of five phases: define, discovery, dream, design and destiny. The “define” phase is sometimes excluded, as it may happen only once within a particular AI process, while the other phases may be repeated several times. The following description of an AI process is based on a consultation provided to the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition by Michelle Chambers in 2007.

Define:
Reframe a challenge into a positive topic of inquiry and choose questions for participants to ask each other that will include the whole organizational system.

Discover: “the Best of What Is”
Identify the organization’s best practices, life-giving forces or root causes of success. Participants pair up and interview each other to gain new insights into what drives the organization, what its capabilities are and what contributions its members can make to the world. Questions are usually focussed around why they were attracted to the organization, peak experiences and what they value about the organization. They then identify key themes and best practices for the organization.

Dream: “What Might Be”
Moving from pairs into small groups, create images of what life in the organization would look like if the organization’s best practices became the norm rather than the exception. Extrapolate from “the best of what is” to envision “what might be”. Don’t just focus on incremental changes (i.e. more of the same) but be provocative; create transformational images of the future. These “dreams” are grounded in what participants know to be their own and the system’s capabilities. Once the visual image is complete, write a macro provocative proposition; i.e. one or two statements that capture the essence of the “dream”.

Design: “What Should Be”
As a large group, identify the high-leverage changes the organization would have to make in its systems, processes, roles and metrics to support the “dream”. This phase is more than just breaking down the dream into short-term actions; it requires figuring out how to align our systems, process and structures with our dream. Move into small groups for further dialogue on how we can make this happen.

Destiny: “What Will Be”
Identify challenges, innovations and facilitating forces for the reconstruction of the organization. What projects or initiatives do we need in order to deliver on those action plans and achieve our end goal? Who will initiate the next steps?

aicycle

The Power of AI

AI has become very popular over the past ten years, due to the positive response it has received from AI participants all over the world. The power of AI seems to be the result of a combination of attributes, including:

  • the focus on the positive
  • the emotional responses of people
  • a deeper sense of hopefulness and optimism
  • the grounding that AI has in the past
  • the clarity of the future direction
  • the engagement of the whole system
  • an underlying movement toward action

Using AI in Strategic Planning - SOAR

AI is an exciting alternative to traditional strategic planning approaches. Its engaging, strengths based approach to organizational change creates a climate in which participants can re-invent the organization so that it really works. As an alternative to an analysis of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT), Jackie Stavros developed the SOAR framework, which invites us to look at Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and (measurable) Results. SOAR doesn’t just involve senior leadership or the board of directors; it invites all involved in implementing the plan to participate and influence the planning process. Direct participation in the planning increases the quality and timeliness of goals being achieved. The organization will also be more resilient and adaptive to changes in the external and internal environment because its strengths, resources, skills and assets are well understood.

Evaluation of AI

Hundreds of significant appreciative inquiries have been documented and described at conferences, in journals and books, in the AI Practitioner (a quarterly magazine), and through the Appreciative Inquiry Commons (a website), including such diverse organizations as World Vision, the U.S. Navy and GTE/Verizon.

Empirical assessments of AI are limited, but are more plentiful than for most organizational change strategies. There is a growing body of longitudinal and critical research that is identifying moderating and mediating conditions that affect how AI is best done and under what conditions, opportunities and limitations. AI does not magically overcome any of the requirements for effective leadership, resourcing and skilled facilitation. However, given its extensive use over two decades and enthusiastic responses from participants, it has become a highly credible and highly valued approach.

References

Chambers & Associates. Appreciative Inquiry Overview; summary prepared for the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition. 2007

Gervase R. Bushe The Appreciative Inquiry Model in E.H. Kessler, (ed.) Encyclopedia of Management Theory, Sage Publications, 2013, pg. 1 of excerpt found at http://www.gervasebushe.ca/the_AI_model.pdf; accessed February 16, 2016

Gong Lucy. Appreciative Inquiry. Communication4Health https://communication4health.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/appreciative-inquiry/ accessed February 16, 2016

LeaderSkill Group: Appreciative Inquiry. http://survey.leaderskill.com.au/appreciative-inquiry/; accessed February 16, 2016

McKenna, Catherine, Joanne Daykin, Bernard J Mohr and Tony Silbert. Strategic Planning with Appreciative Inquiry: Unleashing the Positive Potential to Soar. Innovation Partners, 2007. https://maureenmckenna.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/ipi-article-on-soar-and-strategic-planning.pdf; accessed February 16, 2016

Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. Appreciative Inquiry Commons https://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/, accessed February 16, 2016.

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Breaking The Ice: putting a little fun into working with groups

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This is the third blog post in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches that will be written by various HC Link staff over the next little while. This particular segment focuses on ways to use icebreakers and active games when working with groups.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love icebreakers and games. I have dozens of them ready to go, ready to whip out at a minutes notice. I’m often asked not only to lead icebreakers at events, but also for help from others who must lead them. While icebreakers can be (and should be!) fun, they are not child’s play. It takes a bit of work to make icebreakers meaningful and well as fun. In this post I’ll talk about a few of the things to keep in mind when planning icebreakers and active games, and I’ll also list out a few of my favourites.

Be clear on the purpose. It’s critically important to think about the reason that you want to include icebreakers or active games into your community processes, meetings or events. Understanding the purpose of including these types of activity will help you to select the appropriate one. While fun is definitely one reason, an icebreaker can actually help to deepen the participant experience, introduce content, and even illustrate concepts. In my experience, I’ve found three basic categories of icebreakers and games. At the end of this post I’ll give some examples for each category:

  1. To get to know the group, or for individuals within the group to get to know each other
  2. Physical activity and fun!
  3. To introduce, demonstrate or apply concepts that will be explored in the meetings

Know the personality and preferences of the group. All groups- like all individuals- have personalities. Some groups are formal and like to get down to business, other groups like to have fun and enjoy experiential learning. It is very, very important to understand the personality and preferences of the group (and the personalities within it) when selecting your activities. For instance, I probably wouldn’t play Musical Chairs with a group of business leaders or executive directors, but there are groups that would enjoy it! To help with selecting the icebreaker, ask yourself:

  • Are you working with an established group, a newly created one, or individual participants who do not know each other? If they know each other, how well? What is the level of trust that exists? Are there any group dynamics that you should be aware of?
  • What is the participants’ previous level of experience with ice breakers and active games? Is this experience likely to be positive for them or will there be any resistance?

Always make it optional. There are icebreaker lovers, haters, and those who will participate without having strong feelings one way or the other. Forcing icebreaker-haters to participate will not convince them to love icebreakers (I know, I’ve tried). Make it very clear that no one has to participate in the activity. If the activity that you’ve selected is a very active one, also give other participation options to the group to allow those with different preferences or levels of activity to participate.

Debrief. In my opinion, this is a critical step and one that’s often missed. Having a debrief makes the difference between a game being fun and being a part of the learning/participatory experience. If the purpose of the activity is to have fun, you don’t have to debrief. If however you are using the activity to further the objective of the overall session, you will need to have a debrief with the full group.

Get to know you games

Group juggling: a fun way to get to know the names of people in your group. If your group already knows each other well, you can use favourite vacation destinations, summertime activities etc. instead of names. TIP: I found that using balloons works really well--easier to manage and less likely to injure people or the environment! Be sure to fully explain the safety features of this game to your group. http://wilderdom.com/games/descriptions/GroupJuggle.html

thats meThat’s Me!/ Have you ever……I often use one of these games if I’m doing a workshop with a large group and I want to get a sense of who people are, what they know, and what they want to get out of the session. Customize your questions according to what you want to find out about your group.

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/tools/tool031.shtml

http://www.playsport.net/activity/have-you-ever

 

Inner/Outer Circle: Have your participants arrange themselves into two circles, one inside the other, so that participants are facing each other. Take 1 minute to talk with the person who is directly in front of you. Then they take one minute to talk to you. After each person in the pair has shared, the people in the outer circle shift 2 people to the left. You then repeat the exercise with your new partner, and so on. Sample questions/topics to discuss during the one minute interval (choose only one. Use the same question for each interaction). Sample questions:

  • What do you hope to get out of today?
  • What is a challenge that you’re currently experiencing in your work?
  • What do you LOVE about the work that you do?

Repeat about 5-8 times

Walk and Talk: Similar Very similar to Inner/Outer Circle, but rather than being in circles, play music and have people walk (or dance) around the room. When the music stops, participants find a person next to them and talk with that person, using the same types of questions as above.

Musical Chairs: This variation of musical chairs is a way for each individual to introduce themselves to the group. Arrange chairs in the center of the room. Make sure there are fewer chairs than people! Play music and have folks wander around the chairs. When the music stops, participants try to find a chair. Those left standing introduce themselves to the group, sharing their name and one other thing (eg what they love about their work, what they hope to get out of the day etc). Repeat until everyone has introduced themselves and there are no more chairs!

Physically active and fun games

Human Rock Paper Scissors: Rather than just using our hands to select rock, paper or scissors, participants use their bodies. It becomes a fun group activity when people begin in pairs, and the person who does not win the round stands behind the person that does. Each pair then plays against another pair, with the non-winners standing behind winners and so on, until eventually there two huge teams left. Hint: be sure that you can quickly and easily explain this activity (practise ahead of time) and you’ll want to review, or perhaps even post, the order of which beats what. http://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activity/rock-paper-scissors-posse.html

Musical Chairs: with or without the questions as described above!

Reflective activities

objectsThe Object Game: This is one of my absolute favourites. I’m not sure where it comes from (I was first introduced to it about 12 years ago by Nancy Dubois) but you can play it for a variety of purposes. It does make a great introduction piece, or you can use this as a way for participants and the group as a whole to reflect on their work.

  • Place a variety of miscellaneous, ordinary household/office objects on a table (be sure you have 1 for each person plus a few extras and try not to have too many repeats). Items like tape, salt and pepper shakers, a stapler, oven mitts, a lint roller, sticky notes, a coffee cup etc
  • As each person enters the room, have them select an object at random (usually people will pick the object that resonates with them in some way)
  • Sample questions:
    • Have each person introduce themselves and use the object to describe the work that they do.
    • Use the object to describe something that the group has accomplished over the last year, a barrier that’s been overcome
    • Use the object to describe a hope for the future or a vision for the group

 

Impromptu Networking: This is a variation of Walk and Talk that provides space for participants to start thinking big and creatively. http://www.liberatingstructures.com/2-impromptu-networking/

Looking for more ideas?

There is no shortage of icebreakers and active games thanks to the internet. The above is hardly a complete list but rather a collection of some of my favourites that I’ve done several times with groups. Here are a couple of websites with lots more options!

http://www.icebreakers.ws/

http://www.playsport.net/

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_76.htm

Do you have a favourite icebreaker or game you’d like to share? Use the comment box to tell us about it!

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