Here are thoughts that might run through your head when you are invited to attend ANOTHER meeting:

I don’t have time!

If I sit through another meeting, I am going to lose it!

What do you mean attend another meeting? I just left one!

Can I send my cat, Oscar? (This one is reserved for really bad days)

Maybe some of these thoughts resonated with you? We are all human and have competing demands on our time. It is impossible to say yes to new meetings all of the time (hello, burnout) but I would like to suggest that there are certain times when saying yes to ANOTHER meeting may be time particularly well spent. These are times when you have the opportunity to branch out and talk with people outside of your familiar circle of colleagues or your sector in which you are accustomed.

Representatives from Jackson County at the Wild, Wonderful, and Healthy WV meeting in Spencer, WV.

We believe that creating the space for cross-sector conversations to happen is important. We do this through hosting convenings, such as through the Wild, Wonderful, and Healthy WV effort, and by providing grant funds to organizations who are seeking to engage a wide variety of partners around an issue.

We believe this work is important because we know that the complex problems facing our communities are systemic and they cannot be solved by one organization or one sector alone. It takes people who traditionally identify as working in the health field engaging in meaningful conversations with those who do not. Creating healthy communities requires a high level of mutual understanding and collaboration among all sectors including business/economic development, government, education, social services, and health care/public health organizations.

Wild, Wonderful, and Healthy WV

We recently partnered with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, Mid-Ohio Valley Rural Health Alliance, the Bernard McDonough Foundation, and the Center for Rural Health Development to launch the first Wild, Wonderful, and Healthy WV regional coaching hub meeting, an effort to engage community leaders across all sectors to continue building a culture of health in West Virginia.

Roane County representatives at the Wild, Wonderful, and Healthy WV meeting in Spencer, WV.

We were pleased to have sixty people representing chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, WVU Extension, healthcare organizations, and area nonprofits attend the May 22nd meeting in Spencer, WV. Resources related to community health improvement planning, notice of funding opportunities, tools, and strategies will be shared during these meetings over the coming year to support local leaders in planning for the future – a future that is informed by people across all sectors and a future in which everyone is willing to invest.

It is also an opportunity to share ideas of what is working in our communities.  Read more about the benefits of being involved and contact us if you want to learn more. The Mid-Ohio Valley regional coaching hub seeks to involve people in Calhoun, Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt, and Wood Counties. Wild, Wonderful, and Healthy WV is launched and ready to go!

Community Reentry Councils to Support Ex-offenders

The Parkersburg Reentry Council is another example of a cross-sector group that has recently formed to help identify and eliminate critical barriers to successful community reentry for ex-offenders.  The WV Council of Churches is forming reentry councils across the state that bring together human services, law enforcement, businesses, the courts, faith-based organizations, public agencies, and more to talk about supports for ex-offenders including family services, employment, housing, behavioral health, etc.

Through a $15,000 Sisters Health Foundation grant to the WV Council of Churches, funding supported the formation of the Parkersburg Reentry Council and Building Community Bridges training for persons interested in reducing the stigma that ex-offenders face, developing interventions in collaboration with others, and educating the community.  For more information about the Parkersburg Reentry Council and others across WV, email Beverly Sharp at wvreentrycouncils@gmail.com.

Creating Healthy Communities Coalitions

On the Ohio side, Athens, Meigs, and Washington Counties have active Creating Healthy Communities Coalitions who are committed to preventing and reducing chronic disease through cross-sector collaboration.  The coalitions focus on making improvements in the areas of healthy food accessibility, physical activity, and tobacco-free living.  Check out the Meigs County Active Transportation Plan which utilizes an interactive map where residents can identify good walking/biking routes as well as barriers. The map will inform future planning efforts.

These are just a few examples of organizations working to engage people from across sectors and we know there are plenty more! If you are currently involved in a coalition, council, alliance, or learning community that engages voices from different sectors, please email me at rsteffen@sistershealthfdn.org as I would be interested in learning more.

So the next time you are invited to attend ANOTHER meeting, I encourage you to think a little longer, especially if it is an opportunity to talk with people outside of your sector that can help move your organization and community forward to a healthier future.  Hopefully the answer is yes.  I will do the same.