Collaborative Communities: Strength, Joy, Health, Trust

Communities Working Together to Address a Variety of Issues

Communities working together can tackle a variety of issues. One example is community policing to reduce crime rates.

Communities are self-organizing groups within a given instance that aggregate content related to specific topics and domains. They can strengthen a sense of community, provide focused opportunities to participate, and help to reduce duplication of efforts.

Strength/Sustainability

Community-based collaboration is a dynamic process that requires people to take risks and be willing to innovate. This approach enables communities to make the most of their resources and maximize their development potential.

Communities that are successful in working together have flexible work environments and a shared sense of responsibility. They also use a variety of communication tools and methods to promote their work and reach out to new members.

Often, people think of sustainability when they hear the phrase “planet, profit, and people.” In more specific terms, sustainability is often broken down into three areas: environmental, economic, and social.

Environmental sustainability focuses on conserving natural resources that provide physical inputs for economic production, including renewable and exhaustible resources. Examples of this include reducing water usage, promoting dietary shifts, and decreasing waste production. The social dimension of sustainability focuses on human issues that can be resolved by community members, such as poverty, hunger, and inequality.

Joy/Empowerment

Empowering communities means promoting self-reliance by helping them address their own needs and problems and create change. This helps ensure that solutions are tailored to local realities, resulting in greater effectiveness. It also encourages participation and commitment to collaborative goals.

This requires a flexible working environment with openness to new ideas and willingness to experiment. In addition, collaborators need to understand that a small group of people working together can have more impact than an individual doing what seems best on their own.

Successful collaborations focus on superordinate, or long-term, goals that unite stakeholders, pushing aside differences and focusing on what they have in common. This common ground can be built through shared fears and acknowledging broad goals that satisfy all parties. It can also be facilitated by finding opportunities for leadership roles to develop throughout the collaboration. The latter focuses on building capacity and relationships while ensuring equitable distribution of the work load. For example, if one person is better at research and another at outreach then the collaborative partnership should split this role between them so that each can maximize their impact.

Health/Resources

Community members understand that health and community development are inextricably linked. They know that community factors such as housing, employment, education, neighborhood safety, food security, and social connection shape a person’s well-being far more than medical care does. Consequently, they are uniquely qualified to direct community-based interventions.

They work closely with local residents in one-on-one and small group discussions, generating effective strategies for addressing community-based risk factors that influence health. They use a variety of resources, including meeting space and equipment, volunteers, and financial contributions.

They form coalitions that bring together people and organizations from the different segments of a community—for example, business owners, young adults, faith leaders, and GLBT community members. They effectively work out turf issues and boundaries, which are essential in sustaining effective partnerships. They develop relationships over time that extend beyond a single project, thereby increasing the sustainability and impact of collaborations. This continuum of engagement can be seen in the examples of Trinity and NCH in Chapter 5. Ideally, community involvement evolves into long-term partnerships that move away from the traditional focus on a specific disease or risk factor.

Trust/Respect

Trust and respect go hand-in-hand, if you want someone to trust you you have to also respect them. This goes for everyone, including yourself.

Creating an environment of mutual trust and respect requires listening with an open mind to diverse perspectives and approaching conflict in healthy ways. It also means that people are encouraged to share their strengths and expertise.

Community partnerships often bring together individuals and organizations with different priorities, perspectives, and resources. These collaborations can lead to innovative solutions and better outcomes than isolated efforts. However, these collaborations can be challenging when the relationships among partners are not strong (McGehee, Kline and Knollenberg, 2014).

This is where the importance of trust and respect comes into play. When these aren’t prioritized, team morale suffers. There are many elements that make up the building blocks of trust, but five key ones include:

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