Bridging Health & Community
Improving Health Through Community Agency
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Updates

Strengthening the Field of Practice

Introducing Bridging Health & Community, Inc.

Regular readers will notice that the look of this webpage has changed. That’s because I have wrapped my work up into a new organization called Bridging Health & Community. The organization’s raison d’etre is to strengthen the field of practice that connects the health sector to local communities with a specific focus on nurturing community agency.

When I started this work in February 2013 I did not know that this field exists. I’m sure at times I have been clumsy in suggesting that I was pointing to a new field, likely annoying incumbent practitioners. I meant no offence. My naivety withstanding, however, I believe the field needs to be strengthened and believe there needs to be a vehicle dedicated to that work.

Beyond Principles

To date, we have described 11 principles for how the health sector might better connect with local communities. These principles essentially describe the field. However, since their publication we’ve continued to learn, principally through the series of comments that we commissioned on the ’11 principles’ report and the work presented at the July 2017 meeting of the Creating Health Collaborative. We’ll publish a new report early next year with a slightly evolved set of principles.

Principles, however, are not enough to strengthen a field. We know from surveying over 1100 people about what is preventing them from better responding to the needs of their communities that they’re looking for models to follow, tools and resources to use, and peers to learn from. As you know, we’re designing a symposium specifically to meet this demand. Delivering the symposium will be one of the workstreams of Bridging Health & Community.

Fields and Markets 

Principles and symposia, however, are probably not enough either. We all go to meetings that energize us to do things differently. But what happens each and every time? Tomorrow happens, that’s what – specifically, the day-to-day demands of our lives that make it impossible to find the time, energy and resolve to do things differently. We’ll look to help by coaching institutions on how they might change what they do. All we ask is that they be willing to embrace the potential of community agency.

Strengthening the field has to include finding resources for it. Describing a field that has no chance of existing seems a pointless exercise. I believe field-building should happen hand-in-hand with market-sensing. All of our work will have market-sensing built into it. What kind of people will come to our symposium? What will they pay? What kind of organizations are willing to embrace the link between community agency and health? What kind of coaching would they value? And for how much?

Five-Year Plan

Talking about money is not mercenary. It (and love) makes the world go round so we have to find a way to make it flow through Bridging Health & Community to fuel the field building we think needs to happen. Fields are often built by capital not seeking a financial return – this means government or philanthropic sources. We’ll be thinking about which organizations to approach with our five-year growth plan. One observation is that, while the health sector is awash with capital, including philanthropic money, I’m not convinced many sources genuinely seek to invest in the agency of communities – despite their rhetoric. I suspect our choices are limited but we shall see.

Our growth plan includes my baby, the Creating Health Collaborative – it’s now part of Bridging Health & Community’s work. I’ve enjoyed the ridiculous self-indulgence it was to give myself the mandate to find the best innovators and cajole them to spend time together. It was the right vehicle to satisfy my post-TEDMED curiosity but now needs to serve a higher purpose – to yield the kind of practice-based insights that are needed to further strengthen the field of practice.

Let's Build

So, there you have it. That’s why this webpage has changed. But it’s much more than a lick of paint. Bridging Health & Community is now incorporated, we’re finalizing our tax-exempt status, and we’ve established our offices in Seattle, WA. The seven-person Executive of the Creating Health Collaborative is now one Co-Founder and a six-person Board. My curiosity-fueled blog is now a thing.

We remain, however, a start-up. We know that we have a very high probability of failure. But a growing audience, organizations willing to partner on a symposium, occasional bits of funding, and seven highly-respected people willing to stake their reputations tell me this field is ripe for the building – and now there's a vehicle dedicated to the work.

 

- Pritpal S Tamber

Pritpal is the Co-Founder and CEO of Bridging Health & Community and the Founder of the Creating Health Collaborative. The other Co-Founder is Bridget Kelly who we’ll be hearing from in our next post. 

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