Why should stewards working to transform the health and well-being of their regions care about the way they engage residents?
First, sustained resident engagement can result in more effective and equitable policies and practices—and increase residents’ support for them.
Second, engagement—especially when sustained over time—strengthens the regional networks that have direct, positive effects on residents’ physical and mental health and well-being.
Third, sustained resident engagement builds relationships between people, organizations, and sectors so that they can understand and support one another better.
Ensuring active resident engagement and leadership—in which residents have a respected voice and real power in decision-making—is essential to creating the kind of effective cross-sector collaboration that can transform regional health and well-being.
How do we know?
To understand what kind of resident engagement stewards need to pursue when they are interested in transformation, ReThink Health conducted an extensive review of the literature and more than 50 interviews with stewards across the nation, examining the role of ordinary people in shaping big cultural shifts from the past. We wondered: how did resident engagement play (or not play) a role in the anti-smoking or recycling movements, for example?
We discovered that the critical moment in various movements’ successes occurred when the lead organizations started creating conditions for large numbers of local residents to act in new and different ways.
Stewards learned how to:
- influence and create conditions for residents to act collectively and build power with the purpose of creating health;
- support and develop the capacity of local residents to lead some of the transformational efforts; and
- partner with residents to accomplish what they see as the goals, even if those goals seem to go beyond the scope of their immediate agenda.
That means no more stale, rote exercises conducted to meet a regulatory requirement or to check a box on a funding application. No more design without paying attention to historical context or critical analysis of existing power dynamics. And forget siloed and inconsistent efforts that are treated as side shows needing only limited implementation.
Stewards interested in learning more about how to meaningfully engage residents can start with our planning curriculum tool for developing a resident engagement strategy, and dig into the blogs and resources below. The kit evolved out of the research above, as well as our direct engagement with Way to Wellville, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CACHI: California Accountable Communities for Health Initiative, New York State Foundation, and many other communities and residents across the United States.
We designed this toolkit to help stewards working together to transform health and well-being use the power of storytelling to motivate action, draw out emotion, and build alignment. This toolkit includes short videos, worksheets, workshop agendas, and coaching tips.
We lay out the three outcomes those engaging in regional resident engagement practices seek to pursue, and the common practices they use to achieve those outcomes. The three are: Resident Awareness and Participation, Feedback and Input from Residents, and Active Resident Leadership. Transforming a region’s system for health requires a balance between practices of across all three outcomes.
Exercises, meeting guides, videos, and more to help stewards lead their groups to plan resident engagement efforts. Among other things, they can help stewards accurately assess their resident engagement efforts, get on the same page about their goals, and figure out how to close the gap between the two.
ReThink Health designed this tool to walk stewards through developing a shared vision for health and well-being (based on a clear understanding of their current reality) and a value proposition (that articulates their unique ability to work toward that vision), then combining those into a value proposition narrative that can guide future action.