Listening to the Community

3.5 min read. Results from Our Recent Strategic Planning and Visioning Process.

On October 21, 2023, at our annual board and staff retreat, the Healthcare Foundation invited a group of community members, including grantees and donors, to participate in a half-day visioning session led by Karin Demarest of Demarest Strategy Group. The purpose was to share the Healthcare Foundation’s current strategic plan, listen to community members about their perception of our region’s top current health needs, review other available data about the healthcare landscape, and generate new ideas about how to approach our health justice work in 2024. 

We are pleased to share with you what we learned, some of the ideas that emerged, and how those ideas are already creating impact in our strategic grantmaking work.

Preparation –  Empathy Interviews and a Constituent Survey

Before the retreat, we engaged in several preparatory activities. 

First, we asked each board and staff member to connect one-on-one with someone from a partner organization for an “empathy interview.” Each person paired up for an in-person or telephone conversation with a grantee or client to ask about their first-hand experience of the healthcare needs in the community they serve. The Healthcare Foundation representative asked open-ended questions, listened carefully to the responses, and reported what they learned to the rest of us at the retreat. We found the process to be extremely helpful as well as profoundly moving for board members and staff connecting directly with frontline folks doing the hard work and seeing the dire needs in our communities.

To further prepare the ground for our strategic planning process, we surveyed over 100 community members, including donors and grantees and other local residents, to better understand how they evaluated the work we are currently doing and what they think the priorities of the organization should be. The following is a summary of the answers we received from the 38 respondents. 

Board members discuss themes emerging from the visioning process

On the impact of the Healthcare Foundation on the region:

  • 95% felt that the Healthcare Foundation is doing extremely well or very well delivering on our mission to connect people and resources to promote wellness in underserved communities; 5% said moderate impact
  • 87% said we are having a significant or moderate impact through our Access to Healthcare initiatives; 5% said low impact, 8% said unsure
  • 100% said we are having a significant or moderate impact through our Access to Health Education and Professional Development initiatives 
  • 95% said we are having a significant or moderate impact through our Community Engagement, Resilience and Support initiatives; 3% said low impact, 3% said unsure

On the top three (3) health challenges or needs in our community:

  • 68% said anxiety and depression is a top concern
  • 53% said racism and discrimination is a top concern
  • 45% said aging and elder issues is a top concern
  • Other important concerns were loneliness and isolation, housing for healthcare workers, substance abuse, obesity and diabetes, and domestic violence

With regard to low-income residents experiencing the greatest challenges in receiving health-related services, the following groups were identified as having the highest need for funding (please note these were not ranked choices; people were asked to rate “highest, medium, low or unsure”):

  • 95% rated farmworkers with highest needs for funding
  • 76% rated Latine residents with highest needs for funding
  • 71% rated Indigenous residents with highest needs for funding
  • 58% rated pregnant mothers and children under six with highest needs for funding
  • 55% rated aging elders with highest needs for funding
  • Other groups identified with high needs were school age youth, Black residents, and LGBTQIIA+ residents

Retreat Activities and Top Themes
After sharing stories from the empathy interviews and reviewing the survey data, our next activity was to look at the Providence 2023 Community Health Needs Assessment, focused on northern Sonoma County, which was based on a series of community listening sessions conducted by our partners at On the Margins for Providence. The report identified five major Priority Needs for the next three years:

  • Behavioral Health and Substance Use
  • Access to Health and Dental Health
  • Homelessness and Housing Instability
  • Aging Issues
  • Racism and Discrimination

Afterwards, Demarest led the group of 24 in a creative visioning process, and the top themes and strategic priorities that emerged were:

Karin Demarest with board members Mona Hanes, Anne Morrison Rousseau and Kathi Safford

❖ Expand Health Access

❖ Build Coalitions & Resources

❖ Diversify Board & Staff

❖ Value & Invest in Healthcare Providers

❖ Build the Wellness Network

❖ Engage in Community-based Advocacy

❖ Conduct Research & Respond to Needs of Aging Population

❖ Find Ways to Support Farmworkers

Actions in Motion

We are pleased to report to you here the following ways, as of late February 2024, that the Healthcare Foundation is already engaged and moving forward with the above priorities we identified in October:

  • Collaborating with, and making grants to, multiple nonprofit healthcare providers, including our Federally Qualified Health Centers and Community Based Organizations in northern Sonoma County, with a goal of finding new ways to expand that work
  • Building power through co-creating – along with 9 nonprofit partners so far – the Northern Sonoma County Nonprofit Coalition. Our first collaborative action began in November, when we came together to advocate as a group for emergency funds from the County for local farmworkers
  • Further developing the Wellness Network in Cloverdale, Windsor and now Healdsburg. Here is the fabulous report from On the Margins for Nuestra Comunidad Sana in Cloverdale.
  • Co-sponsoring, along with Community Foundation Sonoma County, Peter E. Haas, Jr. Family Fund, and SRJC Foundation, Nonprofit Advocacy 101, to be presented to 75 nonprofit leaders on February 29th – An event which I’m thrilled to say is SOLD OUT! We will be looking to reporting on that event next month and more workshops soon.
  • Our new SCAN Foundation grant (described further in this month’s newsletter), which makes possible an 18-month effort to explore the drivers of health inequities for low-income, older adults in Cloverdale. Representatives from six local partner organizations and at least 10 low-income, BIPOC seniors will meet monthly for this project.

I hope this report provides you with inspiration to keep supporting the mission and work of the Healthcare Foundation. Your support makes all our health justice efforts possible. We are grateful to Karin Demarest for her creative approach to eliciting our collective vision – and appreciate all of you for coming along with us on this journey as we evolve to meet the changing needs of our beautiful, diverse and vibrant community.

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