Rider-Pool Foundation Fellows reflect on their training in the Collective Impact Community Fellowship Program

When The Board of Directors of The Rider-Pool Foundation decided to create The Collective Impact Fellowship Program in 2014 it set the stage for a unique approach to collective impact efforts.

Its goal was to effectively address and measurably improve the complex quality of life challenges within neighborhoods surrounding the downtown Neighborhood Improvement Zone through a new system of non-profit leadership.

The Fellowship brings together local leaders representing a diverse range of community-focused issue areas. It increases effectiveness by encouraging collaboration amongst organizations, provides tools for meaningful collaboration, and creates win-win strategies driven by a comprehensive approach to community development.

We asked some of the Fellows from years 1 and 2 to reflect on their training and to tell us how it has impacted their work in the community ever since.


 

Samantha Goodrich, Manager of Health Systems Research & Evaluation

Department of Community Health

Lehigh Valley Health Network

 

  1. What was the most important thing you learned about Collective Impact during your time with the Fellowship?

During my time in the fellowship, I learned what it takes to really bring collective impact to life. Collective Impact provides a useful framework for thinking about how to approach complex social issues. It challenges many of the assumptions we often unconsciously work from and reframes the conversation to focus on true collaborations across sectors.

  1. How has your Fellowship training benefitted you and the organization you work for so far?

The Fellowship training benefitted me in that it provided me with a new frame or lens through which to think about my work in the community. I developed leadership and community engagement skills through my time in the Fellowship among other skills for collaboration. I am then able to bring that into my daily work. In addition, it enabled me to connect with many leaders in the Lehigh Valley, who are now colleagues and collaborators in the work we do.

  1. What collective impact projects are you currently working on or are you planning for the future?

Currently, both the Allentown Children’s Health Improvement Project and Regional Integrative Collaborative for Healthy Youth have elements of Collective Impact.

 


 

Hasshan Batts, CSW, CADC, Trainer and Trauma Specialist

Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley

 

  1. What was the most important thing you learned about Collective Impact during your time with the Fellowship?

I learned of the power of local, collaborative focus. The fellowship increased my understanding of the possibilities when cross-sector leaders put their organizational hat to the side, lean into their community member identity, and align around the issues that impact our communities.

  1. How has your Fellowship training benefitted you and the organization you work for so far?

My fellowship training supported our organizational belief that impacting health outcomes occurs primarily outside of the four walls of the health center and requires addressing the social determinants of health.

  1. What collective impact projects are you currently working on or are you planning for the future?

We received recognition as a Mutual Aid Network pilot site and our looking at designing a Center of Excellence, implementing Neighbor-to-Neighbor care teams to support our neighbors living with opioid use and developing a training institute to support the leadership of those most impacted by the issue.

 


Julia Kocis, Director

Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center

Office of the District Attorney

County of Lehigh

 

  1. What was the most important thing you learned about Collective Impact during your time with the Fellowship?

There were probably two things that were important takeaways for me. Keep your projects small and focused to start, and learn how to cultivate relationships outside of your sector. It’s important to get some small, quick wins before bringing on too many partners for the sake of building a collective impact project; it should not be a forced experience. Once the relationships are established, and each party understands what the other is working toward, the collective impact part should happen organically.

  1. How has your Fellowship training benefitted you and the organization you work for so far?

I use the skills I learned from the Fellowship daily. Aside from the education on core topics such as impact strategy, project design, and evaluation for cross-system collaboration, I also gained better skills for relationship building across sectors, fostering trust, and the ability to carefully discern project-funding opportunities. All of these improve employee contribution, directly benefiting my organization.

  1. What collective impact projects are you currently working on or are you planning for the future?

Our class of Fellows is continuing its work on the Building Bridges project, which uses photography as a means to identify issues in the community, and provides opportunity to address them through facilitated discussions. I am also involved in a few other projects that are gaining collective impact momentum: data sharing infrastructure improvement using a mental health data analysis prototype, and initiatives surrounding human trafficking in Lehigh Valley.

 


 

Additional comments from Fellows:

“I’m looking at issues and projects with a different lens. I’m much more open to bringing partners to the table and utilizing a Collective Impact framework.” – Pamela J. Russo, M.S.W., M.S., Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Executive Director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown

I learned the importance of understanding a community and not doing “to” a community, but rather working “with” a community instead. While I understood that in theory previously, through the Fellowship program I have received some tools to implement that concept in practice.” – Susan Bartels, CEO Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley

“I am using practically everything we learned about in my work with the Delaware River Watershed Education Network.” – Dan Kunkle, Executive Director Lehigh Gap Nature Center

“We have learned to approach problems differently and to work in collaboration.” – Deb Cummins

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