It only takes the right question to inspire a new direction.
1998 Questions around mental health spurred creation of the Mental Health Dissemination Network of Arizona with a broad group of stakeholders. Into the Light: A Search for Excellence in Arizona’s Behavioral Health System was commissioned. Results from that analysis guided ten years of publications and collaborative work.
2001 We asked what could be done to address significant African American health disparities. The long-running Heart and Soul initiative brought together the African-American Faith Partnership, the Black Nurses Association, Tanner Community Development Corporation and – ultimately – the White House to address issues of obesity and cardiovascular disease in African Americans.
2003 The question “how do communities tap into assets to foster health and resilience?” triggered the five-year, $5 million Health in a New Key initiative celebrating our ten-year anniversary. A strengths-based approach became our de facto starting point for all innovation and collaboration.
2008 An outpouring of feedback from our Balancing Act publication and follow-up conference drove formation of the Arizona Bioethics Network (ABN). The now-independent ABN convened its 6th annual conference in 2016.
2010 Throughout all 20 years, Vitalyst’s grantmaking efforts have evolved with many of the questions asked above. Since 2010, we’ve been asking who can drive the types of innovation and change that can shift Arizona towards healthier community environments. The food, transportation and housing sectors have become collaborating partners. Our approach of tapping into assets and strengths remains a clear focus.
2015 We began asking grant applicants to answer the question of how to innovate structural and/or systemic solutions that address root causes of good health and well-being. Their answers have been transformative, surprising and compelling. A case in point: International Rescue Committee’s Healthy Corner Stores Project.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED IN 20 YEARS: Innovation is a Game Changer
Collaborative community health innovation is a game-changer that not only improves lives, but transforms systems. In the best case, a more effective, equitable and sustainable path is paved that can emerge and spread as a national model. In every case, we look for the hallmarks of an approach that engages key stakeholders, willingly shares ownership and decision-making, and creatively optimizes community resources and assets.
In that regard, the future of innovation and collaboration is bright indeed.
WHEN YOU COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT. —Yogi Berra