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National Meeting on Wheels (Road Trip)

 
 
 

By Gary Gunderson

You’ve been in those rooms with the rows of chairs and some dude giving a speech you could have watched him give in three variations on YouTube with the same depth you could have gotten from reading the forward to his book. Two jokes. A PowerPoint. Maybe an embedded video clip, if he’s getting a big honorarium. Then a panel of pretty interesting people who probably aren’t on YouTube doing something you might actually be curious about. In fact, they’re doing something amazing in a town you wouldn’t expect. Collaboration for the poor… in Lubbock? What? Except they have 10, maybe 14 minutes—a bit shorter than amount of time your doctor spent with you recently. So you don’t really know how it happened. On to the next panelist.

Instead of flying to a “national meeting” at one of those hotels where you can’t tell if you’re in DC or Seattle, what if you had coffee with the circle of grounded geniuses doing the work in Lubbock, or Abilene, Tyler, Yuma, San Bernardino or Floyd? What if you could sense their passion and realize why they care so much—because you can see the place they love. You might find yourself getting braver, not just smarter. And you might have new eyes for your own town, too.

To a large degree the movement that captures our heart and mind is now mature enough that everything we hope for is already happening. Every hospital knows it should be doing “population health” and engaging the “social determinants” just as every public health agency knows it should be collaborating more. Somebody in almost any place large enough to think about having a Starbucks has begun to see their community in different ways. She might be a care manager of the local hospital thinking about how her care team is working on the very same streets and trailer parks as the public health nurses. The CEO and the head of United Way have heard in their Rotary Club meeting about “collective impact,” thinking that an odd way to describe what Rotary, Kiwanis and their prayer group have been doing for decades. When the public health director reached out to do a needs assessment, it wasn’t hard to notice that it coincided with what the hospital needed to do. The clergy groups have all been listening to their denominations talk about faith and health till all the parish nurses (now faith community nurses) are no longer in despair.

If you and I got in a Winnebago on the Pacific coast and drove to the Atlantic we could stop every single hour and talk to a group chipping away at the iceberg of despair with at least enough success that they deserved to be on one of the “national meeting panels.”

See2See Road Trip

On November 10 Stakeholder Health friends will do just that as we rev up the See2See Road Trip in San Diego and then learn our way 3,300 miles across the nation to Shaw University in Raleigh the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. In some places we’ll have meetings: American Public Health Association and 100 Million Healthier Lives in San Diego, Hatch Lectures at Shaw with Dr. William Barber. But even there we’ll do coffee and dinner within eyeball range.

It’s like a national meeting blown inside out, upside down and then put on wheels rolling through San Diego, San Bernardino, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, La Cruz, Carlsbad, Lubbock, Abilene, Dallas, Floyd, Tyler, Shreveport, Little Rock, Mound Bayou, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Cherokee, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh—and then, just to touch the water, Wilmington or Greenville.

We all know we need a movement and the movement needs to pick up the pace. So a number of organizations you probably think of as putting on national meetings are helping plot the course; Tyler Norris and the Wellness army, Bobby Milstein and the ReThinkers. Smart connected people from Public Health Law, APHA, National Academies of Sciences.

Who do we need to meet?

But maybe we’re missing something you know that could light up our imagination. Maybe there’s someone just outside one of those towns who doesn’t think they are a big deal—but you do.

And what would make you brave and smarter? We’ll be on the road the week after the elections. Maybe we’ll still have a constitution. I’m sure these questions will be alive:

  • How are communities becoming their own healers? What new roles are emerging in which people are knitting connections, building neighborhoods, advancing health close in where trust allows.
  • How are communities weaving collaborative webs across the bitter polarization of our times? Who are the unlikely weavers? The CEO radical, the public health turning on the whole public to it’s opportunity? Not just the “powers that be,” but the powers for what might be.
  • Where are the communities of spirit getting it right by making the way? Surely there is a 34-year-old pastor west of Abilene or an 83-year-old mother of the church showing us the way.
  • Where is the new language for all this emergence? I listen with ears tuned to the Leading Causes of Life, especially curious about how connections and new capacities are sprouting up. But I’m curious what language is working on the ground where the seeds need some help and the gardeners need each other.

Those questions don’t fit into a 10-minute panel slot. But we’ll have time for a couple cups of coffee—maybe barbecue—for a real conversation. We’ll be blogging, tweeting, podcasting and YouTubing all along the way, so you can follow. But why not help?

You might be along the road to to yourself. Maybe you’d like to drive some! Or maybe you’d just like to help design the journey. If you have some ideas, email Maureen Kersmarki (Maureen.Kersmarki@gmail).

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