Collaboration for Greater Impact in the Cowichan Valley

by Michelle Sandsmark

Addressing some of a community’s most complex issues is challenging, but the emergence of the renowned Collective Impact framework has sparked new ways of thinking to dig deep and develop innovative ideas so communities are successful in achieving their goals.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District and Our Cowichan Communities Health Network (OCCHN) hosted a full-day Collective Impact workshop in May.  

Cindy Lise, the OCCHN Facilitator, arrived early to the venue. She arranged the tables, made sure fresh fruit and snacks were prepared, and plenty of coffee was available. This workshop marked the first day to a long-term process that will transform the health and well-being of citizens throughout the Cowichan Valley. Cindy knew this day was going to be hard work, yet extremely rewarding.

“There is a strong desire to tackle some of our region’s most complex and challenging issues. When we learned about the Collective Impact Framework we knew that we had to learn more about this together. Word of the training spread quickly and we could have doubled the number of participants.” Cindy Lise, Regional Facilitator – Our Cowichan

“This session was just the beginning of how the Cowichan region changes the way we plan together, work together and improve health outcomes across the Valley.” — Cindy Lise, Our Cowichan

Over 40 people from various sectors attended the event. They were seeking a new approach to address five key community priorities: physical literacy, climate impacts, homelessness, mental health, and safer pregnancy.

As the day progressed, each of the five tables honed in on the root cause of their priority issue, and began developing a ‘Theory of Change’ to address this issue. This workshop challenged each table to collectively identify the issue before identifying strategies. When strategies are implemented before clearly identifying the issue and the overarching goal, this can often result in scattered, ineffective actions.

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The workshop participants left the day with a lot to think about. “We are moving forward just by being here,” stated one participant, “The value of collaboration for our community will grow each day we move forward”.

Over the next six months some of the groups will receive coaching to help them solidify their Theory of Change, and in the fall they will all be convening again to take steps forward in creating strategies to address their issue and ways to measure the impact of their strategies. While this process can be perplexing in the short-term as it requires a very different way of working across sectors than many organizations are accustomed to, the long-term outcomes  can have a profound impact in the community 

The OCCHN is a catalyst for action in the Cowichan region to address issues of well-being and the determinants of health. This vast network includes people from all sectors including Island Health, the First Nations Health Authority, local government, and multiple non-profits.

To learn more about Collective Impact and other workshops offered by PlanH visit our Workshops section.

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