Event Summary – Community Tool Box Training: Collaboration & Leadership to Improve Oral Health

Health advocates from around the Commonwealth joined the Coalition team this summer for a two-day training in Richmond. The event, “Collaboration & Leadership to Improve Oral Health,” was led by an expert from the University of Kansas Community Tool Box program, who has worked with other state and local oral health coalitions around the country to give them the tools to grow and nurture diverse stakeholder groups, develop sustainable programs, and share leadership skills to ensure engagement and ongoing participation. During the event we discussed opportunities to create change in our communities, and learned more about Community Tool Box online resource center, a free resource that equips community advocates to create social change.

If you were unable to attend the training, below are some top takeaways that can improve our collective efforts to ensure all Virginians have access to affordable, comprehensive health care.

1. Create leaders for today and tomorrow.

No matter the role we play in our organizations we are all leaders in our communities in our efforts to create social change and a healthy Virginia for everyone. We discussed what makes a good leader through the lens of the nine core tasks of leadership and  Community Tool Box worked with all of us to identify our leadership skills, like our ability to motivate others or establish goals. During this discussion we had a great brainstorm on the value of building a generation of future leaders, starting today. Participants shared how creating junior boards and steering committee seats for young advocates can encourage leadership development at a young age and create a pipeline for future leaders.

2. Make your goals tangible.

Community Tool Box provided insights and tips on how to create goals to make the work we do manageable. We practiced the vision, mission, objectives, strategies, and action plans (or “VMOSA” process) throughout the training and found it is applicable to the work we all do. To put the VMOSA process in context, participants split up the goals in the “Inventory of Community & Systems Changes for Oral Health” to identify strategies that stood out as important or immediately actionable. One group, who had the goal to reduce the prevalence of dental disease in Virginia through prevention activities and early diagnosis and treatment, chose to focus on the objective to ensure all Virginia children have access to a dental home by age one. To make that objective actionable the group suggested a strategy of creating a “Brush, Book, Bed” campaign with early childhood service providers like WIC and Head Start to encourage children to brush their teeth nightly.

3. Create a diverse coalition.

During the training we discussed the importance of building a diverse coalition that includes the “unusual suspects,” those that might not otherwise come to your organizations but are vital to it. Participants discussed how incorporating community members into their initiatives has been vital to past successes, highlighting how stories that come directly from those affected by an issue carry the most weight with decision makers, and how we can better engage a diverse coalition. Changing meeting locations and times to account for public transportation and work hours was an area of focus to make sure attending meetings would be accessible to everyone, and creating environments that would feel open and inviting to all by reducing acronyms and jargon were key focus areas for engaging all stakeholders in organizational work.

4. Everyone can be an advocate.

Advocacy plays a part in the work we all do. Community Tool Box shared the “20 Guidelines for Effective Advocacy,” and participants discussed the different ways they’ve advocated for change. A common theme for successful advocacy was conveying to legislators the importance and impact of your work. For instance, CHIP of South Hampton Roads shared an advocacy initiative where they invited legislators to accompany home visitors on their visits to area families. By getting legislators involved in the experience first-hand, they were able to dispel any misunderstandings of their work and highlight its importance.

5. Develop partnerships to reach your mission.

Throughout the training, we had a chance to hear about partnerships that worked for organizations around the state, and for me, the key takeaway was to never stop exploring partnership opportunities. For example, while Daily Planet Health Services was working with the Richmond City Health District (RCHD) on an unrelated project they learned that a RCHD mobile dental van was not being used. Because of the partnership they had already built through other work together Daily Health Planet Services was able to take over operations of the mobile dental van. Other participants shared how co-locating services reduced overhead costs and how working with local government offices led to new volunteer bases. Working together and building partnerships not only saved on resources, but also helped to open new doors and highlights the importance of always communicating and always sharing new ideas, whether with existing partners or potential new partners, you never know what doors might open.

We hope to see you at our next event! To see upcoming events in your area, visit our event calendar. And, be sure to register for our monthly update where we share upcoming Coalition and partner events around the state.

Take a look at all the photos from our event and thank you to all who attended and were a part of this great event!