MAPP: collective impact is key

[Published in the Homer Tribune on 4/1/15]
By Chelsea Alward

HOMER TRIBUNE/Chelsea Alward Representatives from community organizations offer brief presentations about successful initiatives around Homer during a March 27 MAPP community meeting. What do climate adaptation, domestic violence prevention, and watershed restoration have in common with one another?

Among many others, each is a relevant issue in the community and presents a challenge that the people of Homer have risen to meet.

A facilitator of the conversation, Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership offered a community meeting on March 27, to weave a tapestry of “collective impact,” initiatives changing the health landscape in Homer.

“I was watching Finding Nemo with my daughter,” began MAPP Coordinator, Megan Murphy. “And I don’t know if you remember the scene where all of the fish are trapped in the net at the very end… and they keep saying ‘swim together, swim together.’”

Murphy reminded the group of the success of the fish in the story, offering the encouragement that the fish won and got out of the net “because they were all going in the same direction.”

“That truly is what we are trying to do,” said Murphy smiling.

Nearly 50 members of a wide-range of organizations met to discuss the true meaning of collective impact; and the ways in which many initiatives are already accomplishing just that.

Collective impact, Murphy explained, is composed of five measures; a common agenda; shared measurement; mutually reinforcing activities; continuous communication; and backbone support.

“As you all can see, we all collaborate on a regular basis,” said MAPP steering committee member, Kyra Wagner motioning to the crowd. “But if you can get all five of these things going, then you’re going to have a smooth moving machine that is going to be able to show progress over time.”

Representing 12 organizations, leaders from all over the community shared bits and pieces of efforts pressing toward the goal of a healthier, more collective Homer, such as regular meetings, consistent newsletters, and activities that follow the organizational mission.

“Shared measures, shared language; it is so you can compare apples to apples,” said Murphy.
MAPP — a coalition in its seventh year — was created to develop and support a vision of community well-being, and could be considered the backbone to the cloud of organizations it is working to guide in the same direction.
Whether an organization has the aim to create recreational outlets, home health care, or preserve a community asset such as a watershed, all are contributing community well-being.

“We are working toward alignment with this big picture,” Murphy told the group. “And helping you and your initiative be better aligned as well… whether or not you know it, you are a collective impact partner,” said Murphy.

According to the coordinator, the two primary resources that MAPP offers to the community is an ongoing needs assessment, and community health improvement help. Long awaited, the time has finally come for a focus on “action.”

But action isn’t always an organization.

One shared measure that received special attention at the meeting, focused on the support provided to and by role models to create family resilience. The measure, stated as “the percentage of students who feel comfortable seeking help from at least one adult beside their parents if they had an important question affecting their lives,” is one that Murphy said is accessible to all, young and old.

“What is neat to me about it is that a lot of people don’t have the time or the availability to participate in meetings between kids and work, and whatever else they may be engaged in,” said Murphy in an interview. “But with that type of measure, the community can become more aware of how we can do simple things to create collective impact, that you don’t have to be part of a group to accomplish.”

A work session following the presentations provided for an hour and a half of brainstorming. Entities with a similar focus – such as public health or early education — came together and strategize for the short and the long term, sharing resources and searching for solutions to common barriers.

And, a new group focused on climate adaptation was born.

“I’d like to conclude the meeting by everyone just taking a moment to think about why you are here and why you are inspired to be doing what you are doing,” said Murphy. “I hope you felt the synergy in the room. It is so neat to hear all of the different things that increase family well being happening in our community.”

Homer Council On the Arts Executive Director, Gail Edgerly, offered her thoughts for the finish. “We are here because the power of working collectively is so much stronger and deeper than working alone.”