In August & September of 2015 ACT for Social Justice worked with the NH Health & Equity Partnership’s Steering Committee to design two half day retreats. The goals of the retreat sessions were to:
- Identify and make recommendations to address power and privilege issues among Steering Committee members
- Clarify NH HEP mission and purpose in the context of Collective Impact
- Identify and outline a governance system that will lead NH HEP in alignment with the collective impact model
- Help NH HEP identify 3 priorities to focus on in the next year and develop a process for a complete update of the “Plan to Address Health Disparities and Promote Health Equity In New Hampshire”
During our two retreat sessions we opened up a relevant conversation about power and privilege and how it shows up on the steering committee. We did theoretical work about how power and privilege work, but also made it personal by telling our own stories. This surfaced real power issues in the group and we had the opportunity to talk openly about conflict and how it was impacting the work of the committee. We brainstormed ways to address conflict in the future, such as:
- Learning specific communication techniques such as giving & receiving feedback and using “Ouch”.
- Addressing offenses after each meeting to start healing process. Reach out to people you think were hurt.
- Avoiding sidebar conversations to prevent “clan formation”.
Having this honest and open conversation was challenging and healing. It is never easy to address conflict in a group, and often it is the only way forward. Having this conversation made it possible to then develop a truly equitable governance structure using a collective impact model. During this retreat the Health & Equity Steering Committee truly “practiced the equity internally that we seek to affect externally.”
By the end of the retreat a new governance structure had been decided on and there was also a plan for how to choose the 3 priority areas for the upcoming year. Their work is challenging and ongoing and so needed in a state with a growing immigrant population and increasing economic inequality. Thank you for your honesty, courage, and dedication.