The Health and Wellness Alliance for Children — a cross-sectoral, nonprofit group of community organizations focused on helping children achieve their health and well-being potential — has found that engaging local families is crucial to creating change in communities. Now, they are seeking not only to include families in making change happen, but also to put families at the center of determining where change needs to happen in the first place.
To engage families from Collin County, TX in identifying the major challenges that families face in their communities, setting a vision for where the Health and Wellness Alliance for Children can make the biggest impact, and working with the Alliance to co-create strategies to tackle these key opportunity spaces.
Collin County, Texas, is experiencing rapid population growth — and this is making growing pains visible. The county’s quantitative data shows that despite the reputation Collin County has for wealth and growth, many families are facing economic, health, education, safety, and other challenges. The Alliance and BIF are going beyond the data and working directly with families in Collin County to learn what their lives are like, where and why their families, neighbors, and friends face challenges, and what strategies might help address those challenges. In doing so, families will be at the center of pinpointing what the Alliance’s priorities should be, and how the Alliance’s member organizations can have the biggest collective impact in these opportunity spaces.
To identify the key opportunity spaces and tactical strategies the Alliance can use to address these challenges, we used a fully participatory approach. We worked with 10-15 families from across Collin County who each bring unique backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Through a 2-month long Participatory Design Studio in which they learned and used a design thinking process, these families identified the major challenges, explored them from the perspectives of others in their communities, brainstormed ways to address them, and iterated on their ideas.
The families utilized a variety of qualitative methods to uncover insights about their own lives and to better understand others’ experiences. Through interviews, observations, self-documentation journals, photo “scavenger hunt” journals, and guided tours around their communities, they gained a richer perspective of the lives of families in Collin County, and used these lived experiences to generate ideas about how to tackle the challenges families face. The Participatory Design Studio culminated in a community critique in which the families shared the opportunity spaces and strategies they’ve developed with their peers, members of the Alliance, and other community stakeholders. During this event, families received feedback on their work and started a conversation on community change with this wider audience. These ideas and insights will be translated into actionable, testable strategies and citizen-designed working groups for the Alliance. The families will be invited to continue to work with the Alliance to shape their direction and keep families’ voices at the center of their ongoing efforts in the area.
Through a community-centric approach to identifying the challenges that families face, we believe it will be possible to surface a richer and more nuanced understanding of families’ actual experiences in Collin County. Furthermore, by co-creating strategies to address these challenges with families themselves, resulting approaches to tackling these opportunity spaces will be better aligned with families’ needs and address the roots of challenges they face. By keeping families at the center of the Alliance’s work, the Alliance will be able to deliver greater value in the areas that are most critical for families who live in Collin County.