By Lori Freeman
Chief Operating Officer, AMCHP
I've heard a lot of talk recently at small group meetings about not only the value of sharing best practices, but the equal value of sharing worst practices.
This is not necessarily a new idea. In 2009, at the height of the great recession, FailCon was created. This is an entire conference dedicated to failures in the technology field. I've found the concept fascinating. The premise of FailCon is that we're all pretty smart, we all put time and effort into creating success in our lines of work, but sometimes things just do not work out. Sharing stories of what doesn't work is just as valuable as knowing what does work. The FailCon motto is: Stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it.
What, you might ask, does this have to do with this Pulse issue on alignment and collaboration?! Back in 2015, the AMCHP board of directors, with significant input from AMCHP's grassroots members, partners, and constituencies, added an alignment goal and objective to our strategic plan:
AMCHP will influence the alignment of resources at the federal and state levels to improve and increase support for maternal and child health.
This was to be accomplished through a three-pronged approach: gathering and promoting innovative, solutions-focused approaches around alignment of resources; increasing the ability of programs to function at (or toward) the collaboration level; and increasing opportunities for individuals to receive services across multiple programs in a seamless manner by providing leadership, technical assistance, best practices, and resources to the states.
We collectively agreed there was great importance in trying to get federal agencies to think about aligning maternal and child health programs within and across agencies and with state and local maternal and child health (MCH) efforts. If we could make some movement toward solving this dilemma, significant efficiencies might follow in terms of leveraging funding to accomplish more, identifying common priorities for MCH, removing duplicative efforts, and ultimately achieving better results. And if we could do it with governmental public health, we may as well to try to do it with national nonprofits who also share common goals in MCH. Win, win, win.
After over two years of working on this alignment goal, we've learned a number of things from what we have not been able to accomplish. It may be time for MCH FailCon! A few examples of lessons learned might include understanding our actual spheres of influence, being honest with ourselves about what is in our control to change, and rethinking how we can further MCH priorities across large numbers of partners with similar interests but limited time.
Even though alignment from the perspective of our own goal to influence change has proved to be more difficult than we expected, I am impressed with the number of stories and examples of alignment we are able to share in this issue of Pulse. These stories alone demonstrate creative ways we can revisit and recraft our goal around things we can accomplish. As we move into our next strategic planning process later this year, I'm encouraged and excited to face where we've struggled, and I feel comfortable allowing those experiences to inform our next set of strategies. If you have examples where you've learned from your failures, share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll share them in a future issue of Pulse.