It has been said that networking is both an art and a science; but at Clinton Global Initiative meetings, it is the opportunity for impact. Over the past several years I have had the privilege of working with the team at CGI on issues such as redefining “First Responder” assumptions for humanitarian relief in Africa, and rethinking refugee response paradigms in the Middle East.
Most recently, their collaboration-based platform has helped me to explore ways to improve conditions in Flint, MI. The scope and scale of possible impact is limited only by the time in a day. I have never been in a place where everyone you meet literally wants to work with you to make positive change – and do so in some of the most impoverished communities on the globe.
In February, my organization, Children’s Health Fund, attended our first CGI Winter Meeting; it was an opportunity to introduce myself in a new role and to speak to like-minded people intent on making a positive change in the United States and abroad. The team at CGI, recognizing that newcomers to global forums like this may need some added orientation, arranged a new member breakfast to introduce the CGI leadership and talk about how to best maximize the CGI platform. As both a veteran (from previous roles) and a rookie, I spoke about the convening power of these meetings and encouraged all who attended to lean in, be both interested and interesting, and not to run out of business cards.
I walked away from the CGI Winter Meeting with about 100 new contacts and a broad range of possible partnerships – although our work was not done. Over the next several months, we prioritized the possible partnerships and began serious discussions with both foundations and corporations about how to best work together.
As a direct result of the CGI connection in February, Children’s Health Fund recently hosted Barry Segal, President of the Segal Family Foundation, and his team from Focus for Health, at our program site in Newark, NJ. We together visited Pennington Court, a public housing complex in Newark’s East Ward, and as soon as we arrived, you could see and sense the challenges that children and families faced. The average annual household income barely tops $11,000 in this community, and drugs (and drug related violence) are common. Data continually proves that economically vulnerable children experience serious health disparities, including higher incidence of acute and chronic health conditions, worse outcomes, higher mortality rates and difficulty accessing services.
But that is just the kind of challenge that Cindy Sickora, the Program Director for the Children’s Health Fund effort in Newark, and Barry Segal’s Focus for Health, were looking for.
Dr. Sickora, who has a doctorate in nursing practice, believes positive changes are underway and that health care is a big part of the movement. At our program visit, Dr. Sickora introduced us to her secret weapon: a team of community outreach workers who have visited every apartment in Pennington Court and two other public housing complexes to reach more than 1,000 families every year. When she and the Children’s Health Fund’s mobile medical clinic arrived on a recent morning at Pennington Court, families were already gathering for their appointments. It seemed like everyone was talking about health – good health.
Going door-to-door, the health workers, local residents themselves, help educate families about the mobile clinic, schedule appointments, conduct health screenings, and offer support to neighbors trying to lose weight, lower their blood pressure, get more exercise and follow the other medical recommendations. The community health workers are an important link to the mobile program and they were just the sort of community based approach that Barry Segal and his team were interested in supporting.
So now, working together, Children’s Health Fund and Focus for Health are adding a bit more hope, and support, to children and families in Newark. All through CGI – but it doesn’t stop there.
This past June, CGI America provided the platform for like-minded people, intent of doing something good and giving back, to again become more than the sum of our parts. Solutions to health care access for poor children and families in Newark; or questions how to sustainably deliver a supply of clean and safe water to children and families in Flint, MI will not be solved easily or singularly. It’s going to take all of us, working together, to make the positive change we want to see. And as with the CGI Winter meeting, the stage is set – we each walked away with an array of possibilities to work together – now it is time to make it happen.