Community engagement is an important part of a comprehensive workplace wellness program. Employers gain many advantages by engaging in community partnerships, but how do you choose effective partners for your community engagement efforts?
Effective community wellness partnerships require strategic planning and ongoing communication. You want to find a partner(s) whose interest in and commitment to improving wellness is well aligned with yours.
How To Begin:
Look near your worksite—or in the neighborhoods where most of your employees live, if appropriate—for potential partners.
- Brainstorm a list of possible partners, including any schools, child care providers, youth serving organizations, places of worship, community centers, food pantries, farmers markets, medical facilities, and even fellow businesses.
- Prioritize the groups you are interested in working with, perhaps considering the following:
- Who might be most in need of, or interested in, wellness support?
- Can you identify any interest in wellness programs in the organization’s website, social media profiles, or other public materials? What other wellness initiatives does the organization seem to have?
- What audience(s) could be reached by collaborating with the organization? What size is the audience?
- Which organizations are well aligned with your company mission and/or services?
- Contact your top candidates and ask for a meeting to explore how you might partner to grow your wellness program and encourage healthy nutrition and physical activity in the community.
- As you meet prospective partners, ask questions such as:
- What are some of the food and activity concerns/obstacles for the audience you serve? What are your goals for improving health and wellness for these individuals?
- What type of health and wellness programs already exist here (or in the community in general)? For example, do you participate in any federally funded meal programs? Any programs that promote physical activity?
- What type of health and wellness programs have you tried in the past? What was successful and why? What was unsuccessful and why?
- Do you have a wellness policy or standards for your organization? What does it include? How is it enforced? What kind of support do you need?
- Weigh your options and decide which partner(s) are the best fit for your organization based on your goals, existing strengths, and potential impact.
Keys to Success
Before making a commitment to a partner or project, consider the following:
- Determine what you want to accomplish—jointly and as individual organizations, what each of you brings to the table, and what you want from each other.
- Set clear expectations about roles and responsibilities. What will you do, what will your partner do, and what results do you hope to see?
- Take time to learn each other’s language, culture, and decision-making process. Be aware of the strengths and challenges each organization has with regard to the shared project.
- Manage the partnership through regular ongoing communications with a designated contact from each organization.
- Identify and solve problems jointly. Be flexible. Continue to look for connections, areas of interest, and future opportunities as the relationship evolves.
- Establish an evaluation plan in the beginning. How will you gauge the success of your project? How will each of you document your process so that the work can be sustained, if desired? Create and adhere to a timeline for projects.
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“What can you do to support wellness in your community?” by Jump IN CEO Julie Burns
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