Alberni Clayoquot Health Network is a community-driven mechanism that speaks with a collective voice on regional and local health issues; builds partnerships and capacity; shares concerns, ideas and resources; and creates innovative solutions that impact the social determinants of health and support sustainable healthy communities.
The Alberni Clayoquot Health Network is focused on bringing community voices forward as they apply a social determinants of health lens to municipal decision-making.
They have shifted mindsets and created space to think outside of the box with new partners by ensuring that community voices are at the centre to their direction. For this reason, the Network’s leadership table has the task of finding the resources to support those decisions.
In 2015, the network took on being more intentional about engaging with people living in poverty, to start, by articulating four action-oriented equity-building mechanisms:
- Developing a communications and engagement plan that depicts how they engage from the grassroots level through decision-making and resourcing
- Being intentional about representation at the table and in the community voice, including how they overcome tokenism and ensure that participation is meaningful
- Adopting consensus-based decision-making, making sure meetings are facilitated rather than simply chaired and reconsidering how power can be shared with communities, and to ensure that community ideas are integrated to practice
- In agenda planning, making sure that they build in the time for relationship-building and are intentional about it, particularly with local rural and First Nations communities.
In developing the Network’s poverty reduction action plan, they noted that most feedback received from the community was around racism and equity. For this reason they embedded a framework that was adopted from a Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) paper Equity in Sustainability: An Equity Scan of Local Government Sustainability Programs.
The USDN resource centres equity in four principles:
- Procedural Equity (inclusion)
- Distributional Equity (access)
- Structural Equity (dynamics)
- Transgenerational Equity (impact)
Seven years later
In the seven years since the Alberni Clayoquot Health Network prioritized this work, they are just starting to see their relationship-building efforts paying off. They have also developed a strong foundation of trust, and now have access to a wealth of diverse people and stories that can help educate decision-makers – particularly since decision-makers in the organizations the Network works with do not always reflect the diversity of the populations they serve.
The Network now sees several opportunities as they transition to a more active phase of their work:
- Applying an equity lens in planning, engaging, and prioritizing the needs of those most affected by decisions
- Increasing community education and action around Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action and the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Researching and supporting the development of interventions in physical, social and mental health that address the stigma associated with mental health, race, gender and income
- Developing a human rights-based equity framework with guidelines around how municipalities could action it
- See other posts in our blog post series on Centering Anti-Racist and Equity Frameworks in Anti-Poverty Work
- Read more in the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion section of the Communities Ending Poverty Communities of Practice Coaching Library.