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The Power of a Collective Approach in Camden

May 3, 2015 | Camden, Community News

Multiethnic Group of People with Colorful OutfitsSince New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden (NJPHK-C) became a presence in the Camden community, significant progress has been made in the partnership’s efforts to focus on policy and environmental change to reverse the rate of childhood obesity:

  • Camden schools and several faith-based service organizations have implemented wellness policies that guide food preparation and opportunities for physical activity.
  • The school district has earned the recognition “Breakfast in the Classroom Champion” by being among the 20 New Jersey districts with the highest percent of eligible students eating breakfast.
  • City parks in several neighborhoods have been reclaimed and refurbished by the residents and are now again sites for outdoor play.
  • More corner stores now offer healthy food choices.

These achievements are a tribute to the NJPHK-C coalition: Campbell Soup Company, the Food Trust, United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern NJ, and the YMCA of Burlington & Camden Counties. Together, these organizations along with other non-profit partners, community members, government officials and educators have risen to the challenge of making Camden a healthy community in which to live, learn and play.

Going forward, NJPHK-C and its partners will adopt a new model that offers even greater potential for impact. The model will address and focus on:

  • School wellness;
  • Active living and physical activity; and
  • Food access

The new model follows the principles of “Collective Impact” and embraces a new way of collaborating based on five conditions. Research shows that together these conditions can produce true alignment and lead to powerful results. The five conditions and the way in which they will influence the partnership’s operating methods are as follows:

  1. All five partners will agree to a common agenda to define the approach to the problem and solutions. They will continue to do the work of their own organizations, but when it comes to the common agenda, they will work as one.
  2. Continuous communication. They will meet regularly to talk through issues and solve problems and coalesce. In addition, when they communicate, they will speak with one voice to deliver the same message across the board, including the same branding and the same marketing.
  3. Shared measurements. Research on the collective impact model stresses that agreeing to a common agenda is useless unless accompanied by consensus on how results will be measured and reported. Consistency in collecting and measuring results will aid alignment, reinforce accountability and will let the partners learn collectively from their successes and failures.
  4. Mutually reinforcing activities. Each stakeholder brings unique resources and capabilities to the collective effort, and together, they will leverage those to accomplish the common agenda. Various stakeholders will be accountable for specific activities, and as a collective, they will reinforce each other’s activities and support each other in a more strategic way.
  5. Establishing a backbone organization that focuses on facilitating the work of the whole.

The charter now is to build the backbone organization. United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern NJ, and the YMCA of Burlington & Camden Counties are working together on this. The New Jersey Office of Faith-Based Initiatives awarded the collective an $80,000 Social Innovation grant and Campbell’s put up the 50% required match of $40,000. So with $120,000 to build the infrastructure, the partners are on their way.

All the partners feel confident that working within this collective impact model will enable them to be more mindful and more strategic. They also are making a strong effort to bring more people to the table, particularly expanding healthcare and business partners, so they can expand capacity.

This is an exciting time for Camden as the partnership explores the power and impact that collective leadership can bring to the city and its residents.

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