About 30 organizations have now formalized in writing their support for a New Brunswick collaborative on healthy aging. The collaborative stems from a 2012 summit which invited the public to share its dreams for the future of the province’s aging population.

The collaborative has framed its priorities around three key themes emerging from the summit: caring communities; continuing care; and consultation and contribution.

While ironing out the strategic side of this effort continues, the collaborative is also supporting the launch of some immediate activities “on the ground” through a process called social prototyping.

What’s to be learned from this effort to date? What’s enabled the willingness to partner amongst organizations that in some cases are competing for the same funding dollars? How has the initiative continued to sustain momentum?

Jodi Hall, director of operations for the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes (NBANH), has been actively engaged from the get-go. She suggests there was an environmental readiness for an effort of this kind but lessons can also be learned from how people have been intentionally engaged. The collaborative has also gained some insights on what’s necessary for sustaining momentum.

Engagement Lessons

When a group of long-term care providers were first invited to have a dialogue on healthy aging in New Brunswick, it was important that someone take the first step of breaking down existing siloes and generating the discussion.

At the time, the organizations operated in the same sector but had little to do with one another. Neither did the government departments with which they were affiliated. It was just how things were structured. There had not yet been a circumstance in which having a shared conversation was deemed necessary.

A graphic representation of the 2012 New Brunswick summit on healthy aging by graphic facilitator Avril Orloff.

A graphic representation of the 2012 New Brunswick summit on healthy aging by graphic facilitator Avril Orloff.

Once they did get together, the conversation was introduced by the NBANH as intentionally open about both successes and challenges.

“We didn’t try to put on any pretenses, we were very honest about our situation, the challenges we were facing, what was working but also what wasn’t working,” Jodi says.

Looking back now, she believes this approach was integral to building trust and generating a true dialogue which, in turn, has been at the heart of the effort’s achievements to date.

In addition to fostering trust, the initiative has been built on an intentional mindset that all of the groups’ work is equally important. Deep respect is held for the work of everyone at the table.

Another important element to forming the necessary partnerships was finding and building on the common ground amongst those involved.

By focusing the discussion more at the strategic level, as opposed to operations, the group found topics of interest and concern that could unite them.

“It didn’t take us very long for us to realize that a shared challenge was that things at a system level needed to be addressed,” Jodi says.

“(We realized) there is a bigger picture here and if we can fix the bigger picture then all of our individual operational matters will also be easier to address.”

As this understanding dawned, the group showed a willingness to put down their individual agendas for a time and embrace a shared agenda.

“We started to see a shared passion begin to emerge, and that’s a very powerful way to bond people together,” Jodi says.

Click to read Part 2 – Grassroots Healthy Aging Effort in New Brunswick Offers Insight on Success Factors

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Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

Editor’s Note: Charles Holmes has played an integral role as dialogue facilitator in this healthy aging effort. Click here to read about Axiom News’ partnership with Charles Holmes Consulting and the intent of the stories in this series.