When the Canopy started working with the Syringe Access Providers Coalition (SAP) in 2017, the group had a way of working together but knew that it needed to be stronger to be sustainable. Like many collaboratives, they knew the importance of working together, but not how. Boulder County Public Health contracted with The Civic Canopy for facilitation, strategic planning, coaching, and technical assistance to create that culture of collaboration. Building on the existing work and culture of the group, the Canopy team facilitated the coalition to develop a way of organizing themselves and their work.
Made up of state and local public health, advocates, providers, and people who used syringes, the group knew just how big the need was. Highly motivated, SAP wanted to get to the action and fast. Through years of experience, the Canopy knew that when a group jumps to action within the Community Learning Model without building a strong foundation, it can lead to a fizzle rather than a spark. The Canopy worked in a rapid cycle to develop tools and routines for this burgeoning coalition to adopt. Throughout the course of a year, the Canopy met with the group to:
- Set up guidelines for working with another
- Identify what the group need to start, stop, and keep doing
- Decide on key action areas
- Split into subgroups and develop work plans
- Revise the governance structure
- Set the stage for Collective Impact
By taking time for each step in the process, something important emerged. The individual’s SAP served, people who inject drugs, were not only at risk for illnesses like HIV or Hep C but also subject to layers of the stigma that could keep them from seeking medical care or being seen as people. The Canopy and the group worked to shift their language from “clients” or “users” to language the recognized each individual as a person. In this shift, they also worked to shift a larger dynamic where SAP was able to work with rather than for a given population. To reflect this in their governance structure, they created rotating roles where every person contributed by taking turns acting as the meeting secretary and chair. Once they had decided on a governance model, the Canopy coached a smaller leadership team to transition to the new model where leadership was spread throughout the entire coalition. The work with the Syringe Access Coalition completed left them poised to act as one coalition across the state, building a less fragmented network ready to make an impact.