Breakdowns to Breakthroughs #1

A Series of Reflections on the Way to Wellville

Periodically we’ll poke our heads out to offer our perspective on what’s happening in Wellville – what’s working, what isn’t and what’s in between. As our involvements deepen in our communities so does our understanding of the complexity of the work that lies ahead. Writing about it helps us see it more clearly, and if others benefit from these dispatches, so much the better.

While we’re seeing some successes, what we’re mostly seeing are the breakdowns that seem inevitable when groups of people come together to do work worth caring about. And while the word breakdown can have less-than-positive connotations, we’re using it to point to the necessary precondition of a breakthrough.

Lest it seem we’re pointing a finger at our communities, a short recounting of a couple of breakdowns the national Wellville team’s worked through. First, and almost two years into the journey, we came to the difficult decision to end our working relationship with one of the original Wellville communities: Niagara Falls, NY. They are doing important work and we wish them well, but the direction they’re taking (focused on the built environment) isn’t quite in sync with ours.

This decision compelled us to sharpen our understanding of what we’re doing and why, and also freed up valuable resources with which we’ve been able to entertain possibilities for a new community where our work is a better fit. (More on the results of this exploration in a future update.)

And second, originally we had ambitious expectations for how long it would take for our communities to achieve positive health outcomes. So in recognition of the complexity and extent of the work they’re undertaking, we’ve extended the term of our engagement from five to ten years. If we succeed by the end of our allotted 10 years, we may disband, or we may turn into an advocacy organization.