• Steve Huffman

Improving Communities: Start With Your Smallest Community

I had the opportunity recently to speak with a large health system in Northern Indiana. They wanted me to speak about “Improving Communities” and left room for me to speak about whatever I felt might be important within that topic. With such wide boundaries to work within it allowed me to think about the gigantic concept of “community improvement” and I immediately thought about geographic regions like cities or large portions of populations. When you think about community improvement the natural tendency is to think big, isn’t it? When you consider improving large populations of hundreds, thousands or millions of people you start to think about what programs to implement, funding decisions and key metrics and it is easy to of a mission to improvement communities to become largely disconnected from someones everyday work.

If you look at the mission statement of health systems around the country it frequently points to community improvement in some way. When you ask their employee’s how their specific job, at a day to day level, helps to advance the mission (let alone do they know what their mission statement is), they frequently can’t make that link – it becomes an ethereal concept. How does going to meetings everyday really improve our community? How does cleaning this patient room improve our community? If your mission statement isn’t directly linkable to someones everyday work in some way it is difficult to really advance your mission.

If you look at how Jesus dealt with community, he generally dealt with the smallest form of community – changing one person, or a small group of people which then infected the entire community, and the world around him. It got me thinking…. What if we thought of community as every interaction that we have around us with other people? Don’t you enter a community every time you enter a patient room – it’s the community of the family in front of you. You enter a community every time you deliver a meal to a patient room, visit a person at home with a homecare visit, schedule a patient visit, clean a patient room, document a visit in the electronic medical record. We enter a community when we have a meeting with our co-workers, we enter a community when we give a performance evaluation. The reality is we are a collection of communities, small and large, and we interact with communities all day long. If we thought of improving communities as improving the interactions we had every day with groups we work with the mission of “improving our communities” our mission would take a who new meaning. It would make the ethereal concept of community and make it tangible for every person in the organization.

It is my belief that without the thought of improving communities at the every day interactions with small pop-up communities all around us, an organization will never be able to improve large community populations.

Here are 6 ways in which an organization can start improving communities at the day-to-day level that will more rapidly start to improve larger communities. Using these you can tap into the potential of thousands of everyday interactions which cumulatively improve the geographic population you live in. As you read through this list, think through the small communities (interactions) that you have every day.

You can improve community if you….

  1. Realize you are not the most important person/department/organization in the community

  2. Build the community up, don’t tear it apart

  3. Discover and encourage the gifts of other community members

  4. Unlock your own gifts and give your all

  5. Participate in your community with joy

  6. Leave your community better than you found it

These are great lessons from best management reference around….The Bible…. Specifically from Romans 12:3-8