Does Advocacy Work Lead to Real Change – Update on Texas Healthcare Campaign

The past year I have been working with Texas Association of Community Health Centers (TACHC) through their connection to the Leading Change Network. TACHC is an association that support Federally Qualified Health Care Centers in providing quality healthcare to Texans without health insurance. As a result of changes in the federal and state budgets TACHC asked me to work with them in designing and running an community organizing campaign that will engage patients to become advocates for their own access to healthcare.  I have the opportunity to work with many folks building community-run movements but this campaign has been especially powerful for me as I grew up in Houston without health insurance. I had my sports physicals at Urgent Care facilities, secretly got birth control at Planned Parenthood and used babysitting money for medicine: this campaign hits home. In addition, I’ve been impressed with TACHC’s desire to create and implement a long-term solution for the community. They want to move from a purely institutional-led model of community health to one that shares power and decision making with their patients; this encourages long-term sustainability and creates opportunities for real change in people’s lives. Unfortunately, despite these intentions it’s been hard to design a full on organizing campaign when the primary goal, to secure funding for healthcare, was chosen by TACHC.

This challenge became clear this weekend at TACHC’s annual conference during meetings with their newly hired Community Organizer, Courtney Weaver. Courtney is great, she understands the importance of developing leadership and is asking all the right questions. This weekend she and I were doing some skills training, strategy coaching and debriefing her first two weeks with TACHC when Courtney asked about the difference between organizing people to achieve a desired policy change (field advocacy) and  organizing that begins out of  a community’s frustration. She’s correct to raise this tension, we aren’t giving the community 100% control and opening up all options to them because it’s essential that we address the funding gap  but we are trying to do this while building up the leadership of patients. Our question is; how do we successfully achieve shared leadership given this dynamic.

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Communal Healing – Sermon on John 9

Today I had the joy of being with St. Christopher’s Chatham, my sponsoring parish for ordination. Yesterday I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for this group and their willingness to wade through this process of discernment with me. I have inherited 6 new wonderful pseudo parents … which we all need.

Discernment Committee at St. Christopher's Chatham
Discernment Committee at St. Christopher’s Chatham


They also let me have the honor of preaching on the story of the healing of the blind man in John, chapter 9. When reading this gospel message I was struck by John’s attention to the communal nature of change. Rather than focusing the story on the individual’s transformation, John pays attention to the way that the blind man’s transformation agitates the power structures of the community. In my sermon, I tried to pick up on our unwillingness to look at change that way, we would rather continue to look as individuals as sinners or results of other’s sin rather than take account for our own part in the problem. In fact, when confronted with power shifts, we like the Pharisees would rather attack the person who changed or look for some one to blame than celebrate the miracle of healing! 

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Get Outside of Your Box – A Reflection on Work with the Leading Change Network

This summer I was lucky enough to be in Boston at the same time as the Leading Change Network’s First-Annual Conference. It was an amazing event where folks trained in the Ganz Organizing Method came together to share how they were practicing organizing in our individual contexts. One of the attendees was Chris Torres. Chris works with New Organizing Institute (NOI), he’s great. During his presentation on NOI he passed on one of his mantras. “Every day do something that nourishes your body, mind and soul.”

I loved it. At least the sound of it … putting it into practice was a challenge. Work just gets in the way: the deadline is “crucial,” a favor “necessary,” a coaching assignment “vital” for the health of the team … you know the story. I end up forgoing holistic care, especially the ‘mind’ part of that quote. I would imagine many of us fall into the same trap.

Why? I think it’s because we work our minds all the time. Daily we tax our brains: we crunch numbers, draft agendas, dream up strategy … but the mantra isn’t “work your mind, body and soul” it’s NOURISH your mind, body and soul. For me, this means I have to ‘get out of my box’ and use my brain in a way that I don’t during normal work hours.

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