Business and public health both have much to gain when they work together to champion health equity in their communities. That’s the idea behind Innovative, Multi-sector Partnerships for Community Transformation (IMPACT) in Public Health, which kicked off this spring and recently held an in-person convening in Bethesda, Maryland.

Over two days, members of the five inaugural IMPACT communities gathered to network, build their skill sets, and brainstorm solutions to local challenges. The convening marked a milestone for the de Beaumont Foundation’s business and public health partnerships portfolio, which supports opportunities for these sectors to innovate together.

“We’ve been on a learning journey and we do not have all the answers. But we have been exploring…how businesses can advance public health and how public health can build effective partnerships with business. This project is part of our learning journey,” said de Beaumont senior program officer Katy Evans in opening remarks.

Slide from the San Juan Basin, Colorado team's presentation. On the left is a gif with Kermit the Frog with the text "SO excited for this" at the top. On the right is a word cloud with attendees' response to the question, "What are you looking forward to the most during this convening?"

A presentation from the San Juan Basin, Colorado team included a word cloud with attendees’ responses to the question, “What are you looking forward to the most during this convening?” Screenshot courtesy of San Juan Basin, Colorado team.

With each IMPACT team comprising representatives of local business and public health entities, cohort members will be collaborating across sectors and developing skills to communicate and make meaningful connections with one another. In a session led by Shavon Arline-Bradley, founding principal of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions LLC, attendees received a crash course on the factors that resonate with business and public health leaders to get at the “WIIFM” — “what’s in it for me?”

“You need a both/and strategy in this work,” Arline-Bradley said. “In order to address all of the areas that are of value to all of the parties at the table, you’ve got to connect this conversation of consequences and incentives as well as value and belief.”

In addressing the WIIFM, attendees were encouraged to uncover the “why” driving their projects, and shared aloud their motivations. They included caring for community, using one’s power to change the status quo, having the best response on the community’s worst day, and maximizing the potential of the next generation.

Five smiling women, members of the Arenac County, Michigan team and their technical assistance lead, stand against a rooftop balcony.

Members of the Arenac County, Michigan team and their technical assistance lead. Photo courtesy of Arenac County, Michigan team.

A conversation between de Beaumont President and CEO Brian C. Castrucci and Health Action Alliance Managing Director Stephen Massey reminded attendees why the IMPACT initiative fills such an urgent need. The pandemic experience underscored how business and public health depend on each other to serve their communities, and IMPACT seeks to further the relationships that took shape in 2020.

“If there’s any silver lining [to the pandemic], I think every company in America now understands that employers are part of a healthy ecosystem,” Massey said. “What I hope is that every public health organization in this community understands that they’re in the communications with us, and that employers are part of every public health response.”

In addition to hearing from experts across business and public health, IMPACT teams members dug deeper into their projects with the support of technical assistance providers and met with representatives of the Gramercy Research Group to discuss evaluation strategy. Attendees were also guided through creative problem-solving activities and participated in “speed dating” rounds to get to know de Beaumont staff across functions.

Taking the insights gained from the first in-person gathering for IMPACT, teams have returned to their communities with fresh perspectives and a renewed determination to address local challenges through cross-sector partnership. Through their participation in IMPACT, they are setting the groundwork for long-term, systemic change.

“We are preparing for the next pandemic, we are preparing for the world we want our children to grow up in, and we can’t do that adversarially. We’ve got to do it together,” Castrucci told attendees. “I hope we look back in 20 years on this meeting and say, ‘That’s where business and public health started talking together.'”

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