An Experiment in Collaboration: The All In Chicago Regional Meeting

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In late November, three Chicago-based data-driven health collaborations came together to test a hypothesis: by engaging with similar initiatives to share experiences, lessons and common barriers, could they forge a coordinated path to move their work forward?

The three projects are supported by three distinct funders, but all are part of a nationwide learning collaborative called All In: Data for Community Health, which hosted a meeting to expressly cultivate connections among those working to capture, integrate, and use data from diverse sectors in a systematic way to improve health in Chicago. The projects represented included:

  • Health Forward / Salud Adelante (BUILD Health Challenge) is integrating legal, medical, and public health services to improve the health of the immigrant population in two target neighborhoods.
  • All Chicago Making Homeless History (Community Health Peer Learning Program) is improving care coordination for Chicago residents who are housing insecure or homeless by integrating electronic health record data with information about housing status.
  • Childhood Lead Hazard Data Sharing Across Sectors (Data Across Sectors for Health) is creating a predictive model that helps identify young children at risk of being lead poisoned in homes with lead paint.

After sharing information about their project aims and core components, participants noted common themes and shared challenges—from making the value case for data sharing, to developing flexible technological infrastructure that is accessible to multiple sectors. A few strategies that could support their work, and foster a more collaborative environment for data sharing in Chicago, rose to the top of the discussions.

1. Creating a directory of current data sharing efforts

There are many data integration projects in Chicago, but they often proceed in silos. This is attributable to the fact that such efforts are often funded through different mechanisms, involve different sectors, focus on meeting different end-user needs, and leverage different data assets. In many cases, however, there are several points of possible connection that, if missed, could preclude collective planning and action and diminish the impact of resources invested. Having a guide or directory that maps these various networks and resources could help projects to better coordinate where feasible, avoid duplication and learn from others.

2. Providing opportunities for cross-sector dialogue

Participants noted the need to bring health care, public health, social services, and other sectors together regularly to continuously compare and move toward harmonization of a common language and bridge cultural and organizational divides. Understanding what other sectors value is the first step towards aligning strategies to achieve common goals. In-person meetings also provide an opportunity to learn from others who have been down the same road and developed approaches to address technology, legal, and other barriers to data sharing.

3. Working together to improve long-term sustainability

Participants agreed about the need to galvanize funders in making long-term investments in data infrastructure and integration. Funding can be more impactful if it is used to operationalize data sharing rather than build short-term models where there is less incentive to address systems integration in a meaningful way. Participants also suggested collaborating on how to use the additional funds generated by cost savings from data sharing projects.

Charting a course for future collaboration

Attendees said that the Chicago All In Regional Meeting helped them to “see the big picture” and “get a sense of what’s going on in the city.” As All In network partners reflect on the meeting, they share an aspiration of advancing a broader agenda, structuring sessions around tangible tasks with concrete deliverables, and providing more unstructured networking opportunities to enable meaningful connections.

While getting stakeholders together to engage in substantive discussions was helpful in identifying common challenges and potential solutions, this is just a first step toward facilitating meaningful connections at the regional level and building collaborative momentum.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for next steps for future All In regional meetings, email us at allin@dashconnect.org.