Connectivity During Quarantine- Virtual CIE Summit

Written by Denise Ponce-Gavarrete, Intern with Data Across Sectors for Health

As organizations pivot their work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that virtual meetings have become instrumental for fostering a sense of community and providing a space for vital conversations to take place, including those on equitable development and use of Community Information Exchanges (CIEs). The CIE Summit, hosted by 211 San Diego, convened key community organizations across the nation around discussions about the future of community collaborations and information exchanges. These discussions tackled the use of care coordination innovations to address the social determinants of health through an equitable approach.  As a firm believer in the power of building capacity and advancing health equity, DASH was proud to sponsor the attendance of over 30 participants and showcase learnings via  All In: Data for Community Health

As we collectively face a global pandemic in the midst of an election year, a statement that Dr. Rhea Boyd made during the CIE Summit’s Welcome Plenary: Community as a Catalyst – Using Equity to Power Collaboration, has become abundantly clear: individualism will not save us. Dr. Boyd’s powerful statement pushes against a dominant narrative that can be traced to the inception of the United States. Although individualism is celebrated and upheld as the gold standard in our society, now more than ever it’s important to push away from this narrative whether by collaborating with partners, centering the communities we serve, or checking in on our neighbors. In doing so, we promote system-wide transformations, become better practitioners, and connect with humanity.

“The dialogue on the concept of ‘digital understanding’ is a powerful way to change the narrative on utilizing community data to drive policy and systems change.  Data can be used to identify population level needs, but elevating people in that community as a primary catalyst to determine how services and supports are aligned is key. This is a commitment that ultimately honors the collective community and celebrates shared humanity,” says Amanda Cavanagh Senior Program Manager, Health Policy, Data Across Sectors for Health.

Although in-person meetings are unrivaled, the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have strengthened the desire and need for virtual meetings. The CIE Summit solidified the notion that multi-sector collaboration is a powerful tool for change. 

Although quarantine has proven to be challenging for many, technology and connectivity via virtual platforms has played a vital role in allowing us to connect with our loved ones, colleagues, and the communities we serve. These tools have also helped level the playing field by integrating the voices of those with limited access to services into important discussions related to the development and use of Community Information Exchanges (CIE’s). Our colleague Stephanie Johnson, Research Associate and HIT Specialist, from the Center for Data Management and Translational Research and Michigan Public Health Institute, expressed that although it felt less-personal, digital engagement has its perks when it comes to networking and sharing resources with potential partners. “It’s difficult to connect with someone virtually, especially when you don’t know that person. However, it was awesome to chat with people and just drop the links to our websites, rather than hoping that they would write it down.” 

During a time where social distancing is the norm, the CIE Summit harnessed the power of digital engagement through the Whova app. With over 800 people using Whova to access the Summit throughout three days, it became clear that organizations see the value of connecting, sharing wisdom, and harnessing a multi-sector approach for tackling public health challenges and adapting to meet those needs. The Whova platform provided an interactive way for participants to curate personal agenda’s, sign up for morning meditation sessions, network in virtual exhibits, and even attend virtual meet-ups with leaders. 

“We knew the Whova platform might be a learning curve for some people. We crafted a blog post and circulated it prior to the Summit telling attendees exactly where to find us and how to interact,” said Miriam Castro, Program Manager, Data Across Sectors for Health. “We wanted to make it easy for our audience to find us.” 

The breadth of available networking opportunities allowed for organizations and thought leaders to engage in informal settings and cultivate meaningful relationships. For instance, the All In Virtual Happy Hour saw 18 people in attendance, and the DASH Learning Lab and Lounge, open throughout all three days saw a steady stream of attendees visit for a chat. DASH also hosted two small conversations during the Disruption Dialogue on Wednesday afternoon, one on Community Networks and the other on Strengthening Social Services. 

DASH contributed to the CIE Summit by hosting four sessions which are available via the links to the recordings below: 

“It was a privilege presenting the work of the Health Impact Project along with All In at the CIE Summit. Getting a chance to virtually connect with a diverse audience about the changing landscape of multi-sector collaboration and data sharing was refreshing!   The Summit provided a platform to re-connect with partners working to foster community health outcomes and personally validated the work that I do daily in that we’re all pieces of a puzzle neatly fitting together to achieve better health, better policy, and better practices,”  says Ninma Fearon

Senior Associate, Evaluation Programs, Health Impact Project Program, The Pew Charitable Trusts, who presented on her work during the Communities Partnering with States on Social Determinants of Health session.

Keeping equity, capacity- building, and alignment at the forefront, these sessions provided useful information about engaging in collaborative work, and illuminated the experiences of DASH grantees who are grappling with these concepts within their own work. 

Overall, the CIE Summit allowed participants to connect with thought leaders and like-minded organizations seeking to drive equitable solutions. It also provided a space for participants to come together to grapple with their struggles, and celebrate their successes through mediums such as song and poetry. DASH foresees that the future will include more virtual meetings and conferences. Our hope is that the summit left attendants feeling hopeful, inspired, and ready to take action. If you wish to stay connected, and contribute to this ongoing conversation, please visit the All In Website to discover additional ways to get involved. 

 Save the date! The All In National Meeting goes virtual on Dec. 8 – 10, 2020. We hope to use the lessons learned from the CIE Summit, and uncover additional tools that can allow us to support meaningful digital engagement.