DASH Mentee Meetup Goes Virtual

By Miriam Castro, Program Manager, Data Across Sectors for Health

On August 7, Data Across Sectors for Health held its first Mentee Meetup with members of its DASH Mentor Program Round 2 Awardees. The DASH Mentee Meetup served as an opportunity to 1) introduce Mentees to peers across 7 Mentor cohorts and 2) facilitate connections so that mentees have new ideas to try out in order to advance their project work plans. Based on feedback from last round’s awardees, it seemed important to provide additional opportunities for Mentees to interact with one another. Typically, this type of event would’ve been held in person but due to COVID-19, the event moved to a virtual platform.

“It was gratifying to host this inaugural virtual event and create a space for Mentees from organizations across the DASH Mentor cohorts to interact with one another. They heard some new ideas and were also validated in their experience that Mentees in other cohorts are facing similar challenges with stakeholder buy-in, generating momentum or gaining access to requested datasets. We look forward to hosting more opportunities for Mentees in the future,” says Anna Barnes, Program Director, DASH. 

To guide our programming, we surveyed our mentees to better understand the topics that they’d be interested in exploring. Based on their responses we designed four topics for facilitated conversations which were led by Mentors, members of the DASH Program Office, and subject matter experts from All In.

Guided Conversation Topics:

  • Role of community in creating community indicator dashboards
  • Overcoming legal and data governance barriers
  • Creating partnerships and gaining buy-in for momentum
  • Enhancing your collaborative governance model by incorporating a racial and health equity lens

In addition to creating a space for learning DASH also wanted to create an environment where mentees feel supported and comfortable engaging in conversation. That’s easier to do in person. Translating that to a virtual environment takes a new set of tools that most everyone is learning about right now.  Earlier this year Kalie McMonagle, Collaboration Manager with The Civic Canopy and a Mentor with the DASH Mentorship Program, led a two-part series on How to (Meaningfully) Engage Remotely. Her tips and tricks came in handy, but there’s always room for improvement that we’re thinking about for next time.

“Zoom’s breakout room feature helped us to facilitate those small peer conversations, and we used that registration data to ensure participants got that peer to peer connection and meet Mentors and Mentees from different cohorts, as well as really feel like there was someone who could answer the more technical aspects of their questions. Our facilitators were extremely helpful in setting the tone of each of the four breakout rooms and to emphasize that no matter where you are in your journey, participation was welcomed across the board,” said Susan Martinez, Program Associate, DASH.

Overall, the majority of the participants felt that conversations were useful to their work. Some comments include:

  • It was very helpful hearing about the challenges that other groups are facing and knowing communities are not alone.
  • Hearing similar issues in different communities and different approaches was empowering.
  • I got an example of a data sharing agreement to use; I learned what collaborative governance is and how collaborative governance could look in a meeting.
  • Addressing power dynamics is crucial to improve meaningful partnerships.
  • There were some resources shared during the meetings that I intend to review and potentially utilize.

Sarah Kennedy, Senior Manager Epidemiology & Evaluation with Generate Health STL and mentee with the Elevate Health cohort, expanded on her experience.“It was great to meet with various entities across the country and discuss current data sharing topics such as using a health equity and racial equity lens to enhance collaboration. I especially enjoyed how the facilitator exemplified methods for creating interaction among participants in this virtual world. I will be able to use these techniques to better engage community members around developing data profiles about key infant mortality topics in St. Louis,” she said.

The Mentee Meetup also gave mentors an opportunity to learn from each other. For some cohorts it offered an opportunity to connect as a group, which has been difficult to do this year.

Here’s what Bill Fulton, Founder and Co-Executive Director of Civic Canopy and mentor had to say:  “What I appreciated about the Virtual Mentee Meetup was the chance to listen to and learn from some of the fellow mentors on the project. I’ve so enjoyed our time over the past two years as we have shared stories about the art of supporting our mentees, but this was a chance to really see people in action as they shared their content expertise.  I gained a great deal from that, and also saw ways that our different backgrounds complement each other, and could provide the larger group of mentees with ever more coordinated supports than we’ve provided thus far.”

Bentley Moses, Program Manager, Center for Outcomes Research and Education and mentor added, “Our DASH mentees participated in the mentee meetup and it was great to see them engage with other mentees from across different cohorts. Our mentees have been in very different places within their diverse projects – creating a space where mentees could share across cohorts with others who had similarities in their projects was a great opportunity for folks to share resources. In combination with our online workshops and 1:1 TA calls, this time for mentees to collaborate across cohorts was a great add-value.”

The Virtual Mentee Meet-Up saw a total of 42 people in attendance, including 7 mentor organizations and 31 mentee groups.

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.