September 9, 2023; Collaborative Partnerships
00:13 MONIQUE BLOUGH, HOST:
Welcome to this episode of the Responsible Disruption Podcast. My name is Monique Blough, Project Director of the Social Impact Lab Alberta, with United Way of Calgary and Area. Today, I'm excited to be speaking with two amazing women who are tackling issues surrounding the aging population of our province. What's unique about the initiative we'll be talking about Healthy Aging Alberta, is how it's using a collaborative partnership approach to connect the various pieces of the sector towards improving the lives of our aging population in Alberta. So let me introduce our guests. First, I'd like to introduce Anne Smith. Anne holds a Masters of Public administration from Queens University and has 10 years of public sector experience, as well as over 30 years of consulting experience. She is the sole proprietor of J.A. Smith Research and Consulting Services Inc. and has designed and facilitated hundreds of conversations and workshops to support collaborative action, strategic planning, operational planning and program design. Anne’s client base includes both government and the nonprofit sector. For example, she has worked with the Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council and the St Albert Public Library and United Way of Calgary and area’s Healthy Aging Alberta. And has served on the Board of Edmonton Food Bank and the Terrace Center for Teen Parents. She currently sits on the board for Sage Seniors Association for Greater Edmonton. Welcome, Anne.
01:40 ANNE SMITH, GUEST 1:
Thanks for the kind introduction, Monique.
01:44 MONIQUE: Wonderful! Now let's move on to our second guest, which is Karen McDonald. Karen is the Executive Director at SAGE Senior Association and recently appointed Provincial Director of Healthy Aging Alberta. Karen's career has focused primarily on the field of gerontology, including a decade in senior supportive housing and more than a decade with Sage Seniors Association, which is a community-based senior serving organization that provides social services, community development and life enrichment programming. Karen is currently steering the ship of Healthy Aging Alberta, working with community-based senior serving organizations across the province to advance sector development to best meet the needs and build on the strengths of seniors living in the community. With the vision to make Alberta one of the best places in the world to grow older. Welcome Karen.
02:35 KAREN MCDONALD, GUEST 2:
Thanks so much, Monique, excited to be here with you today.
02:38 MONIQUE: I'm so happy to have the two of you. After reading your bios, I'm saying this is going to be an exciting conversation. You bring so much experience and credibility to the work that we're going to be talking about. So why don't we start off with you, Karen? So I think it's really important for our listeners to be grounded in this conversation. And if we want to start from a good place, why don't we explain what Healthy Aging Alberta is?
03:06 KAREN: Absolutely. Healthy Aging Alberta is a community led initiative that employs a collective impact approach to developing a unified community-based senior serving sector, and we often refer to that community based senior servicing senior services sector as the CBS sector. We like a good acronym. That can effectively support older adults to age well in the right place. The place that they're choosing that meets their needs. We work with other sectors like the health sector, housing, and government to improve health and well-being of older adults in Alberta. Like you said, to work together to make Alberta one of the best places in the world to grow older. Healthy Aging Alberta is a by community for community approach. It's led by a community leadership council made-up of representation from CBSS organizations right across Alberta, as well as older adults with lived experience. But it also benefits enormously from both the support of the United Way of Calgary, who acts as a backbone and critical infrastructure, and a champion for this important work, as well as a unique co-creation approach with the Government of Alberta, specifically the Ministry of Seniors and Community and Support Services and the Seniors Division within that ministry. Healthy Aging Alberta works to amplify the impact and value of the work that's already happening within the community based senior services sector to provide support to coordinate and create opportunities for collaboration and networking within the sector. We work to secure additional investment and resources to support that important work to support the capacity of CBSS organizations, to support work around public policy that impacts older adults and CBSS organizations, and to create things like communities of practice where these CBSS organizations can connect with one another and share information about the work that they're doing to improve again the capacity of those organizations to deliver those critical services within community for older adult.
04:57 MONIQUE: That's great. Thank you for summarizing what Healthy Aging Alberta is for our listeners. And it sounds like a very complex organization or initiative. And I think it'd be really great to understand how it started. Where did Healthy Aging Alberta begin?
05:16 KAREN: Yeah, it began in about, I'd say 2018 with some coffee meetings and some conversations between community-based organizations. Actually our colleagues within at the time, the Ministry of Seniors and Housing and it really emerged from a recognition that there was no organization at that time mandated to provide that backbone support, that coordination within the Community based senior service sector to create those spaces for us to come together, to share information with one another, to do public policy work together, to advocate for investment in these critical services to work together to improve the quality of services being provided with and for older adults in Alberta. To create opportunities for strategic planning and long-term planning. In terms of the demographic shifts that are happening in Alberta, we know that the number of older adults in Alberta are increasing and we need to plan accordingly. Those plans are occurring in other sectors like health and housing. In the community based senior services sector, we had no opportunity to work in a more coordinated fashion. As a sector, I wouldn't even necessarily at the time in 2018 have called ourselves a sector. And so those coffee dates turned into a more coordinated opportunity. And with support from the provincial government to go out into community and have engagement conversations right across the province. I think we had 24 in-person conversations everywhere from Grand Prairie all the way down to Lethbridge, and two virtual events and Anne was actually a facilitator for many of those events, and those conversations are really about understanding what were the needs on the ground of seniors as well as those community based organizations that were supporting seniors as well as allied organizations in that space, so that could have been Alberta Health Services or primary care networks. Our colleagues in FCSS, Family and Community Sports Services were very active in those engagement sessions, really understanding the landscape at the time.
And the question we were asking was, was there an appetite for a more coordinated approach? Was there an appetite for the creation of some sort of mechanism to bring ourselves together as a sector and to begin to work towards sector development, and the answer resoundingly was yes. And so we looked at the time towards our colleagues in British Columbia; the Healthy Aging BC initiative was really further ahead than we are here in Alberta. They're about five years ahead of where we are here. As inspiration for what was possible and the opportunity to look at the impact of that work was really helpful and continues to actually provide a lot of inspiration and support for our work here in Alberta. And so in early 2020, with support from Anne, we were able to develop a What We Heard Report and that was a really helpful document to begin to coalesce our understanding around what that coordinating mechanism might look like. And then in March of 2020, of course, the pandemic hit. And the impetus for bringing us together was even greater than at any time in our history. And so one of the things that was a priority that was identified in those engagement sessions was the need for community of practice that was virtual because of course, we're such a geographically dispersed province, many of the community-based organizations have limited resources to come together in person. And so in British Columbia at the time, they had a platform called Core BC and so we had an opportunity to leverage that technology to create Core Alberta with the support from the United Way of the United Way of Calgary and that platform initially was going to take about six months to develop and it was actually launched in only six weeks. So a huge undertaking and Core Alberta continues to be a really critical piece of infrastructure for Healthy Aging Alberta. And it creates a virtual community of practice, virtual hub for the sector to come together to share resources, to create groups out of specific topics of practice, whether it be intergenerational practice, whether it be supports related to transportation, resources like funding. The provincial government actually uses it as a place to share information about their resources and programs now. It's really become a critical piece of infrastructure for the sector.
And so throughout the pandemic, we really worked towards the development of governance structures, identification of strategic priorities for the sector. We did some system mapping and we really moved towards the priorities that were identified through those engagement sessions in the fall. And as we move forward through this work, the branding for Healthy Aging Alberta emerged. So we went from being the community based senior sector development work into a formal, Healthy Aging Alberta initiative. Again, United Way of Calgary continued to be a critical partner as the backbone for this work. So we are unbelievably grateful for that work and support that they have provided throughout this process.
10:23 ANNE: I would take a step back from Karen's answer because what she understates is the vision and passion of the four organizations that saw the potential for the sector and had no motivation to do this other than their belief in the power of the sector, the good work they could see and amazing commitment and I did facilitate some of those very early conversations. And when you facilitate, you have your outside voice and you have your inside voice and I can remember being in a boardroom and there's a big map and a big dream. And I think, whoa, I don't think this is ever going to happen. It's such a big dream. And then literally, when you think 2018, 2023, the accomplishment of five years is quite astounding, but I do think it is... And I will say this. Women for women, I believe the people in government were also... But there was great passion, connection, relationship building and persistence and then a good process design, very collective and cooperative. So many skills and different perspectives around the table and the real ability to pull those together to challenge one another and to attempt some things that might not have worked as well as one would hope and keep adjusting. So the vision and passion of those early adopters to my mind is key. None of the rest, which is all wonderful, would have happened without those initiators. And then I would also observe that those initiators were willing to bring people in and that is not always the case. Sometimes we have an idea and a passion and it's ours and we hold on very tight and we can't let others in or we can't adopt or adapt. And maybe COVID forced it, but I don't think that's the case. I think the value system of those who started this process, you can see its evolution over time and that others are attracted to the value system and are participating in our processes.
12:45 KAREN: I would add to that that I think that value has been reflected in our partners and government. The Healthy Alberta initiative has benefited enormously from a co-creation approach. With at the time, the Ministry of Seniors and Housing and now with the division of seniors within the FCSS Ministry and it is such a unique relationship, it has right from the very beginning from those initial engagement sessions been a shared valuing of a by community for community approach, while at the same time understanding that the work of government can be directly benefited by and supported by strong relationships with community to advance public policy priorities and the role of civil society. When it's clearly understood and valued, can directly benefit government priorities and those policy objectives and that they are well aligned, when you have a strong trusting relationship that is focused on the needs of older adults. That's really the North Star of our work is how do you center the work on older adults and seniors in Alberta and from there that co-creation relationship is always focused on the needs of seniors and so if we are working towards that shared objective, and if we have a level of trust that supports that co-creation relationship, government benefits from having that knowledge and expertise that's coming from community based organizations across Alberta in a more collaborative, coordinated way that didn't exist prior to the development of Healthy Aging Alberta. It allows us to provide services in a far more coordinated way and engage those community organizations in a much more efficient way. And leverage volunteers and community in a way that we were really lacking prior to 2018 with the exception of course our FCSS colleagues which continue to be a real asset in Alberta that doesn't necessarily exist in the provinces in Canada. But beyond that, we want to make sure that we continue to really invest in that co-creation approach, so that we can advance those shared policy objectives around supporting seniors to stay in their home and communities of choice to support the capacity and efficacy of these community based organizations to achieve their mandates and missions to work collaboratively with other sectors and systems like health and housing. Prior to the development of Healthy Aging Alberta, we’re very limited in our ability to work system to system. With systems like health, we have policy priorities around things like shifting from facility-based care to community-based care, which is a preference for the vast majority of seniors. Almost 100% of seniors, when polled, would prefer to stay in their homes. That really requires an activation of community based supports and that requires a level of coordination that Healthy Aging Alberta can help to support from a policy perspective, and so that co-creation approach with our colleagues in government has really allowed us to begin to support some of those objectives, both for seniors as well as for government, as well as for community based organizations.
16:04 ANNE: It's interesting that although we've identified so much has happened over this five-year period, another methodology... maybe methodology might not be the right word, but another reflection I'd have on how this partnership has developed is the people involved in leadership have taken time. So if we are truly focused on a community-based senior serving sector and we want to create a voice for those organizations on the ground. This initiative really engages talks. It is for communities. So as Karen was saying that What Was Heard report, those were conversations. Healthy Aging Alberta has had now two rounds of what we've called regional gatherings. There's an initiative underway with the Alberta Association of Gerontology that's focused on conversation for cross sector work with health and housing, and there's a summit plan for October. All those activities are about ensuring that the sector is representative of those who are actively participating and delivering service for older adults. So I really want to emphasize that this isn't something that has been designed and then people have been encouraged to support it or engaged in it. It has literally come from that grassroots perspective, and I would think that is some of the reasons for its success, because there's not only trust with government, but those who have chosen to be leaders in the Healthy Aging Alberta movement, I'd call it, are respected by those frontline people and organizations. And the value that's been provided from having a voice, we can already see in terms of, as Karen was saying now there's a quote un quote a sector. So we can speak about what it is that older adults need to age well in community, we can identify service gaps. So I really wanted to emphasize that it's been a rapid evolution, but it's also been a very intentional evolution in terms of conversation, connection, and I acknowledgement that there is not perfection, that there is still people that need to be engaged. We still need to challenge ourselves about our own methodologies for connection and decision making and all those good things. So maybe I'm more process. You can see our different mental frames here. Karen is really making sure there's good service for older adults and I think, oh, that's an interesting process. How do we engage people? Ohh, maybe that didn't work so well. We should try something different.
18:55 MONIQUE: That's the best part of thinking about a collaborative approach and bringing different players to the table because everyone does bring a different mental frame and experiences to the work, so I really appreciate you providing this this journey of what's happened over the last five years, but I'm curious because Anne, in particular, you mentioned these four organizations that had this belief and really had this unified vision. But going from four organizations to today, how do you keep momentum? So as a facilitator, how did you keep the momentum going? And then I'm also curious if you could share what hurdles might have been experienced during this time and what you did to overcome them?
19:48 ANNE: So maybe now we have to give a shout out to the backbone that is provided by the United Way, because sometimes we assume that action that is community driven, it's instantaneous combustion. I don't know because we all live in community and we want good things for our community. They will happen and those of us of an age might challenge that assumption, so I do think that we had the conversation piece and then we could identify and synthesize information so we could begin to say these seem to be reasonable first step. But then through funding and support and a good, strong backbone, those ideas could be given traction. So if you look at the design of the backbone, there are five regional community developers in this model. So those are individuals who are working in community every day. And so they become part of that process. So we have formal processes of conversation to identify what we think are current issues and concerns, Community based senior serving organizations, but we have on the ground community developers who are also working one-on-one supporting organizations to do their work and then identifying what are common concerns and issues. So you need that combination of being able to engage people who are in the front lines of the work, but then to create open processes and that backbone support so there is actually resource and skill because to try and connect people across the province as big and diverse as Alberta, it does need a very planned and intentional approach, and so for someone like myself that walks into a room of a regional gathering, let's say the one that was in Calgary over a year ago, there are all the people, there's all the technology. Together we've identified the questions. But without that infrastructure... so in terms of my involvement, I mean I provide support for conversation, but so much happens before you get to that point, and some of it is not very glamorous and so I just think we should acknowledge that that model collective impact has that backbone structure and without it we would still be asking those early adopters to try and do this on the side of their desks, and that would fail. And then I'll be bold enough to say, could have taken a step back because we could have engaged people, encourage people, and then we would not have followed through. And so the backbone piece is vital. A very long winded answer.
22:48 MONIQUE: No. Thank you.
22:49 KAREN: There's so much to talk, and that's a great question. I've been making notes. There's so many things to say to that. For the momentum piece, we've been extremely fortunate, those four organizations. I appreciate you acknowledging the work that they did, but we very quickly added members to the Community Leadership Council that were equally passionate about the work and I can't believe their commitment. We would have three hour meetings every two weeks and people would continue to show up and the support of the United Way of Calgary has just been unparalleled. And similarly, as I mentioned, with our support from our colleagues and government, we've had some support from an anonymous donor of some of the programmatic initiatives. And so we've had some key partners that have helped to sustain the momentum of the work on the ground. So to acknowledge that is really important. In terms of the Healthy Aging Alberta as a by community for community initiative, the critical importance of having a social license to do the work was understood really early on, so valuing engagement of community. So during the pandemic it was done virtually. We had 300 people participating, virtual engagement sessions and it was 2021. And then in 2022 we went out and did in person engagement sessions for the first time again. Or was it this year, 2023? Again. Both, yeah. So valuing and investing in those engagement sessions to be able to see people and talk to them about what they're experiencing, how they perceive the work that Healthy Aging Alberta is doing, what the priorities need to be in terms of our work plans and just feeling really confident that we're on the right track and that we do have that social license to do work on behalf of community and with community is critically important for momentum. And the piece around communications and the valuing of investing and communications work. We really benefited from the expertise of the United Way in that area because United Way is great at that. And so valuing that work in terms of the regular newsletter. The newsletter for Healthy Aging Alberta is fabulous. The team scours the universe for great resources. It's very well done and the work on Core as a resource is really critical. To again having that momentum where people perceive Healthy Aging as an expert and a resource within the space. The piece around funding and programmatic initiatives that emerged in the last two years, once we established some of our foundational work to be able to have the capacity to take on programmatic work and to be able to secure investment within the sector and on behalf of the sector and the good work that's happening begins to create momentum in new ways. And new challenges. But it has created a new level of excitement and momentum for Healthy Aging Alberta and hopefully we'll continue to do so because it really is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's needed as again the population increases and the need within community increases. And so as I mentioned, that does create new hurdles when you begin to identify investment on behalf of the sector. There's never enough. There's so much need right now in both in terms of the needs of older adults post pandemic relative to the cost of living, but also people's health and well-being. And then also CBSS organizations are really struggling post pandemic, both in terms of a decrease in volunteers, a decrease in funding, so there's a some precarity right now relative to the well-being of the CBSS sector and the complexity of the population that the sector serves. So those two things are very real. There's a lot of learning that happened in the last couple of years around how we best support and work with our colleagues within FCSS. FCSS wasn't a resource in BC and so we knew early on that we were going to have a lot of learning in terms of how we work with that system in Alberta for Healthy Aging Alberta. And we've made some progress and and building that relationship, there's a lot more to be done similarly with PCN's; PCN's are not a really robust network in BC. And so as modernizing Alberta’s primary care system work emerges, there's going to be an increased role for community based supports and a recognition of the critical importance of the role of addressing the social determinants of health and people's overall health and well-being, and we can really work with our colleagues and PCN's to support the work that our primary care colleagues are doing because we know that health outcomes are not just around clinical interventions, that we need to work collectively to address people's health. And then just looking at system design. It's a very complex system that we all exist within. If you want to call it a system, it's not always necessarily a system, and so now that we have Healthy Aging Alberta as a backbone to support the coordination of the CBSS sector. We do have an opportunity to play the role in system design work around things like policy priorities around moving away from facility based care towards community based care. Things like some of the work that's happening around the maps initiatives around primary care, work around things like age friendly communities. So what is the role of Healthy Aging Alberta in those spaces? And we're continuing to improve our understanding and capacity in those areas. And then finally, just an acknowledgement that we are all on a journey around our understanding around diversity, equity, and inclusion and representation on things like our Community Leadership Council, working with CBSS organizations that are working closely with equity deserving communities, and there is a bit of misunderstanding around what is the nature of seniors in Alberta and the CBSS organizations that are serving seniors in Alberta. Sometimes we default to stereotypes where people think that CBSS organizations are a Senior Center in a suburban community where you're maybe middle-income white seniors playing pickleball. And I mean, there are for sure, that is the experience of some seniors in Alberta maybe senior serving organizations that that is their primary focus but the reality is that seniors in Alberta, just like all demographics, are increasingly diverse and the complexity of services that are being delivered by CBSS organizations are extremely complex in many cases. And the face of those organizations and seniors in Alberta, I would suggest is not what people expect. And so Healthy Aging Alberta can really support myth busting and a bit of a breaking down of some of those stereotypes. And addressing some ageism that maybe has in the past impacted investment in this space and a valuing of the work of organizations that occurs in the sector. A lot of these organizations are by seniors for seniors. And if we all hold ageist belief systems and frankly we do because we are influenced by societal structure, we will not value the work of these organizations because they are led by seniors, for seniors and so Healthy Aging Alberta can do a little bit of work in that space as well.
30:18 ANNE: This conversation leads us naturally into discussion, but perhaps of the Healthy Aging framework, because that's another resource that has really supported the evolution of this work. And the framework was developed again, maybe a serendipity. So as the sector conversations were occurring, piece of research was undertaken by the Alberta Association of Senior Centers and the Healthy Aging Framework Research Report was completed in 2018 and in essence what that framework is, is it's a ground up research project that said, we're trying to articulate what does this community based Senior Center look like? What's it’s intention? What are those areas of services acted in? What are outcomes it's achieving? What are the impacts we want to see for older adults? So we have a resource. So when someone says, as Karen was using the acronym CBSS, what is that and how do I connect or relate to it? We have a frame of reference that says well, this is what it is. It's all those non-medical supports and services that you access as you age and this is how they're organized related to the social determinants of health and these are very sophisticated language. The service bundles we see organizations involved in and the outcomes and impacts are working to achieve, and some organizations such as SAGE have multiple service areas and multiple outcomes and more than one impact and other organizations might be smaller in nature and delivered and designed in a different way, and maybe they have one focus but all of us, together, make up this complex network, so I do think the framework has been very supportive. Not that it is perfect, but it gives us that starting point for common understanding and common language. And then we can build out from it. And that we can begin to make connections, because although I might be on the board of Sage and someone might be on the board of the Community. I'm trying to think of a community... Vulcan, Alberta could identify with one another because we could both look at this framework and say our passion is about social connection. We're really focused on social participation. And now we begin to see that although we seem very different, we have quite a bit of commonality. And so I do think the framework has been very helpful with that and we've worked hard to make that a resource that is usable, relatable, people can connect to from the grass roots up and again, that would never have happened without Healthy Aging Alberta, because there would have been no way to have a conversation about mobilization and learning and education in the way that that has occurred and again the regional community developers have been critical in that to say does this picture make sense to you? Can you see yourself in it? How could we talk about your aspirations and how could we support you to develop funding proposals that resonate with those who think of these service delivery issues from more of a policy or systems perspective, rather than a grassroots perspective, so the framework you can tell I like it. The framework links those service delivery pieces with the more systemic policy delivery pieces. So we can see it all in one goal.
34:06 MONIQUE: Gives you something to be grounded right on as a group, as a collective. I am curious how long so in this journey from 2018 to today. When was the framework introduced and was it co-created in their process as well?
34:26 ANNE: The research report used a survey and focus group. So in essence the framework is the reflection back to...The research was focused on senior centers, but it was in essence a reflection back to that work about what is all your input telling us. This is a way that we think makes sense to organize all we've heard about the work you're doing, the outcomes and impacts you're looking at. How you're trying to address those things that are not medically needed for older adults but are essential to their well-being and aging processes, and then the Healthy Aging Alberta then help take what was a print resource and say how do we then make this a resource that we can use with community and we did piloting of how do we mobilize the framework? And at that time that assumption that this framework would apply to all organizations supporting seniors was valid. And we have online tools being developed, but we do have actually a physical deck of cards which are all organized by the framework so that you can actually tactilely use the framework and say there's 12 for example, there's 12 impacts statements in the framework. You have 12 colored cards, each with an impact and as a group we could sit around this table and say, oh, I want to achieve all 12 and then someone will say, well, then, you're not going to be very successful given your resource base. So where do you want to add value in the next year or two? And we could have a conversation and I've seen that people being animated, picking up a card, waving a card, making those hard decisions, but we've actually created a way for people to enter into the framework. So they begin to use the information that makes sense to them and they don't have to hold this six determinants of Healthy Aging, 12 impact statements, 22 service areas. They don't have to hold that all in their head. They can just know, I really want to decrease social isolation. And then the then the framework will lead that knowing that they use the framework to say, well then what service areas does research tell me will help me have an impact and what outcomes do those activities have. So it's been quite fun actually to test that to see how it's used. There's been refinements made and we know more are coming because of course as the work is dynamic so will be the resource that's attempting to describe it.
37:11 MONIQUE: I love those cards. They're these aren't they? So as someone that focuses on human centered design, I was inspired by these because in our work we're always trying to find ways to bring I guess objectives or what we hope will be impact into the hands of many. And I was drawn to your cards because I am not active in Healthy Aging Alberta, but I have people in my life that are connected in many ways and I'm I was curious as to what I might be able to do just as a local citizen. If it meant to think about increasing a sense of meaning and purpose and connecting to the larger world, what can I do for my mom as an example, as a support in her network to ensure that she continues to have that, so I love them and I want to incorporate them into other work that we're doing as well.
38:22 ANNE: It's interesting. When I was involved in some of the focus groups when the framework was being developed and I remember being quite struck in one conversation. Because we were asking people to say do these service error, does this make sense? And someone in the room said yes, it makes sense to me and I'm going home and I'm going to use this as a personal assessment for what I think I might need to age well. And I thought, well, that probably affirms that we're on the right track. So parallel to your own understanding. I also think we've worked very hard to say all of us as we do our work in organizations, we have questions that we want to answer. So some of those might be about where our service gaps. Some of them might be about strategic directions. Some of them might be about outcome and we're really trying to support organizations to say if you have a question then the framework can support you to answer it so you don't have to have a complicated process. Or yes, we are talking about strategic intention and the framework easily aligns to strategic planning models, but we really are trying to say you are in the best place to know the question that is of critical importance to your organization and whether it be an outcome, an activity, a service area and impact or even trying to understand the social determinant of health you're contributing to, you can enter into this framework to answer your questions, and that reflects the value system of Healthy Aging Alberta, which is trying to be truly a resource for people in community, rather than a beautiful framework with lovely PowerPoint slides that actually we know when people are leaving the room, they're asking their colleague if they understood what it meant. So we've really been very intentional and very hard work by our backbone to really support us to not snap back to complexity and try to keep the simplicity. And I myself do snap back to complexity. So it's been a very good process for me to have those anchors.
40:42 MONIQUE: Yeah. Thanks, Anne, for that. I want to move on to the topic of collaborative partnership. We've touched a bit on it, right, these four organizations and then, Karen, really you speaking to certainly the backbone of getting things, how we build momentum. But for our listeners and even, for myself, selfishly, I'm always thinking about, what does it mean to think about a collaborative partnership model? And when we think about Healthy Aging Alberta, I'm curious if you can share, how did you go about enrolling other organizations? I used the word role enrolling. I'm not sure that's the right term, but how did you get them interested? I understand there's a common purpose, but what did the process look like? And how long did it take? And did you need to be formal? There's like 10 questions in there, but I'll just let you run with some of that.
41:43 KAREN: One of the things that we've thought a lot about with Healthy Aging Alberta because it is a community led initiative is ensuring that there are access points within the initiative for people to engage in a variety of ways because we know that for the Community based senior services sector. And this is the case for most sub sectors within the Human Services sector. There is such a range of sizes and levels of capacity for these different organizations and we wanted to ensure that we weren't leaving anybody behind because they would feel that they didn't have the ability to participate because they're too small, this wasn't completely aligned with their priorities at this particular moment in time. And so there's been a lot of thought and as Anne said, intention to making sure that people see themselves in this work in some way and that they feel that they can contribute in some way or engage doesn't even have to be, contribute, contribute maybe as too high of a bar and so the community based senior services sector, right from the very beginning, we wanted the messaging to be that if you are a tiny little group of volunteers that has in some way come together as a coordinated group that is providing some sort of service or programming for older adults. Let's say you're doing some version of recreation programming in a mosque basement where people are gathering on a regular basis and the value of that is that people are building relationships so that people have natural supports that allow them to stay in their communities and in their homes for as long as you choose. And that when somebody has a surgery and they go home, people show up with food. And then they drive them to their doctor's appointment for follow up because they made a relationship because they show up and they play cards once a week or they show up and they have a discussion group once a week. And through that process, people have built relationships, and I see it all the time at Sage. We have a Domino's group. And on the surface, it might look like people are just playing dominoes. People are not coming for the dominoes. They're coming for the people. And similarly, that there is a perception out there that these recreation programs are just recreation programs. It is not about the recreation program, it's the fact that somebody walked to that program and so now they are physically active and they're less likely to fall. It's the fact that they use their brains for a period of time, and were less likely to develop issues related to memory loss. We've developed these natural supports to sustain us, to stay in our homes and our communities and so the valuing of these small volunteer led organizations, I don't even know if you want to call it an organization. Sometimes it's a loose collective of people, right We have to value that and in Western society we don't always have these natural supports that occur through our families. They sometimes, for a variety of different reasons because we're geographically dispersed, we're less likely to have had kids, we're less likely to have gotten married. These are all demographic trends. Increasingly we're going to need to depend on these external ways of connecting with people. And our neighborhoods are not often well designed to allow us to meet our neighbors, so creating spaces for us to connect with one another through these organizations or through these collections of people is just absolutely critical to people's overall well-being. So we can't diminish the value of this work and and of these organizations that create these opportunities. We talk a lot about organizations that are providing more formal social services like Healthy Aging Alberta's initial programmatic efforts have been around things like social prescribing, home support switches, things like supported transportation and meal services and home making and affordable transportation for older adults. These are all very, very critical pieces of infrastructure. But I don't want to diminish the value of these. These things like supported recreation, that address things like social isolation and connectedness, right? And so when we talk a little bit about partnership and making sure that people see themselves in the work of Healthy Aging Alberta, right from the very beginning, we wanted to talk about the spectrum of supports that are provided within the sector and the valuing of those supports and ensuring that these small grassroots organizations all the way through to these large multi service human service organizations. All of those right through that spectrum are part of the sector. And so the partnership opportunities need to allow for the falseness of that range of capacity. And so I mentioned earlier things like a really good quality newsletter. If all people do is take the time to read the newsletter and then maybe access a great a group on Core that provides a bit of information that works for them, or maybe they apply for a grant like the Men's Shed grants is a great example. Men sheds are a very dispersed model. They're not a program of a particular organization. They really are a community development approach and and so Core is in the process of working on a group for Men’s Sheds. It's not going to be an initiative of a particular organization. It's going to be a very by community for community approach that's something healthy Healthy Aging Alberta can support. We are supporting. It's a great example of a of a sector led capacity building effort and similarly Healthy Aging Alberta, ensuring we have representation on the Community Leadership Council from a broad range of organizations in terms of size and geographic location, is really important. The partnership piece, another example would be we're working on the summit. It's our very first summit as a sector. It’ll take place in Calgary the second week of October. One of the things we've tried to do is to secure enough sponsorship investment and grant investment to deliver that summit so that we can do bursaries so that tiny little organizations are able to cover the travel cost to be able to attend that event. So just being really thoughtful around how we partner and engage with these organizations. Another big piece is as we move into securing investment for the sector, being thoughtful about how we act as an intermediary for those investments. So we are acting as a funder by the very nature of trying to secure investment for the sector and then flowing those investments to these organizations, but taking a community development approach to the administration of funding so the regional community developers work very, very closely with organizations on the ground to support them in the application process, connecting them with other organizations that might have similar proposals, taking a networked approach, taking a phased approach to the rolling out of funding. So if an organization makes an application in phase one that's maybe not quite there, working with them to make an application in phase two and helping them advance their proposals so that we're at a place where we're able to make that investment. So a very unconventional approach to funding so that it really does reflect the principles of Healthy Aging Alberta as a capacity building entity. And so that's something we're still working on in terms of our understanding about our role in that space. But we're really committed to those principles about using those resources to build capacity within the sector.
49:36 ANNE: Yeah, the whole approach is quite radical in its own way. When you think that really it's not prescriptive and there's no ownership. If a regional community developer supported a collaborative activity in a community, that is a collaborative activity of the community. It's not Healthy Aging initiative. So the whole frame of reference for here, we have an individual in a region that. What is their role to support you to do what you want to do if it has a focus on benefiting an older adults in your community, and then what that support looks like is very different and you don't have to know the answers to your question. Someone's not saying well, I can help you if you can articulate your need and the five point strategy you're going to implement. You could just say we're pretty sure something's going on in our community that say around financial security or and we want to come together and talk about how we might address that together. Well, then the conversation begins and you have a supported resource. So if I were to try and leave my own personal messages on this podcast, I'd say the funding piece is critical for work that doesn't always need to know its endpoint before it starts and if we keep demanding that of organizations that, after you've done all the heavy lifting and figured out what you wanted to do and can articulate it in this way, then we can talk and it's just not a very vibrant or effective way and it's not respectful of people and community actually and say when you figured it all out, call us. Healthy Aging Alberta is saying we are here to support you to do the best you can in your community with your resources and then we will advocate for you, as we see the gaps and the bumps and the glitches. So it is in its own quiet way. It is a radical approach because it's starting from a different premise.
51:54 KAREN: That we are community like the Leadership Council are executive directors, mostly of community based organizations across the province that are having the exact same issues as the people that are part of the network and then seniors themselves are on the Leadership Council and they are experiencing the same issues as seniors in community are experiencing. And so, to Anne's point, between those two things. Best case scenario, I mean, we don't always get it right, but what we're aiming for is that grassroots information coming from the community through the regional community developers and then the knowledge and expertise of the Community Leadership Council, both of those things are feeding together to drive a hope, I believe, a representation of the needs of these organizations and the seniors that they're serving. Yeah, it's a very unique model.
52:48 MONIQUE: You've done a great job of explaining. In fact, what I picked up here was things that are really repeatable and things that or I should say points that help us understand how it's become so successful. I think really thinking through the spectrums of support, both formal and informal, is something we should be taking away as we start to think about how we want to enable communities, but the by community for community becomes another example of a way of operating that has created success and traction and in fact momentum. So I've really enjoyed hearing about how Healthy Aging has been established. And how do you continue to build on that. I am curious. I have two things I just wanna get to before we would close. The first would be you have the summit in October. Who is invited to this summit? Who's welcome?
53:44 KAREN: Well, I would say everybody is welcome. But what I would say, the audience is primarily focused on would be those community-based senior serving organizations and allied organizations. So for example, if you worked with Alberta Health Services or primary care network or you worked within government, municipal government or the provincial government. And you wanted to learn more about the work that's happening within community, or perhaps your work aligns with that work and you're hoping to make connections, that would be a great fit. It really is focused though on supporting the work of those community-based organizations. It's not so much targeted on messaging specifically to older adults directly. So if you were a senior and you wanted to attend an event to learn more about services for older adults or information to support Healthy Aging, this would not be the focus of that event. There are great summits and forums that are specifically targeted towards older adults. This isn't the focus of that event.
54:47 MONIQUE: That's great. Thanks, Karen. So for our listeners, we'll link details to the summit in our show notes so you can get more information there. And then I am curious just for closing remarks, what does the future of Healthy Aging Alberta look like 5 years from now, let's give us a timeline.
55:06 KAREN: I hope that we just continue to build on the foundations that we have established over the last three years. That we continue to expand the representation on the Community Leadership Council into rural remote communities, that's a big priority and increase the representation from diverse communities on our Leadership Council so that we continue to have great voices at that table. That we continue to expand the great work that's happening with our colleagues in government and with other donors and investors to support the needs and priorities of older adults in Alberta. We've seen some really, really brilliant leadership from our colleagues within the provincial government to advance some key strategic priorities, as I mentioned around social prescribing and home supports and affordable transportation and what we do see in terms of the next three years around their policy priorities is a further expansion around some really key partnerships with community and Healthy Aging Alberta around the delivery of non-medical supports to achieve some of those policy priorities. And so we're really excited to advance that work in collaboration with our colleagues in government. My hope is that I feel like we are in very early days in terms of connecting with all the Community based senior serving organizations in Alberta. There are hundreds and especially the tiny ones that don't have the capacity to necessarily engage with all of our efforts around engagement sessions and summits through an expansion of those regional community developer roles is to continue to make those connections to support the work that they're doing on the ground. The work we've done over the first three years has really been focused on a response to the pandemic around the critical needs of older adults to meet their core needs. My hope is that as Healthy Aging Alberta continues to evolve, that we begin to look at how do we support Healthy Aging, maybe from a more preventative and proactive perspective. So again, how do we look at activating volunteers? Seniors are the largest percentage of volunteers in Alberta and provide critical infrastructure and community. How do we support really positive effective volunteer activation in Alberta through the CBSS sector? How do we look at the role of recreation programming in a more systemic way for older adults in Alberta to be hit and miss right now in Alberta? We don't really have a systemic approach to that and I think that the piece around prevention would allow us to maybe take some pressures off some of our more critical infrastructure on the other side of that infrastructure continuum in terms of supports for older adults and then looking at our relationship with other systems like health a housing. Our housing colleagues are in many cases part of our community-based senior services sector. They are providing direct services in community, particularly in independent living where seniors are living in apartments and they're still accessing those services. We haven't yet done a great job of connecting with that system, so that's work to be done and the health system, big, right? There's so much opportunity there to continue to build those relationships from a system-to-system perspective. So that's a big list, but five years is a long time. I'm sure we can knock those things off the list.
58:28 MONIQUE: It’s so important to have vision and objectives, right? Something to work towards. Anne, how about yourself?
58:35 ANNE: I think for me, perhaps because of the work that I've done that's been very focused on some of the big picture intentions. Maybe it's a hope that five years from now, we would see Community based seniors serving organizations as not a nice to have, but as a respected essential component for aging well in Community. And that I believe Healthy Aging Alberta is in an excellent position. It will take quite a bit of work to perhaps be the catalyst for those cross-sector conversations to say it makes no sense to have three silos of health, housing, and community-based senior serving organization. So we need an integrated way of providing service. We need a roof system that connects the things that need to be connected so that an older adult doesn't have to keep going from door to door around in circles, or that no older adult and or their caregiver could possibly navigate the systems we've now created. We want to make that easier. So for me it is really to say we can begin to see those. We have a strong sector and now we have a sector that's reaching out and connecting and building those relationships across other sectors. As Karen was saying focused on effective service for older adults and I know in the conversations I've held recently around a project that Healthy Aging Alberta is being undertaken a real need to support older adults to be able to stay in rural communities. I've just been very struck by the conversations that I've been privileged to hear from those in rural communities who really are trying to advocate for people to stay in community with their networks and relationships and not have to move away because they can't access, healthcare or the other supports they need.
01:42 MONIQUE: Yeah. Thank you, Anne. Well, thanks Karen and Anne for your time today. The work you're doing with Healthy Aging Alberta speaks volumes and I hope our listeners were able to take away some of the key learnings that I did. What you've developed really speaks to the importance of relying on collaborative partnership, but even more so this notion of thinking of the spectrum of supports and how does that and what role does that play and how you enable improving the lives of our seniors and our aging population in the province. Your co-creative approach also creates so much value as I can imagine. Your future in the systems to systems conversation and wouldn't it be amazing if we get to a place where all of our systems work together to improving the lives of the people that live in this province? Thank you again for your time and to our listeners, we hope you enjoyed spending time with us today as we discussed Healthy Aging Alberta.
01:01:47 KAREN: Thanks, Monique, so much for having us. That was really enjoyable. We really appreciate the opportunity to share with you today.
01:01:53 ANNE: Thanks, Monique. It's been great to be able to share information about Healthy Aging Alberta with you.
01:01:58 MONIQUE: Thank you.
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