Entire community needs to share vision to reach goals, expert says at Boise summit

It’s not about more money, more time and more effort.

Communities can make major improvements such as increasing the percentage of students who are ready for kindergarten or reducing rates of youth obesity — by trying new approaches to collaboration and accountability, Joseph “Jay” Connor said Monday morning at a conference at Boise State University.

Connor, Learning Ovations founder and CEO, was the keynote speaker for the two-day Creating Healthy Communities Summit: Achieving Lasting Community Level Change. Organizers said the goal of the summit is to create a road map of specific steps for improving health in local communities.

About 250 people are participating in the conference, including representatives from the city of Boise, local hospitals, health districts, businesses, foundations, and community groups such as the United Way of Treasure Valley and Treasure Valley YMCA.

Connor’s two-hour presentation focused on theory of change.

Strong community organizations are necessary, but not sufficient for transformational change, Connor said. He likened the need for communitywide ownership and involvement to film director Francis Ford Coppola’s description of why movies turn out to be good or bad: “When you make a good movie, everyone is making the same movie.”

Not only do communities need to agree on a common target, but organizations need to rethink structures, processes and how success is measured, according to Connor. He said the current model is to measure effort and quantity, rather than effect and quality.

Connor said community improvements can happen quickly. One example he cited: The city of Decatur, Ill., decided to get more children ready for kindergarten and took just two years to increase the percentage from about 33 percent to 80 percent.

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