Building A Network Strategy to Improve Community Health

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps used the PARTNER CPRM to build a strategy  that would allow them to leverage their partnerships more effectively and increase their impact.

Case Study Executive Summary

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps needed to understand how a network approach could help them disseminate data & best practices to improve health outcomes. We helped them shift their mindset to think with a network science perspective, supported their building a network strategy, and track their progress using PARTNER. Today, our assistance has been “transformative” in helping them reach communities nationwide and improve health outcomes. Read the full Case Study below.

CHR&R Needed to Leverage Networks to Improve Health Outcomes

Building a Network Strategy, Kate Kingery, CHR&R

Kate Kingery, Deputy Director of Community Transformation

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. They’re working to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce care gap disparities by disseminating information and best practices nationwide to those working in the field. They do this in four main ways:

  • Building awareness of the multiple factors that influence health.  
  • Providing a reliable, sustainable source of local data and evidence to communities to help them identify opportunities to improve their health.
  • Engaging and activating local leaders from many sectors in creating sustainable community change.
  • Connecting & empowering community leaders working to improve health.

While CHR&R does not lead networks themselves, their work brings them into contact with networked organizations around the country. Several years ago, they realized there was an opportunity to leverage the formal and informal networks they worked with to disseminate information and advance their mission. However they needed to understand how they could use a network approach to reach their goals: sharing critically important data and best practices to improve healthcare outcomes. We partnered with their team to find a solution and build their team’s network leadership capacity together.

“There’s very little data about what it takes to create effective cross-sector collaboration. What VNL does with network science and data provides real insight into what empowers multi-sector collaboration and networks to advance health in communities around the country and world.”
Kate Kingery
Deputy Director of Community Transformation

Building a Network Strategy and Network Leadership Capacity

Building a Network Strategy 2 Day Summit We began by working with the entire CHR&R staff to provide in-person training, coaching and facilitation. We focused on helping them shift to a network science mindset, the first step in our PARTNER Methodology®. By developing their network science and leadership capacity, we helped them lay a foundation for thinking through the options available.

With our support, the CHR&R team explored  various network science principles and learned about the various ways networks of partners can be linked to and leveraged to share information. We walked through what it means to network strategically, and what metrics could help them apply this way of thinking to their work. 

This process culminated in a two-day, in-person retreat led by our staff and facilitators. We worked with their team to apply what they’d learned. We identified the network insights and foundation needed to start building a network strategy for implementation, the second step in PARTNER. Our team worked with them to develop that strategy and approach, and helped create a survey to track their progress using our Community Partner Relationship Management System, PARTNER.

The first time I met the Visible Networks Lab team, I remember thinking, “there’s actually a science to networking?” Things began to click for me when I learned about the strength of weak ties. This was a game-changer for how I provided guidance to partners collaborating to improve community health. More is not always better; rather, strategic connecting is the key. This is why I appreciate what I have learned from the Visible Networks Lab team.
Building a Network Strategy
Ericka Burroughs-Girardi, MA, MPH
Action Learning Coach, CHR&R

Leveraging Network Data & Building a Network Strategy to Inform Practice

Building a Network Strategy Map

We also supported CHR&R by organizing and sharing network data at the state level for ten high priority areas. Collected through past PARTNER evaluations, each report listed the networks and collaboratives engaged in health-related work in each state, as well as descriptive measures of their structure & interconnections and other important metrics like the quality of connections, resources being shared, and the degree of agreement among members. This collection of network data allowed CHR&R to understand the network ecosystem in the states they’re focusing on and better leverage existing networks to improve health outcomes.

VNL and their PARTNER network data have been critical components to support County Health Rankings & Roadmaps in analyzing existing networks around the country. VNL provided important training on network science concepts, network mapping and analysis, and SDoH resource allocation within networks. We were able to align health rankings data with VNL’s analysis of inter-organizational relationships and partnerships to identify gaps for targeted outreach
Building a Network Strategy
Justin Rivas
Network Strategist, CHR&R

The Results for CHR&R Today

PARTNER Platform According to Deputy Director Kate Kingery, “Without VNL, we simply wouldn’t be doing the work we’re accomplishing today. Their partnership has been transformative and their staff has been a pleasure to work every step of the way.” 

Today, CHR&R is beginning to track and adapt their strategy using PARTNER to make more effective decisions. With their network strategy in hand, they’re thinking carefully about who they partner with and how they structure their relationships. Rather than using a “more is better” scattershot approach, they’re building the least number of connections necessary to improve health outcomes, saving the team time and resources that can be re-invested in improving health outcomes. Without the critical first step of shifting their mindset to view the situation with a network science perspective, and their work developing network leadership capacity, they might still be struggling to effectively leverage their network.

Interested in building a network strategy for your coalition or collaborative of partners? Contact our team to see how we can help you shift your network mindset, design a network strategy, and start tracking and adapting it for the future with PARTNER. 

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