Information Gathering, Part I: Available Facts

The CHC Inclusiveness Committee meets to go through the worksheets regarding gathering information on the community, the field, and the organization.

Two weeks after the Board meeting, the Inclusiveness Committee convened. Joe opened the meeting by thanking Eleanor and Beth for their work molding the input from the staff and Board into a case statement. "Thanks to you two, we have e-mail approval of the case statement and we're ready to move forward. I think that calls for a toast!"

Luisa pulled a grocery bag out from under the table and distributed plastic champagne glasses, while Joe opened a bottle of sparkling cider. For a moment, everyone laughed and toasted each other for the work they'd done.

"We've completed the first three steps of our initiative," said Joe. "We've assembled our committee, we've hired our consultant and begun our inclusiveness training, and we've created a case for inclusiveness at CHC. Now it's time for the next step: information gathering."

"Wow, that sounds like fun," said Marcie sarcastically.

Luisa smiled, "Yeah, research, just what we all like to do!"

"I know, I know," said Joe. "But we need to get an idea of where we are before we can decide where to go. And Ed's going to help us."

Ed stood up and said, "We need to think of this as if we're creating the map for our journey together. First, we get an idea of the landscape we're in, then we look at what's ahead." He explained the process outlined in the workbook, then called for questions.

"I don't get it," said Melody. "We came up with all kinds of ideas for how we can improve while we were putting the case statement together. Why do we have to go through all this?"

"It would certainly be a shortcut to just put together a plan to accomplish those ideas," said Ed. "But think of what you might be missing. If you aren't clear about the community you're serving, or the best practices of other organizations like yours, you might miss something that would dramatically change our efforts. What if you developed an outreach plan to increase your services to children from the Latino community, but that group was shrinking and the Asian community was growing?"

"I hadn't thought of that," said Melody. "I guess it is a good idea."

The group started by defining their community and identifying the key facts that they would need to know. They got stuck on whether historical information about their community's demographics would be a high priority or a low priority.

"The questions you want to ask yourself are: is the information easily available, and is it important, or simply interesting?" said Ed.

"Well, we could call the library and ask the research librarian," said Trevor. "I would love to know for how many generations Spanish-speaking immigrants have been living in our city."

"Yes, so would I, but how is that important to our work?" asked Hector. "We need to decide what we're doing today, not a history lesson. I think that's ‘interesting, but not important,' don't you?"

"I suppose you're right," said Trevor.

The committee made a plan for how they would gather the information they were seeking about the community, the field of community health clinics, and their own organization. Trevor volunteered to summarize the information about the field, if everyone passed their materials to him. Each manager agreed to work with his or her staff to gather information about their own area of responsibility, using the checklists in the workbook.

"Okay," said Ed. "We've accomplished a lot today. I'll summarize all of this in the spreadsheets as described in the workbook and e-mail them to you all. This process is going to take some time to accomplish, so I'll be checking in with everyone. Let's give updates on progress at our next meeting.

At the next meeting, most people reported on what they'd done, but Trevor shook his head sheepishly when Ed asked about the field-wide data. "I've just been so busy, I haven't gotten to compiling everything," he said. "I could use some help."

"I'll be glad to help, boss," said Melody. "Just tell me what to do."

They agreed that Melody would write up short summaries of the reading materials that Trevor had collected, and that they would work together on compiling the report.

"Trevor, I know you feel badly, but it's okay," said Joe. "It's sometimes hard to make time to do this work. If you need more help, or if you need to rearrange some of your other priorities, let me know. We'll work something out...won't we, Hector?"

Hector smiled but didn't nod his head when Joe looked at him. If Joe thought it was okay for some of the finance team's responsibilities to be put off, Hector wasn't going to argue. But he thought this was just another example of how the touchy-feely took precedence over good business practices at CHC. He'd bring it up with Joe later, in private.

After most of the rest of the staff had left, Hector walked into Joe's office. He accepted the soda that his friend offered him and sank down into a chair.

"Joe, I want to talk to you about this inclusiveness thing. It's important, but we shouldn't make the mistake of letting important priorities slide because of it," said Hector. "It's good work, sure, but if we don't make deadline for the audit, then we're in trouble."

Joe couldn't disagree. "Yes, it's true that some things can't wait. The important thing about this inclusiveness work is that we get it done - not how fast. We'll give Trevor and Melody some more time. But Hector, I want your commitment to this process. When we've gone through this process, so many things about our work will improve."

Hector took a sip of soda and looked skeptical.

Joe smiled. "Trust me on this one, my friend."