November 3, 2022

GTZ-IL gets to the Root Cause Coalition National Summit

Two of our GTZ-IL staff attended the 7th Annual National Summit on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). Our attendance was crucial, as we know that PLHIV don’t live single-issue lives, and addressing SDOH is fundamental.

While our plan does touch on these influential factors of health, to be able to recalibrate with leaders in the field is a helpful means of ensuring efficiency and sparking fresh ideas for the next stage of GTZ. We are incredibly grateful to the leadership at The Root Cause Coalition for bringing us all together to the Twin Cities.

Before departing home, GTZ-IL staff Aces Lira and Dominique Chew take a moment to reflect on their experiences attending the summit:

Did you come to the summit with any expectations or ideas of what it would be like? In what ways did you see that or were you surprised?

Dominique: “I thought I would come across more folks that did explicit HIV-related work but was excited to see the diverse careers that the summit brought together. Aside from us, we saw one other policy person. There were social workers, bankers, startup founders, nurses, food bank executives, medical students, and more. SDOH isn’t a new concept, but the way that we discuss and name it has changed and shifted – more specifically, the funders and the people on the front lines and the folks with lived experiences are working to be more aligned. The conversation around SDOH wasn’t dated and there was a ring of innovation towards effective solutions and mapping out productive work. I also wasn’t expecting to reflect so much on my own experiences having grown up in a rural community. It was taken back with experiences around transportation, a low-income household, and other pieces. I was able to make sense of childhood experiences and felt seen to an extent in addition to factoring the lessons towards our work for GTZ.”

Aces: “I honestly didn’t know what to expect. This is essentially one of our first opportunities as a team to experience this on a national level, in person. The pandemic has essentially forced us to adapt to a virtual world, so having the opportunity to meet people in person…I didn’t know what that was going to look like. I was pleasantly surprised to see people from diverse backgrounds and to see the way partnerships were developing. On the nonprofit track, it feels like we’re working with not enough, but here they’re talking about millions and billions of dollars of investments form private investment groups and using really innovative models to make that work happen is really eye opening. I came in with low expectations and it paid off with high rewards since I had an open mind.

What were some of the big themes you saw among the panels, breakout sessions, and general remarks?

Aces: Putting intentional energy and backing up the idea of flexibility was a big thing. The recipients of the Health Justice award shared their story of rising to the occasion after listening to the community they were serving (which sidenote emphasizes why lived experience is so valuable) but they had to pivot to be successful. They wanted to bring awareness for parents of young children on safe sleeping habits for babies, but they learned that community members were more concerned with the pest infestation. Flexibility also came up in how we can approach coalition-building. It’s interesting to see that people can have their own specialties but can still come together in unique ways. Learning about the fact that banks must follow recommendations and provide ongoing financial investments because of the Community Reinvestment Act or the CRA was eye opening. That’s a perfect window of opportunity to say “hey, we’re trying to reach zero new transmissions of HIV and it’s possible AND collaborating together can help make this happen.” Someone in a session talked about braiding funding and investments and how they work together to make an impact. Flexibility is huge!

Dominique: I second the comments on flexibility; and with it there was an aspect of creativity and levels of big picture thinking. In my mind, these big picture ideas sometimes feel unattainable, but hearing people speak on those terms was inspiring. There were folks in Orange County who spoke about their experiences of seeing housing instability in their community and came together to address it. They began with $670 and 15 years later they have a $15 million budget and various supportive services to help folks that are struggling with housing. That creativity piece must be coupled with flexibility and listening to people with lived experience.

In what way do you see the lessons impacting or influencing our work with GTZ?

Aces: I’m very big on messages of the universe or the idea that we’re meant to witness and experiences the lessons that we do. The messages about creativity and flexibility are coming in at a fitting point of time for the GTZ timeline. We’re trying to reacclimate ourselves and reengage with investors and stakeholders of GTZ after experiencing the major shutdowns of COVID-19. We’re reestablishing footing with our work and trying to keep making a huge push. We have accomplished a lot with things around housing and connecting folks to care and securing additional funds to make that work happen. What’s interesting about the takeaways here at the Summit is now I’m thinking about how we can bring in new partners as we reconvene with already established ones. I’m looking forward to pulling in folks to get involved and seeing if there are maybe banks and other private sector folks around the state that would be interested in our work. Are there folks in tech who would be interested in innovative forms of data gather around GTZ? There’s a familiarity and sometimes a sense of hopelessness about SDOH but we are now leaving with a spark of, “Ok now how can we make this relevant to our work? How can we incorporate these new lessons into our work?” Keep it going. Keep it new. Keep it strong.

Dominique: I was pleasantly surprised by the many conversations around the needs of people in rural communities. Soon, we’ll be working on recruiting for the GTZ-IL CAB from across the state, including the more rural areas, and various sessions from the summit talked about major barriers folks in rural areas face like transportation and access to healthcare. This is especially true for folks LHIV and LGBTQ+ folks who might not have the political representation like we do in Chicago. We have to ask how we might be creative in engaging with them, and to also bring in other major players in those areas. This is a perfect time considering our new plan launch for 2023. To be able to come back to Illinois to have these fresh thoughts on creativity, flexibility, and multi-sector partnerships. It’s a perfect time to expand our reach.

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