Our history began in the winter of 2010 when an interdisciplinary group of practitioners at Boston Medical Center, New England’s largest safety net hospital, began to search for different approaches to improving health equity. Led by a primary care pediatrician, Renée Boynton-Jarrett, who was supported by the William T Grant Foundation, over a two-year period we engaged in conversations with community residents and community-based agencies in diverse sectors. We led with listening, and began to learn more about the solutions to complex social threats to child well-being that community stakeholders were leading, and began to consider how systems of health may best support and partner with these community-driven innovations.
We began to forge a series of nontraditional partnerships with community residents and community-based agencies and service providers in diverse sectors. This uncommon approach became the groundwork for a new collaborative process and a focus on what service providers across sectors and community residents all noted had been missing: a network. A shared sense that in order to achieve a greater level of impact we needed to align our efforts in pursuit of a common agenda—a collective impact approach.
Our work attracted the attention of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. With support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation we launched a formal strategic planning process in January 2013. We began with 25 community-based agency partners and 40 strategic planning members.
During our strategic planning year, we funded ten innovation pilots, spearheaded by community partners and nested in our three innovation areas.
The Vital Village Network’s learning community supported the development, implementation, and evaluation of these pilots. Coupling Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) improvement science methods and community-based participatory research we began to support an iterative learning process for improving settings to promote child well-being.
This active planning process led to tremendous growth of the network partners and crystalized our vision and framework. We now have over 65 community-based agency partners and over 150 active participants in Network activities. In 2014, with a generous implementation grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation we are now working to expand these pilot efforts and deepen community engagement within, and grow the interdependence and scale of the Vital Village collaborative network across these three Boston neighborhoods.