The following is an excerpt from our most recent Op-ed published in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Click here to read the full article.
Across the almost 100 focus groups and community advisory board meetings that Cohear organized and facilitated this past year, a few key themes emerged that could help improve programs and services:
Center families at every step of the way. As an employer or provider, are your policies as family friendly as they could be? What norms do you have in place to make parents feel comfortable having their kids in the workplace or in the waiting room? No matter the subject area, we heard about how desperately parents need their unique situations to be acknowledged and addressed. Work-from-home has been especially hard on moms, and if we want to maintain an inclusive workforce, employers need to adjust accordingly.
To improve downstream outcomes, focus on customer service and user experience. Bus riders are excited about faster, more frequent service and longer hours. But the thing that will often determine whether they keep riding is how they are treated by other riders and the bus operators. Loyalty to operators is a huge part of why a lot of people love riding. The same is true for enrolling in a school and going to doctors’ appointments – how people are treated is often the difference maker.
Mental health struggles are a widespread issue, especially for employers. According to the everyday experts we engaged, better access to mental health care could improve college admissions, workforce development, maternal health and anti-poverty efforts. This year has been particularly hard, and efforts to provide free, high-quality mental health care could help drive success in every space. Normalizing mental health and wellness is a major part of this process, especially in schools and workplaces.
Let community members own and lead more efforts. The old adage about fishing rings true in our work. We constantly hear that in order to effect lasting change, grantmaking organizations and major service providers need to trust grassroots community members to lead and own new initiatives and programs. It can be scary to give up control, and there will be failures along the way. In the long-term, however, efforts to address hunger, alleviate poverty and promote racial diversity will be more effective if they are driven by the people who live the issues.