Building Trust in Community through Thoughtful Inclusive Leadership
“We are them, and they are us.”

Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement member, Common Ground Health in Rochester, NY has been invited to participate in the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground was asked to co-chair the task force, bringing his expertise and passion for engaging diverse communities and leaders, and for providing an equity lens to ensure fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Closely related, Common Ground has also been leading the Finger Lakes Reopening Schools Safely Task Force since July of 2020, where it convenes leaders from public health, health care, education, non-profits and parents. This ability to convene diverse and representative stakeholders across sectors is proving critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. A key reason that Common Ground staff are leading such response efforts is because of the trust they have built in their community.

Under Wade’s leadership, Common Ground has become a key partner in the community, known for being inclusive and for bringing a diversity of perspectives when solving challenging issues and working towards health equity. It has been through sure, intentional actions, that Common Ground has become a leader in this space of health improvement.

A central theme of Wade’s leadership approach is a clear intentionality about health equity that starts with taking a journey of self-assessment. Racism and health inequities are not accidental but are the result of intentional action- most commonly policies with unintended consequences. Wade encourages his team, leaders on his board, and other community partners to approach this work with courage, passion, and honesty, and ask the hard questions:

  • Are we an inclusive organization?
  • How diverse are the tables that we convene?
  • Are we representative of the communities we serve?

To provide the most impact, and reach the most at-risk populations, Common Ground took an introspective look at what it really means to be a leader. They knew that the previously accepted criteria of identifying community leaders had to go as they were not enough and contributed to having mostly white males serving on the agency board, committees, and in leadership roles. As the Common Ground team developed new criteria to define community leaders, they first had to “tear apart assumptions.” As a result, they created much more meaningful standards for inclusion and partnership; leaders who are:

  • Active in community,
  • Create political influence,
  • Influential in the community- grass roots leaders/less traditional healthcare roles, and
  • Committed to the Common Ground values.

This deliberate action and commitment to changing their internal and external board make up has allowed Common Ground to confidently claim, “We are them, and they are us.”

The Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) has had the privilege of following and learning from the work or Common Ground. Additionally, as a member of the NRHI board of Directors, Wade has shared his knowledge and approach with leaders across the national network. NRHI is encouraged by the courageous work of Wade and his team at Common Ground and inspired by the vested interest from other leaders in the network that are committed to advancing health equity. We truly are #StrongerTogether.

*Top image courtesy of Common Ground Health

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