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The Stew BLOG

What Could Stewards Achieve if We Acknowledged our Limitations, Amplified our Strengths, and Expanded our Horizons?

Jane Erickson, Project Director | 03/02/2020

This month, The ReThinkers’ Blog is introducing ReThink Health’s three projects in which we are working with national and regional stewards as they discover what it takes to drive transformative change and produce better health and well-being for all. This week Jane Erickson describes our work with fellow stewards to find ways to work more cohesively and with a greater level of accountability to one another.

As we’ve been talking about for some time here on The ReThinkers’ Blog, there is a growing group of people and organizations who understand the need for action that is grounded in what we are calling stewardship—action that enables all people to prosper and reach their full potential. We call these people and organizations stewards.

Every steward has an area of focus as it relates to improving well-being. Each of us has carved out our role in these respective areas, making up part of an ecosystem. Rippel’s is health. Other stewards focus on democracy, equity, the environment, placemaking, the economy, education, or some combination.

We’ve done a lot of hard work, and we’ve had many breakthroughs. Yet despite our significant investments in time and money, we haven’t made enough progress toward well-being in the United States. A lot of us have been reflecting and many are asking: what can we do differently?

Through our work in the Amplifying Stewardship Together project, we are exploring two big questions that stewards are encountering every day:

  • How can we acknowledge our limitations, amplify our strengths, and expand our horizons?
  • Could we better achieve our goals if we work more cohesively and with a greater level of accountability to one another?

These are good questions because they challenge us to face our dominant patterns of thinking and acting that weaken our collective ability to succeed. They open us up to other important questions, which we are also working to clarify through the project:

  • How can we avoid pursuing narrow solutions when we know that barriers to well-being are complex and often can’t be “solved” by one sector or organization alone?
  • How do we resist “quick fix” temptations when we know success depends on taking a long-term approach to problem-solving?
  • How do we collaborate in ways that include all the people, organizations, and ideas that would strengthen our practice? In ways that recognize we can humbly learn from some marginalized cultures that have been encouraging us to work more cooperatively all along?
  • How do we recognize one another’s strengths and see the potential of what we could do with greater alignment instead of magnifying our differences?
  • How do we stop writing off those who might one day be effective stewards by wrongly assuming their intentions?

Amplifying Stewardship Together is about working as a group to openly learn from our independent and collective successes and failures, and seeing our differences as assets, so we can adapt our thinking and practices for a more inclusive, cohesive, and effective future. Because we work in such a complex and massive ecosystem that makes up well-being in the United States, we don’t assume it’s possible, or helpful, to create a giant infrastructure and set of processes to help us all work together. But we can lift up shared principles and practices to use as we each go about our own area of focus.

When we amplify these shared principles and practices in our daily work, we will naturally set the conditions that steward well-being across the country. Through this commitment we will create a shared identity and thus the opportunity to claim broader scope and power as part of a visible movement that is stewarding equitable ecosystems for well-being.

Getting Started
Since our work is interdependent (whether or not we recognize it as such), we must show up in the world with greater context and understanding about what “stewardship” is today—who we are, what we are doing individually and together, what is at stake, and for whom.

Our activities in Amplifying Stewardship Together will focus on learning, adapting, and amplifying our common identity (if we decide to embrace it) so we can strengthen the foundation from which leaders can continue their efforts to steward well-being.

Learning
Our efforts must be grounded in reality (as opposed to our hunches) about what amplifies and weakens stewardship of well-being. We have two nationwide studies in the works. The first will examine long-term, nationwide trends that affect stewardship. The second will be a 2020 Pulse Check Survey, following on ReThink Health’s 2014 and 2016 Pulse Checks. This year’s survey will examine the extent to which stewardship mindsets and practices have spread and are aligned across a wide range of institution types in regions across the United States.

Adapting
We must adapt based on what we learn together. We’ll convene to deepen our stewardship practice by understanding and confronting the dominant patterns of thinking and sticky issues that hold us back in our efforts.

Amplifying
We must amplify stewardship principles and practices. Together we’ll shine a light on the broad scope of stewardship and the power we can have when each of us approaches our work with a shared set of principles and practices. We’ll share this common identity with other leaders—via their conferences, advisory groups, publications, and beyond—to invite them to work more cohesively and with greater levels of accountability to others who share their goals.

My team invites you to explore our project web page and follow us on social media to learn more about this work. We also welcome any ideas and insights: ThinkWithUs@rethinkhealth.org On social media, #ThinkWithUs