Phase 2: Engage

Watch the Engage Phase Video


What is the Engage Phase?

The Pathway’s second phase is characterized by leaders of key regional institutions building an enduring collaboration around shared goals that cannot be achieved by any single organization acting alone. The critical features of the Engage Phase that distinguish it from the Campaign Phase are:

  1. a diverse group of leaders begins to think and act on behalf of the region, with the intention of continuing the collaboration over time; and
  2. the group begins committing funds or hiring staff to make ongoing collaboration possible and productive.

In this second phase, members of the collaboration identify and launch experiments and initiatives together, coordinating resources to anchor their efforts, even if it is primarily a forum for group dialogue.

Although leaders of an Engage Phase effort may define the collaboration’s purpose as solving a particular problem for residents of the region, their joint initiatives ideally will lay the foundation for a broader scope of work going forward. Often, these collaborations become actual entities, hiring staff and investing in the creation of a shared infrastructure that makes joint initiatives across separate organizations possible—for example, systems for sharing data across institutions to solve a systemic problem.

There are many ongoing collaborative efforts that promote health and provide care in regions around the U.S. that sit squarely and successfully in Phase 2. One example is the ReThink Health-Upper Connecticut River Valley stewardship group in Vermont and New Hampshire. It represents regional employers, the social service sector, members of the Upper Valley community, Dartmouth College, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and has the ultimate goal of building a healthy and sustainable local economy. Together, the group’s members have worked to develop a long-term stewardship structure, even securing a permanent office and key staff to enable ongoing collaboration.

The ability of Phase 2 efforts to progress to Phase 3, the Align Phase, on the Pathway, however, depends on whether those involved have both the authority and capacity to commit their organizations to additional joint work. Transition to Phase 3 also depends on whether leaders are actively building trust rooted in shared values and aspirations as well as developing the capacity to identify a bolder, broader vision for a radically better, financially sustainable system that will help people lead healthier lives and access better, more affordable care where and when they need it.


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Common Pitfalls in the Engage Phase

  • The “wrong” people are convening. Stakeholders hold little authority and represent only their organizational interests.
  • Over-focus on early wins. Quick successes at tasks that don’t challenge the status-quo and are pursued in a siloed manner results in the building of little collaborative “muscle.”
  • Meetings are a waste of time. In the interest of keeping things civil, the agenda of the leadership group focuses on conversation about easy subjects, not the most pressing issues.
  • Conflict undermines shared purpose. Efforts that escape the “time waste” trap can go the opposite way: raising sensitive issues too soon.
  • Volunteer burnout. Over-reliance on goodwill and in-kind efforts fails to build the dedicated staff and resources needed to keep getting the work done.

Consequences: Trust breaks down, momentum is lost, and/or the effort disbands; narrow focus results in limited system impact

Read the full descriptions of the Phase 2 Pitfalls.

Common Momentum Builders for the Engage Phase

  • Build a real leadership team composed of the right people. Invite well-positioned leaders to the table to take on a stewardship role, and choose people who are team players.
  • Experiment and learn. Treat even narrowly focused “easy wins” as opportunities for experimentation and learning.
  • Share narratives to build values-based relationships. Identify shared values among key leaders to establish purposes that matter to them and to others, and build a foundation of trust.
  • Build capacity to discuss tough issues. Institute collaborative norms of conduct that sustain commitment through challenging times.
  • Initiate joint investment. Design and fund the structures (resources, ongoing staff, and information systems) that will enable collaboration over the long run.

Consequences: Leaders build trust and deepening commitment to larger aims and a broader scope of action.

Read the full descriptions of the Phase 2 Momentum Builders.