At Breakfast-and-Learn, “Speed-Dating” Makes Matches

Partners learn about each other and about local resources.

At the Rockland County Community of Care (CofC) meeting convened earlier in the year, partners told the MHVC team that they wanted to get to know each other, and the available resources in their community, better. “It was important to us that our local partners told us what they needed to work better in their community, provide the best care, and create a model that sustains those improvements” said Marlene Ripa, MHVC Director of Network Design and Administration. “What we heard was a real desire to understand more about the organizations, people, and services available in Rockland. We decided to try a new kind of networking, which would accomplish more, and in a more personal and interactive way, than standard PowerPoint presentations.”

On July 27, MHVC held its first CofC “Breakfast-and-Learn” at Meals on Wheels in Rockland County. The session focused on networking and included an opportunity for network partners to participate in a form of “speed dating” among the 17 organizations and 24 people in attendance (24 organizations were invited). Designed by Rachel Evans, LCSW-R, MHVC Manager of Community Engagement, each group had 3-4 minutes to interact with another, rotating around the room so everyone had the opportunity to learn about innovations, valuable partnerships and try to find connections.

“To provide some structure, we developed a list of suggested questions as ice-breakers,” said Evans. “It was important to let the organizations take the lead in these interactions, which resulted in many robust conversations.” The suggested questions were tailored to the invited participants. “In a community where partners know each other well, the questions may be focused on furthering a work stream. In those that need more of an introduction, the questions will be designed to reveal the range of services or specialty,” she said.

Is speed-dating right for your community? “At the very least we thought partners would get to know each other,” continued Evans, “so we were delighted to see organizations create real value in even just a few minutes.” Evans gave the example of CANDLE (Community Awareness Network For A Drug-Free Life And Environment, Inc.), whose mission is to prevent substance abuse and violence among youth. “CANDLE received an MHVC Innovation Grant to provide training, and ended up with resources for additional training. During their session together, CANDLE learned that Cornerstone expanded its footprint to Middletown and had additional staff that needed training. It was a match made at the speed-dating table!”

Future Breakfast-and-Learn sessions will address other topics identified in CofC kick-off meetings. “The kick-off meetings were rich sources of partner feedback,” said Ripa. We are organizing another Breakfast-and-Learn for Rockland County on health homes. It is exciting for us at MHVC to provide the platform and content that our partners want.”

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