If you are reading this, and you are a National Coalition Academy (NCA) graduate, then you know there is so much more to the experience of attending the NCA than just the training content. Now, let’s make one thing clear – content is key! What CADCA coalitions are trained on during the week leads to impactful and lasting changes and initiatives in their communities upon their return. But…there is so much more to NCA experience. The 3 Cs of the NCA: Connection, Communication and Camaraderie. One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic took away from a lot of us was the ability to connect, seeing one another in-person and feeling the enthusiasm, struggles, and emotion we as prevention leaders go thru on a daily basis. Staying in the same hotel after a long day of training, and going out to enjoy a bite to eat where we share stories, laughs, and ideas with one another breeds memories that last forever.
This week concluded the fourth session of five at CADCA’s first-ever hybrid NCA. Attendees spent Session 1 and 3 connecting virtually, but Session 2 and now 4 have given them the opportunity to re-unite back in person; communicating face-to-face! Following Sessions 2 and 3, where coalitions worked to create strategic and action plans that include VMOSA (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Activities) and expanding efforts to increase community collaboration, Session 4 has been a vital week of training. Cut into the three middle days of the week, prevention leaders worked on developing appropriate policy and advocacy steps to address local conditions, learning the difference between advocacy and lobbying, ensuring populations experiencing health disparities in planning efforts are involved in implementing strategies and policies, building coalition sustainability by strengthening coalition membership, enhancing critical SPF processes and ensuring relevance to the community, and utilizing the six-step planning process to develop a Coalition Sustainability Plan. You, the reader, may have gotten tired by just reading that last sentence!
CADCA has been lucky to host these coalition leaders at our headquarters in Alexandria, VA. Having prevention champions on-site allows staff members to hear brief conversations in passing as we welcomed our visitors, and friends, to make themselves at home and explore the office. One of the comments that will hold a lasting impression is hearing one coalition member remark how this week reminded them that they are not alone. There’s camaraderie. This is a feeling common among many of our NCA graduates and attendees of in-person Mid-Year and Forum. While the challenges that face our communities are respective of the people we live around and work with, the common goal is the same across rural, urban, suburban, island, and frontier populations: to make our communities safe, healthy, and ultimately drug-free. Through building coalitions, improving communities, and advocating for the change that is needed, we are ALL making a difference. One coalition leader’s struggle is an opportunity for another to provide a helping hand. One coalition leader’s success story is the fuel to the fire that others who are still looking for their first ‘win’ in prevention need to return to their communities and inspire change.
It must be said, though, that the attendees of the NCA are not the only benefactors of these trainings. Our organization, CADCA, sees their example and uses that to continue to strive to produce the evidence-based, high-quality resources and trainings that will ultimately help support the, and you the readers, work as we continue being the change agents our communities need.
CADCA thanks the coalitions in attendance this week at our offices for their commitment and helps us recognize that the work is not done, but only beginning as we all work as one to help those that need it the most.