September 14, 2022

Coalitions in Action – Forming Sector Partnerships

In 2014, Hingham CARES, formerly known as Hingham Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, was formed by a small group of passionate community leaders. Flashforward to 2022, CARES is concluding its second year as a DFC grantee and has emerged as a valued resource and partner across many sectors in Hingham, Massachusetts.

“After being awarded the grant, we were able to attend CADCA’s National Coalition Academy (NCA) which turned out to be so helpful – and really fun, too,” said Kristen Arute, Program Director of CARES. “I think the main lesson that we took away was the importance of collaboration, specifically with sectors in our community. We went over how to identify these sectors and their representatives, and how to bring them on board with our mission to get them involved in the coalition.”

Since graduating from the NCA, CARES has developed strong partnerships with five of the twelve sectors and continues to grow their reach. One especially prized collaborator has been their school sector who they have partnered with to educate and engage students.

“We’ve really tapped into the schools as a resource and use them as ambassadors. We rely on the Director of the Health Department within the public schools to administer the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which we rely upon for data. Additionally, I’ve worked with the school principal about bringing in grade-specific programming with really wonderful speakers to our high schools, and that led him to suggest holding a Hingham CARES Day at the school instead. That was a brilliant idea that demonstrated our level of collaboration and mutual respect for one another, as well as the importance he places on our mission.”

CARES has also developed a strong relationship with their Parent Sector. “One of our board members is a mom with extensive fundraising and event planning experience and has become a real go-getter in helping to start our Parent Partners group. We’ve also been bringing in a workshop series called ‘Guiding Good Choices’ that has drawn in parents who are concerned about substance use issues. This has been a great way to unite people who are really passionate about expressing their concerns and getting involved in a tangible way, so we’re really excited to have this sector ‘join us at the table’.”

To reach the Youth Sector, CARES plans to implement youth programs this fall, ranging from yoga to pottery classes and more, on a Friday or Saturday night once a month. “The parent partners are going to be instrumental in helping us set this up, but our hope is to offer these alternative activities on nights that youth are most susceptible to making unhealthy choices.”

“Also, what’s been amazing is that every single person that we’ve reached out to in the community has not only said that they would be happy to help us execute this, but also that they would compensate us for everything. It’s been truly incredible to see the generosity of these businesses and has led to the budding of our relationship with the business sector.”

Two additional relationships that have been valuable, Kristen noted, was with their local Law Enforcement and Media sector. “We work with a public access station called Harbor Media, who have become huge supporters of ours. They publicize our filmed panel discussions that we’ve held on a number of different topics with a variety of community leaders,” said Kristen. “And with Law Enforcement, we have a great relationship with the D.A.R.E. officer at the middle school and the SADD advisor at the high school, and they’ve been extremely helpful with getting us in front of parents and students.”

“Overall, I would say reach out to anybody and everybody in your community that you feel is important to get on board with your mission, and I would also say reach out to others who have gone before you,” advised Kristen.

“Even if you’re not federally funded, reach out to other coalitions in your area that have been doing the work long before you have, because there’s no pride and ownership in this work. We all want to collaborate, and quite frankly, nobody wants to recreate the wheel. If you see somebody implementing some really great program or putting out some really useful information: grab it, do it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

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