Coalitions in Action – Durham Middlefield Coalition – The Hunt for New Forms of Outreach

 

The hunt for innovative outreach strategies since the onset of the pandemic has been a common theme across communities globally. With virtual meeting fatigue and a sharp decrease in in-person events, coalitions have brainstormed new ways to reach the communities they serve. In 2020, Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition, based in Middlefield, Connecticut, came up with a new approach to connect with their community in a safe and interactive way.

“During the summer of 2020, more people were able to get outdoors and hold events safely. Our idea was to hide prevention facts in different areas in the community,” says Dena Miccinello, Prevention Coordinator for Durham Middlefield Coalition. “We worked with students in our youth club, E.D.G.E. (Excellent Decisions Guiding Everyday), to choose facts and information that they believed would relate to their peers and families.”

Facts were hidden across five locations and covered a range of substances that the coalition addresses: alcohol, tobacco, vaping, marijuana, as well as mental health. “It was set up so that certain facts could be easily spotted on a tree, as a way to pique people’s interest, while other facts were harder to find. You might have to hike up a trail a bit to find it, but that way it made it more fun for the families who participated.”

To incentivize engagement, participants were asked to take pictures next to each fact they found and submit it to the coalition for a chance to win a prize. “We offered a swag bag with all of our coalition goodies, like stress balls, a blanket and some activities that pointed to our resources.”

One of the best outcomes from this event, Dena shared, was getting the word out about the coalition and reaching new people they might not have interacted with otherwise. To promote the different installments of their scavenger hunts, they posted on social media, put up flyers and, most impactfully, promoted it in their local paper.

“I think the scavenger hunt definitely introduced our coalition to new people. Specifically, one mom and her son reached out to us saying that they had just moved into town and happened to stumble upon one of our trees. They ended up going to every location. It’s been a wonderful alternative to other forms of outreach, like sitting at a table at a health fair, because you reach a more diverse range of people in your community this way.”

After hosting three installments of their prevention scavenger hunt, the coalition, in partnership with Durham Middlefield Youth and Family Services, is looking for ways to make their next hunt an even bigger event. “We’re thinking of reaching out to businesses and asking them to sponsor a tree that they can decorate and put the fact that we give them on it. This way, it’s also an opportunity to connect with more community partners and get them involved.”