Vital Village leaders listened to what community members had to say.
After a 40-hour training—lecture-style, with daily homework and a final exam—for people who wanted to become lactation counselors, participants pushed back; they said the training was arduous and inflexible for volunteers who were also juggling jobs and family responsibilities.
So the leaders of Vital Village Community Engagement Network, located in Boston, tried again. They found a new partner, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), whose trainers could lead a shorter workshop focused on equity and inclusive of people with a range of experience.
They revamped the training application, adding questions about the languages participants speak, their skills—social media expertise, community organizing or advocacy, for instance—and their availability to volunteer.
“A big part of our learning was failing forward,” says Renée Boynton-Jarrett, a pediatrician and founding director of Vital Village. “What we have learned is that we need to have a consistent process for ongoing improvement and one that engages community voices in a very intentional way.”