AIM for CHangE: Delta Coalitions
Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Amy Myers: Today we're talking about the Aim for Change Project and Delta Coalitions. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Marven Cantave, Mississippi State University extension agent and Aim for Change team member. Marven, can you tell me about your motivation for the Aim for Change Project and your involvement?
Marven Cantave: My motivation to the project, Amy, was the target population. I saw a need in wanting to experience a public health intervention in this type of setting. I was driven to the project by that, and also extension's mission to apply research in the actual field.
Amy Myers: As a registered dietician, how do you use your background as an asset to coalition building, and specifically the high obesity program with aim for change?
Marven Cantave: A lot of dietitians work in a variety of different settings. During my training, I had an opportunity to work in those different settings and gain different skills. Most people think of dieticians as only working in the clinical or food service setting, but my focus focused a lot on research and community nutrition from an intervention standpoint. When I was getting my master, I worked at an intern with the Ohio Department of Health, which alongside Mississippi ranks in the bottom half of States when it comes to some preventative chronic diseases. My approach and my experience with prevention and intervention helps me think of the Delta from a population point of view, but I also have a good amount of one on one experience through counseling that I've done in the past, which helps me connect with individuals and ask those questions that really do drive change and build relationships. I use both of those skill sets in assistant coalitions and in common training goals.
Amy Myers: So really all of your experiences and relationship building skills all pour into these areas to create these community action groups that leverage community change. What do you think a coalition is built upon?
Marven Cantave: You're exactly right. It really does take all of us. Our coalitions are built upon diversity. And when I say diversity, I'm specifically talking about diversity of thought and civic representation. That's our foundation. Having different members from varying industries with different networks makes it what it is. Having this form of diversity among our members amplifies their networks collectively, which results in great asset and community drivers.
Amy Myers: What is your strategy for building a productive dialogue with members of the Delta communities when you meet with them?
Marven Cantave: I asked a lot of questions, and specifically those questions address their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strategically, we think of this as a SWOT analysis or SWOT assessment. But in practice, we essentially break down the process into manageable chunks. I ask people specific questions that help them think in ways that get them to address those different components. Our meetings are structured on commonalities around the members scopes of work, or their areas of interest and expertise. We develop work plans and those work plans are based on those basic questions of why we are doing this. What is our ultimate goal? Who is responsible for what? What does it do? How do we accomplish that? Once we work through those work plans, and even before that, we work to develop a grounded understanding of why we are here, so our mission and our values.
Marven Cantave: I think that these coalitions in their unique ways go far to personally develop individuals and stimulate group capacity building. They build achievement, empowerment in the community, which is what I mean by capacity building. Our Delta coalitions of pushing people outside of their comfort zones, but we are also walking alongside them at every step of the process. People are learning to get things done, identify goals, organize, plan, and strategize in a very thorough and systematic way. We, the coalition members and the programmatic team, are all learning what it takes to really build capacity for change in our [inaudible 00:04:10], communities. It's a special thing.
Amy Myers: That sounds great. Where can folks go for more information about Aim for Change and these coalitions?
Marven Cantave: Well, one thing I wanted to add is that we're really excited about this next year. For our listeners, please visit extension.msstate.edu and search for Aim for Change.
Amy Myers: Okay, so that's extension.msstate.edu and search Aim for Change. Thanks so much, Marvin. Today we're speaking with Marvin Cantave, Mississippi State University extension agent. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.
Announcer: Farm and family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service.