Connecting the Dots on the Issues
Would it surprise you to learn that the single most effective predictor of life expectancy in the U.S. isn’t something innate like genetics but instead comes down to the zip code where you live? I can tell you it came as a surprise to me. Just in looking at data from our communities in Maricopa County, we see swings in life expectancy of as many as 14 years in places that are only as many minutes away from each other in a car.
As VL has launched new leadership development programming, our team has focused on shining a light on the interconnectivity of our greatest challenges – and understanding when and where we may not all be thriving – as a means for our leaders to explore how they can be more collaborative on and effective at tackling those challenges.
Consider thee Vitalyst Health Foundation’s Elements of a Healthy Community. Those elements range from affordable quality housing and economic opportunity to access to parks and having transportation options. They’re not ranked. They’re in no particular order, other than alphabetical. And yet, if you look at it long enough, like a Magic Eye, you can see they layers start to move and overlap each other. And, that’s really the point – these elements are intertwined and dependent on each other for success – increasing longevity of the people who live there. And we see this interconnection individually and on community levels.
When you see how all these issues interconnect, it can be, admittedly, overwhelming. But we see it as an opportunity, because if we all look at issues holistically, we can work together to ensure that the things we do to support access affordable housing, for example, also support access to healthy foods, or transportation options – or whatever a person or community may need to thrive.
VL sets up its participants and alumni to be successful in their pursuits to strengthen the community in three key ways:
- We’ll help you narrow your focus. With Catalyze you’ll get that holistic view of the issues facing our state, and how they impact us individually and collectively. That will allow you to explore the issues you’re interested in, along with your skills as a leader. Often, where your interests align with your skills, there’s great opportunity – and a VL program can give you the space to connect those dots.
- We’ll help you grow your circle. I tell people that VL isn’t a network, it’s networked. We’re 3,000 alumni strong, so that means you’re much more likely to meet someone else who has shared this experience than you are to be connected to Kevin Bacon. Not only can that be a huge benefit personally, but we also know many of these trusted relationships have led to big things for the community – like members of the VL Institute Class 34 advocating for legislation to waive higher education costs for foster youth in Arizona. And we need more leaders than ever to step up and join this networked group to make a difference in Arizona.
- We’ll help you take action with a team over the long-term. Once you’ve completed a VL program, we invite you to take part in our Impact Maker. We created this model between our alums and community partners because it provided a unique, sustainable space to collaborate. We do that because we know life happens, and that can impact when and how you can join that collaboration. With a team, we can support each other while moving this work forward.
Finally, what makes the Impact Maker special is that this model generates shared responsibility towards collective action; necessary ingredients for shaping the systems needed to do big things. If you’re ready to take on more responsibility to ensure Arizona is a great place for all, we’re here to empower you on that journey.
Dave Brown is the CEO of Valley Leadership.