HeLP Reflects on Next 10 Years at Annual Retreat

Every year the partners, staff, faculty, and advisory board chair of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) gather for a day-long retreat to celebrate the successes of the previous year, identify the challenges ahead, and set goals for the upcoming year.  This year’s retreat was different.  As HeLP approaches its 10th Anniversary in 2014, Sylvia Caley, director of HeLP and co-director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at the College of Law, seized the opportunity to have the group engage in more long-term strategic planning for HeLP’s next 10 years.  For the first time, she also hired an outside facilitator, Timothy Hedeen, PhD, Professor of Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University, to allow everyone to participate fully in the discussions and strategic planning.

Attendees at HeLP's 2013 annual retreat“Our goal was to take a thoughtful look forward into HeLP’s next 10 years and decide as a partnership what directions we wanted to take with respect to the services HeLP offers, its outreach to providers, its educational and advocacy programs, and research and publications,” said Caley.  “We also wanted to take a hard look at HeLP’s organizational structure for the future, opportunities for the staff’s professional development, and planning for leadership transitions.”

Hedeen structured the format for the day in ways that allowed everyone to provide a lot of input and to share perspectives with each other.  “It was helpful to have Tim take on organizing the format,” said Charity Scott, director of the Center for Law, Health & Society at the College of Law.  “Not only did he vary the pace of the discussions during the day to keep engagement high, he also used innovative facilitative tools to maximize everyone’s ability to have their voices heard.”

One of those innovations was the “gallery walk.”  During the first gallery walk, the group was divided into “touring groups” of three or four people and assigned to one of four stations set up around the room with flip charts and markers.  The themes at the four stations were legal services, outreach, education and advocacy, and research.  Each touring group had 10-15 minutes to discuss the goals, ideas, and tasks related to one gallery theme, write their contributions on post-it notes and put them on the flip chart, then move on to the next station. After each touring group had contributed to each station, the collective post-it notes were organized by topical theme at each station and reviewed and discussed by the group as a whole.

“This format allowed everyone to contribute their ideas and for the group to begin to identify clear patterns in people’s thoughts, aspirations, and directions for the future,” Scott observed.  The second gallery walk had five stations devoted to the themes of personal and professional development, organizational structure (including HeLP’s institutional “home,” its advisory board, and fund-raising), and succession planning for HeLP’s leaders.  “Important issues and concerns were raised in a fully supportive and collegial way by adopting this collaborative approach.”

From these themes the group developed plans for setting goals for the next 10 years and initial steps required to attain those goals.  “The retreat was highly successful and engaging for everyone,” reflected Caley.  “Strategic planning is always a work in progress, and we have a solid framework for moving forward.”

Caley will receive Hedeen’s summary report of the retreat and will review it alongside the annual report prepared by HeLP’s evaluator, Susan McLaren, MPH, FACHE, who is a Research Associate with the Georgia Health Policy Center.  “For our next steps, I will be prioritizing the group’s thoughts and desires and deciding what issues we should tackle first,” said Caley. “We have come so far in our first 10 years, and there’s no reason HeLP can’t just keep getting better and better in its next 10 years.  This is an exciting time for HeLP.”

The HeLP retreat was held on December 3, 2013, at the Commerce Building in downtown Atlanta.

Stacie Kershner, JD
Associate Director
Center for Law, Health & Society