Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

Academy Fall Meeting 2021 West Coast Region – November 2021 

By Rich Callahan, Academy Fellow 

Ongoing discussions in Congress and the White House across the range of pandemic and economic policies highlight the centrality of the intergovernmental system in addressing many American societal challenges. Not coincidentally, the Academy’s Fall Meeting focused on the intergovernmental system, addressing the need to leverage networks of nonprofits and foundations with state and local government to advance more equitable economic, public health, and health care systems.   

Five days of sessions featured Academy Fellows, private organization leaders, and county, state, regional, territorial, and tribal governance experts. The line-up of speakers reflected a vitality through current and long-standing contributions to societal problem-solving in the intergovernmental systems. While every day featured engaging discussions, the panels hosted at the University of San Francisco shared insights around intergovernmental innovations worth revisiting.  

Matt Chase set the tone for the day. He believes, “the intergovernmental system has been taken for granted, with a slow erosion of the intergovernmental dialogue.” His observations are that institutions such as the Academy must bring leaders together to build relationships and establish alignment of all levels of governments to serve the people. Chase concluded that counties and other levels of government need to be catalysts for innovations. He set up counties as an accelerator for change from their increasing use of data at the zip code level and building peer networks to learn from each other. Throughout the day, the speakers followed suit, identifying problems but also focusing on the opportunities for innovations, suggesting ways to operationalize and improve the impact of the intergovernmental systems  

One of the sessions focused on local and regional governments partnering with foundations and other sectors to advance economic development, connections to meaningful work, and social equity. A panel of three Academy Fellows, Mark Pisano, Miguel Santana, and Chet Hewitt, discussed cross-sectoral approaches to innovations such as community reinvestment districts to address growing income inequities and structural changes in the economy. Hewitt described the Sierra Health Foundation’s successful partnerships with California Forward and the Center for Health Management to deliver messages in local communities’ languages and cultures. Partnerships between foundations and nonprofits are vital. Through their existing relationships, foundations can gather information quickly and collaborate with nonprofits that address human suffering, making an immediate impact. Panel members expressed concern about the “fragility of the current system” and emphasized the need to develop partnerships across silos to share solutions and data.  

Another panel discussed: Advancing Health Equity: State, Tribal, and Local Perspectives on the Intergovernmental Systems. Rich Callahan moderated, asking questions of the panelists: Tomás Aragón, California State Public Health Officer, and Britta Guerrero, CEO, Sacramento, Native American Health Clinic. Both speakers noted the disproportionate impact on populations with generally poor health outcomes. Guerrero explained that the pandemic strained already under-funded health systems while pandemic response created new flexibilities and expanded funding. Aragón emphasized the role of the federal government in funding preparedness. Both panelists drew on lessons for the future to carry forward telehealth, use digital technology for regional meetings, and provide early assessment and treatment with flexibility in different types of providers depending on specific needs. Guerrero expressed the need for an intergovernmental system that “leaves no one behind.” 

Access videos for every session from that day by following this link.

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