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Wellville Gathering 2014

Tampa, FL | September 16-18

The very first Wellville Gathering also marked the first time that the just-chosen Wellville 5 communities gathered. They were eager to meet each other and get started, and we at Wellville (née HICCup) were eager to get serious: metrics, plans, commercial partners, some kind of contest with a prize, and fundraising.

We had two primary goals for the event:

  1. Let members of the Wellville 5 meet one another and share their experiences and aspirations.
  2. Figure out – with the W5 participants – which  metrics the W5 would use to measure their communities’ progress.
Esther introducing Wellville during the first-ever Wellville Gathering.
Esther introducing Wellville during the first-ever Wellville Gathering.

By some wonderful coincidence, healthcare consulting firm Oliver Wyman was having its annual conference that fall of 2014 – Wellville’s year zero. Oliver Wyman very kindly invited Esther to speak and invited the whole group to attend.

Kim Sims (Muskegon Heights City Council) and Ramona Wallace (Mercy Health Partners) at the 2014 Gathering.
Kim Sims (Muskegon Heights City Council) and Ramona Wallace (Mercy Health Partners) at the 2014 Gathering.

We have learned so much since then that it’s hard to recall our naiveté. Starting with: We thought we could do amazing things in five years. At the time of this writing, seven years later, we feel we have just emerged from phase zero.

We learned quite a few things during our time in Tampa:

  • The communities wanted to collaborate rather than compete against each other for a prize.
  • Our vision of five communities, five metrics, five years was… ah, delusional. You can run programs for a year, but it can take a decade or more to grow sustainable institutions. A few years later we extended our runway to 10 years.
  • Originally, we saw Wellville working something like a startup accelerator, but for many reasons that model was flawed. Ultimately, equity and well-being are collective assets, owned by the community (ultimately up to the national level) rather than by any single person or entity.

In short, we had a wonderful, productive meeting, thanks to Oliver Wyman’s generosity and inclusiveness.  The local leaders got to meet and learn from one another; we all also mingled with many of OW’s healthcare leaders.

In the end, we learned a lot about the assets and challenges in each community, and we started on the path to mutual trust. The challenges included – and continue to include – all the conditions that recently have made COVID-19 so virulent and damaging in our communities: mental health issues, racism and the long-term impact of racist policies, homelessness, addiction, obesity/diabetes, smoking, and so on.  But the assets are beginning to assert themselves in many ways that you can now see elsewhere on this website.

The 2014 Wellville Gathering in photos