A New Kresge Grant and a Renewed Commitment to Equity and Interoperability

By Daniel Stein, President, Stewards of Change Institute and Co-P.I., NIC


Support for any nonprofit organization, at its core, is about belief. Belief that the organization has the right vision, the right approach, the right people to get the job done. So when we learned this week that the Kresge Foundation is awarding a new, two-year grant to Stewards of Change Institute (SOCI), we were obviously grateful for the infusion of funds to do our work. But what we appreciate at least as much is the vote of confidence that this grant represents.

We’re also energized, because this funding – along with growing support from additional foundations, government agencies and other partners – enables us to continue expanding, strengthening and sustaining the ambitious initiative we launched with our first Kresge grant two years ago: the National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC). Please check out the SOCI and NIC websites, along with the NIC Collaboration Hub, to get a sense of what we’ve accomplished to date. The rest of this blog will focus on what we’re planning for the future.

Coming Up: A Summit and a Gallery of Murals

For starters, next week we’re co-presenting a national event in San Diego titled “Driving Cross-Sector Collaboration and Data Sharing to Create Healthier Communities.” There’s still time to register for this highly interactive summit, a highlight of which will be SOCI’s first-of-its-kind Interoperability Gallery. The gallery will feature nearly three dozen large, vivid graphic murals in a space the size of half a football field. They were created at Stewards symposia, trainings and other events over the past 15 years.

The Gallery is designed to share a decade of learning and tools, stimulate ideas, facilitate conversations and, most of all, inform concrete actions and new ways of addressing complex problems. Stay tuned remotely, since we are planning to share a lot of the summit via social media, and we will post the proceedings afterwards.

Just a few of the other efforts in which we’re engaged, or plan to be, include :

  • Expanding NIC’s participation, work and reach – i.e., growing in all those ways at the national, state and community levels with federal, organizational and regional partners/supporters, even as we solidify NIC’s “chapters” in California and New England.
  • Working on projects that have engaged NIC for guidance, technical support and other expertise. One example we’re delighted to be engaged with is Bridgeport Baby Bundle, which takes a highly introperative approach to improving outcomes for children 0-3.
  • Updating and continuing to disseminate the NIC Opioid Use Disorder Prevention Playbook, while working on specific initiatives around the country that focus primarily on “upstream” strategies to address the worst public health epidemic in modern U.S. history.

More broadly, we intend to conduct all of our work in the months and years to come in ways that more-deliberately and explicitly further racial equity and social/economic mobility, even as we pursue our ongoing, overarching mission of promoting interoperability, information-sharing and integration. For those who don’t know our work yet, through the NIC “Community of Networks” we enable, support, execute and participate in collaborations, on-the-ground projects and other activities that aim to advance better systems, policies and practices.

Making the Connection: Mobility and Well-Being

NIC’s aim is to inspire and instigate transformational change across six domains, including health, human services, education and others impacting the Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being (SDOHW). We use the acronym SDOHW – rather than SDOH – because it more-accurately communicates the diverse influences (early childhood education, courts, transportation, housing, employment, etc.) that shape people’s lives and life prospects. Achieving well-being, which clearly necessitates racial equity and social/economic mobility, is therefore integral to our vision.

This is a time of potentially transformational change for the numerous sectors that SOCI and NIC are working to bring together. The US Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new rules to expand information-sharing through Health Information Exchanges, even as states and jurisdictions nationwide are embracing multidisciplinary approaches to better combat the opioid epidemic. And there’s much, much more happening from coast to coast. In a nutshell, a word that many people could barely pronounce in the recent past – interoperability – has become a roll-off-the-tongue, front-and-center priority.

We’re proud to have been at the front lines of this effort for over a decade, and we’re excited by the opportunities ahead. Like so many researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and other professionals in so many realms, we’re confident that the knowledge and tools for significant, positive change already exist. Now it’s time to put pedal to the metal and use what we’ve got to accelerate tangible, long-term progress. It’s our belief that, collaboratively, we can do just that.


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