Recently, Ishan and I led a full-day workshop with local child and youth mental health agencies to co-develop priorities for services in their districts. It was exciting and rewarding to see the commitment, relationships, trust, and patience that each of the partners brought to the table in our systems planning work. In today's blog, we reflect on this dynamic and effective co-development process.
Starting with our shared values
Working through the complexities of the child and youth mental health systems can be hard and emotionally taxing. And yet, our partners continually show up with their hearts and minds to engage in systems planning work. It was very clear that they deeply care about what they do, so how can we best harness this to support their collective work? We had our partners co-create a set of values that drive the work that they do together and as a system. This served as a powerful catalyst for our full-day planning.
Grounding the plan in the local context
To lay the foundation for successful priorities, we spent time in and outside of meetings understanding population health demographics, key service performance indicators, findings from local systems reviews that captured the experiences of children, youth, and families, as well as local strengths, challenges, and the priorities of other local planning tables. This further developed a sense of ownership and shared commitment among service provider agencies, while ensuring that the priorities are tailored and responsive to the specific needs of the community.
Aligning with broader system and provincial priorities
While local context provides the necessary foundation, it is equally valuable to consider alignment with broader system and provincial priorities. Ontario's Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System, the Lead Agency Consortium Strategic Priorities, Right Time, Right Care, and Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum on Student Mental Health informed the development of their local priorities. This ensures strategic alignment with other system resources and supports, bolstering local efforts and effectiveness, and position this work as a crucial component of the larger, interconnected mental health system.
Co-development of meaningful priorities
As we went into our full day meeting to co-develop the local priorities, this critical groundwork had already been laid, and the core service providers were ready to engage collaboratively. Through various activities, we collectively identified the problem statements, envisioned a future state, and articulated the gaps that existed between the current and future state. A participatory approach was used to brainstorm potential solutions to these gaps and then we ranked them using criteria. This information was used to develop, refine, and finalize the priorities.
Overall, this process resulted in priorities that are rooted in shared values and that provide meaningful direction to work towards the vision of a more responsive and compassionate mental health care system for children and youth. It also fostered a sense of ownership and commitment, making the priorities a living plan, rather than a bureaucratic report to check the box of Ministry expectations.
We’re excited to continue to work with our partners to develop a knowledge mobilization, implementation and evaluation plan for these priorities. Thank you for sharing this work with us!