Report: 2018 Town Hall

fullsizeoutput_5PD Active’s annual Town Hall has become the main event where community members can get an update on what’s new with PD Active. It’s also an opportunity for the staff and board of PD Active to listen and engage in discussions about what is and isn’t working and aspirations the community has for PD Active.

This year’s Town Hall took place on Saturday, June 9th and there were 65 participants. After a report from Board President Mary Pat Boersma and brief remarks by me and Board Member Judith Lubman, all the attendees, seven tables in total, engaged in discussions on topics ranging from improving outreach to serving those with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) who are still working.

The event brought to the surface so many ideas and we are really grateful for all of the participation and thoughtful input. As I looked through and started processing the notes taken at each table, most everything I read fell into one of two categories: things we can do immediately and things that raise more questions. The latter was by far the larger category.

Questions and More Questions

Perhaps one of the foremost tasks facing PD Active is answering the question of who are we? Quite literally, a census of our community may be needed to understand facts such as how many people are still working, how many care partners there are and what types of activities are of interest and accessible — to list a small segment of the considerations.

It would be helpful to have more detailed information about who we serve so we can make the best, most useful programming choices. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming executive director of PD Active, it’s that Parkinson’s Disease has many faces and many phases. The ideal may be for PD Active to provide services to the broadest audience possible. If so, achieving this goal means careful planning, being very strategic about distributing limited resources and becoming significantly better resourced.

Along the lines of strategic planning, another question that arose is what is the comfort level of the community with the different ways information could be shared. Knowing this would help choose which delivery systems (e.g. videos, web chats, printed guides) may work best for which projects and populations. Hosting speakers is a wonderful way to bring people together and learn, but there are other ways to exchange ideas and information. It was clear from Town Hall that the community sees a need for additional types of engagement both with existing members and for recruiting new community members.

More than one table expressed an interest in new types of activities from PD Active these could be book clubs to social excursions to water-based exercise classes. Some of these activities will require a member of the community to work with us and help with the coordinating functions. After further consideration, I then also started to wonder whether it’s necessary to have new formal activities or if we could use social engagement methods to more informally facilitate the creation of groups and gatherings. For example, if PD Active could create an online “medications” group that would be a place for people to talk with each other and share what’s working for them and what isn’t. From there, members of that online group could organize weekly walks, phone chats or a book club with the topic of “medications” at the center of all these interactions. This is just one approach. If you have ideas for others, I would love to hear them.

The board has work to do, too. As Mary Pat mentioned at Town Hall, PD Active’s board of directors and I will start our first strategic planning process in the coming months. This will be a time to make decisions about everything from whether PD Active will expand, fund and coordinate new class and service offerings or start to be more of a resource center that helps connect and facilitate communication among members. This is not necessarily an either/or question or even the final question, but clear priorities and objectives will be established.

Actions for the present

Transportation to and from events and classes continues to be of interest and we are taking note and researching possible resources. Additionally, we will do a better job of including information about public transit options for getting to our events. Accessibility is a priority to us and improving accessibility goes hand-in-hand with our goal of increasing outreach and reach.

We received many topic requests for future Forums. While speakers are already scheduled for the next four Forums, we will still start researching speakers for the various topic recommendations. Topics ranged from housing needs/considerations to addressing sleep challenges.

Thank you and keep it coming

Town Hall was such an informative event and I left it feeling inspired by all the possibilities for how we can take PD Active’s mission to serve the East Bay PD community to the next level. If you’re inspired to participate and work with the board and me, please do contact me. PD Active’s staff has grown but doesn’t even have the equivalent of one full-time employee yet. The more help we get, both in action and in donations, the more we’ll be able to accomplish.

If you made it to Town Hall and you’ve had additional ideas since the gathering, get in touch and share your ideas. If you weren’t able to attend, but this report has gotten you thinking, give me a call and let’s chat. We are an organization that aims to continually improve and that means the dialogue never stops and feedback is always welcome.

Areca Smit
asmit@pdactive.org, (510) 479-6119