How one community chose to rise up and confront addiction with bold action


What does tapping into the collective wisdom of a community to organize resources around an important initiative look like?


Insight Solutions recently partnered with Entrepreneurs in Recovery to design and deliver a two-part event, which helped a local town create action plans for a large-scale Community Based Addiction Recovery initiative. Community members of all types were engaged to participate in the event, including first responders, government officials, business owners, family and friends impacted by addiction and those in recovery themselves. The diversity of those in the room only added to the energy and the variety of perspectives.

The first session was 2-hours in length, followed by a 3-hour session several weeks later. Each session was attended by approximately 30 community members. The amount of progress accomplished in only 5-hours was nothing short of amazing! “No one left behind” emerged as the theme and inspirational name of this initiative.

The event was hosted by Will’s Place, in the town of Albemarle, NC. Will’s Place is a nonprofit organization founded by Allison Hudson, in memory of her brother Will, who was lost to a drug overdose in 2012. Allison and her family’s powerful story makes it painfully clear that addiction can affect anyone, at any time, of any background. Despite the tragedy that led to the founding of Will’s Place, it now serves as a symbol of hope for those affected by addiction in the town of Albemarle and beyond.

 The Program

SESSION ONE (2-hours):
Designed to establish deep connections among community members and identify the significant purpose of the work that lay ahead of them, while forging bonds that would enable action and envisioning what an ideal future would look like.

The event was opened with an exercise designed to connect with purpose and create space to hear the attendees voices first. Community members’ were invited to reflect on and then share why this initiative was so important to them, to their families, their community and the world.

A community member interview with Allison Hudson was conducted to provide firsthand experience and perspective of how addiction can affect anyone, but also how it is possible to successfully overcome the grip of this disease and that support and resources are available for those who are ready to receive them.

Participants were then invited to reflect on “high point stories” of when they experienced addiction recovery working and specifically noting what factors enabled this success.

The high point stories were then used as inspiration to envision what might be possible if addiction and substance abuse were overcome and what that ideal future would look like.

The event concluded with participants making a commitment to action. They were invited to identify one small action step which they could take immediately to move in the direction of their future visions.


SESSION TWO (3-hours): 
Designed to build on the success of the first event, this convening moved dialogue into design, co-creating ideas and programs, backed by action plans. Rapid brainstorming and prototyping were used to crowdsource the wisdom among the group, harvest a large quantity of ideas, converge on common themes and then focus in on a single concept to prototype. Returning attendees were joined by new members of the community who were inspired to get involved and help support this initiative.

Again, the event was opened with the voice of the participants by asking several of them to share their experience from the first gathering.

In between the two events, the leadership team synthesized the future visions which were created during the first event and identified common themes. These common themes were then used to generate five inspirational “How Might We…” questions in the topic areas of:

  • No Shame, No Stigma
  • Jobs and Opportunities
  • Engagement and Awareness
  • Long-term, Ongoing Follow Up
  • Other Initiatives, which did not fit in the above topic categories and included: how to reduce the homeless population and provide more affordable housing and treatment options, as well as how to share the success Albemarle will realize in 2019 with other communities, so they may model similar programs.

Rapid brainstorming was then used to generate ideas and momentum around the five “How Might We….” questions. The one conversation brainstorming approach ensured that all voices in the room were heard.

Participants were then asked to break into subgroups around the topic area where they felt the most energy to contribute. This approach ensures people are engaged and committed to work on a specific initiative by choosing it themselves, as opposed to being assigned, which may not match an individual’s energy with the task. The subgroups synthesized the ideas, converging common themes and allowing new ideas to emerge as part of their work. Groups then selected one specific idea that they would design and prototype or bring to life. Each team described their idea to the room in a brief, 60-second micro report out.

Next, the teams launched themselves into prototype mode, which transitioned their energy from conversational dialogue into actual design work, with the use of visual aids. As part of the design and prototype activity, teams had the opportunity to create large format Action and Deployment plans, which included an executive summary of the project, resources necessary, major milestones, indicators of success and a roster of volunteers willing to support the initiative.

The event concluded with each team presenting their prototyped idea to the whole room in a 5-minute report out.

Each team’s presentation filled the room with a palpable energy, bold ideas and the passion needed to implement real change. As a final activity, the group formed a closing circle and were invited to share what was most impactful about the day for them.

If you’re interested in helping to support any of the community based recovery initiatives that were born from this event, please contact Will’s Place to learn more about lending your support.
If this post resonates with you and you have an opportunity where this approach may be valuable for your organization, please contact us to schedule a discovery call and discuss how Insight Solutions may serve your organization or community.

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