For Delores Collins, working collaboratively is much more than a business strategy. It’s deeply personal.
Ms. Collins (known as Ms. Dee) is a community health worker, executive director of the community organization A Vision of Change, a member of the Health Improvement Partnership (HIP)-Cuyahoga steering committee, and a CHI Center partner. To each of these roles, she brings a passion for making a difference and a quiet but unmistakable determination.
Although she now has a seat at many community improvement tables, it wasn’t always that way. In 1993, when she founded A Vision of Change (AVOC) to provide services for children with an incarcerated parent, most doors were not open to her. “When you’re new, and you don’t have a track record, and you don’t have a lot of letters of the alphabet after your name, it’s challenging,” she explains, “especially if you’re trying to do something outside the box.”
Over time, however, the scope of her organization and her vision of what was possible grew. AVOC expanded, becoming known for providing a broad range of community services. In 2016, new and unexpected opportunities began to arise. She was invited to take part in an equity leadership program at Neighborhood Leadership Institute, where she made connections with Case Western’s Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods and, later, HIP-Cuyahoga.
For Ms. Dee, the chance to collaborate with new organizations had both personal and professional value. Coming at a challenging time in her personal life, the experiences were energizing. “It gave me life,” she recalls.
She also realized that her new collaborations could benefit her community, and after years of closed doors, she wasn’t about to miss out. “Once the doors opened a little bit, I hurried up and put my foot in, and I said, ‘This time, I’m going to hold you all accountable’.”
As a member of the HIP-Cuyahoga Steering Committee, her determination and her voice matter.
“I didn’t have to bring a chair to this table. HIP-Cuyahoga had chairs there waiting for us. They allowed us to sit in those chairs and they allowed us to have a voice.”
That sense of making a difference continues in the CHI Center’s CSII initiative, which depends on a wide range of community voices. “It’s awesome to me and for me,” she said, “to be a part of this transformation.”