Dynamic Partnerships at the Washington Chapter: collaboration is crucial to success
October 20, 2010
Never doubt that a
small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it
is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead
In recent years I have spent a lot of time considering what
it is that drives change and in particular, what drives meaningful social and
policy change. With the election of Barack Obama many Americans naively thought
our country and our world would change overnight, that the policies of the past
eight years or longer would be overturned and a new era of progressive thought
and action would be initiated. We were inspired, despite troubling times, and many
believed that soon all of our lives would be changing for the better, that all
boats would rise. The reality of the past two years is a far cry from that
image. That same reality is a significant part of the impetus behind my own
search for what it is that drives change.
At PSR we represent the highest standard of commitment to primum non nocere (first, do no harm).
It is present at the most fundamental level in the operations of our chapters
and in the actions of individual members. However, even this radical commitment
by PSR chapters and members to addressing the gravest threats to human health,
is not in and of itself enough. In Washington State, approximately 1,000 health
professionals are members of Washington PSR. The voices of these women and men,
who span a diverse spectrum of practices and represent all corners of the
state, are not by themselves enough to compel change. So while we believe
deeply in the causes we espouse and indeed most if not all members of PSR are
willing to do extraordinary work to further those causes, we must thoughtfully
consider the means to the end in achieving the results we seek.
Over the course of decades, Washington PSR has worked hard
to build a reputation as Washington State’s voice of public health and in doing
so we have built an infrastructure based on strategic partnerships around programmatic
goals. In our work to abolish nuclear weapons, we march shoulder to shoulder
with Peace Action, Ground Zero Center for Non Violent Action, and Veterans for
Peace. In our climate change work, we are allied with Earth Ministry, the
Seattle Climate Action Network, and the Sierra Club.
And in our toxics work, we are part of a dynamic partnership,
the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition, which year in and year out leads not only our
state but the entire nation in seeking and securing policies which aim to
protect human health from the threats posed by dangerous chemicals. As a
steering committee member of the TFL Coalition, alongside the Washington Toxics
Coalition, the Washington State Nurses Association, Planned Parenthood, and
WashPirg, we help to shape the agenda in the fight for chemical reform. While
programmatically each member of the TFL coalition has its own set of priorities
and strategies, on the issue of addressing toxic chemicals we work side by
side, each offering our own strengths and contributions to the cause.
Washington PSR’s contribution to the Toxic Free Legacy
Coalition lies in leveraging the credibility we have established both within
and outside the medical community as champions of public health. Our voice and
our actions carry with them a distinct commitment to advancing policies that
allow every individual to reach and maintain their full potential. However,
despite the influence of our voice, it is only one voice. Yet when our voice is
united with the voices of scientists, nurses, moms, and others, the result is a
formidable collaborative effort and the potential for securing victories in
policy and practice is extraordinary.
In reflecting upon what compels change, I believe these
types of collaboration are not only wise, but in fact are crucial to success.
In other words, in order to bring about meaningful societal change we must
frequently consider and re-consider with whom we work and with whom we should
be working. Whether it’s stopping war or addressing the enormous threat posed
by nuclear weapons, speaking to the public health effects of climate change or
working to improve the outdated and wholly inadequate policies which surround
chemicals, no one person or organization will succeed on their own.
PSR has the ability to offer key resources to coalitions
across this country and I urge PSR chapters in particular to consider their
alliances and how they may contribute to meaningful campaigns. Similarly, I
urge PSR members to consider their own circles of influence and how you and we
can utilize those circles in order to advance our goal of addressing the
gravest threats to human health.
Cherie Eichholz is
Executive Director of Washington PSR.
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