See you again on January 2

Stay warm, stay healthy, keep sharing and stay engaged

Image courtesy of Richard Asinof

A poster from the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover, Vermont, about the importance of story telling.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 12/10/18

PROVIDENCE – ConvergenceRI is taking a planned two week break and will send out the next issue on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

As ConvergenceRI moves forward into our sixth year, the weekly digital news platform continues to gain traction in the marketplace, expanding conversations and convergence across networks, neighborhoods, communities and industry clusters. I want to offer my sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone who has helped us travel on the path toward success. Thank you!

Here are two quick data points to share:

The results from a recent readers’ survey reaffirmed the basic value proposition of ConvergenceRI: 90 percent of readers responding said: “It provides me with information I cannot find anywhere else.”

The average time spent reading feature stories in ConvergenceRI for the last six months of 2018 was about five minutes, according to Google Analytics, a phenomenal number for a digital platform.

Here is an update from the front lines of convergence, reviewing a busy year of reporting.

Sharing stories from many voices
Our own personal stories are still the most valuable possession we have, the connective tissue that makes us human. Sharing them is the glue that connects the past to the present, helping us to shape the future of what an “engaged” community might look like as we prepare to enter the third decade of the 21st century.

ConvergenceRI places great value on the sharing of stories from many voices, where conversation is encouraged, where convergence is celebrated. It is a disruptive force in the news marketplace, seeking to break down well-defended silos of information and challenging the powers that be to answer questions – and to be held accountable for their answers.

As recommended by Dr. Doug Eby to all of his providers at a community health center in Alaska, ConvergenceRI attempts to learn to listen in 10 different ways:

Sometimes it is the story that emerged from a story-telling workshop at the 2018 Health Equity Summit, with a 17-year-old high school student from Providence telling her own story, in her own voice, about the conflicts she witnessed daily in her own neighborhood.

Sometimes it is publishing the story of a 70-something, after being named a community hero by a local agency, reflecting on her decades of persistence seeking to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence.

Sometimes it is listening to an associate dean of nursing talk about the ongoing initiatives to build place-based health, with a focus on recognizing the expanded role that nursing can play in those efforts.

Sometimes it is taking a tour of the West End in Providence, to understand better how the sense of neighborhood and community was being rebuilt, from the ground up.

Sometimes it is the continuing story of how a local group preserved a four-acre working farm, instead of having it swallowed by construction of new houses, as a way to create an intergenerational farm school.

All these voices found a home to share their stories in ConvergenceRI last year.

Not a corporate mouthpiece
Beyond sharing stories from different voices, there are also the competing narratives that do not seem to get told, often because they do not easily fit into the dominant corporate news narrative:

Sometimes it is the narrative about how a community develops its own solutions to the diseases of despair – deaths from suicide, alcohol and drugs: a health equity zone, responding to the high rate of suicide in South County, forged a collaborative “Zero Suicide” initiative, bringing together hospitals, community health centers, the Narragansett tribe, and community groups to develop a unified approach, winning a competitive, $2 million, five-year federal grant.

Sometimes it is the “untold” narrative of how Rhode Island has emerged as a scalable research lab in a regional universe of translational research, a sweet spot as described by Dr. Jim Padbury, a vital sign of the health of the research enterprise in Rhode Island, despite the consolidation of health systems.

Sometimes it is publishing in-depth narratives of “deal flow” by a number of homegrown, innovative Rhode Island firms: IlluminOss receiving the de novo FDA approval for its bone fracture repair system; MindImmune receiving new investments for its drug discovery research targeting neuroinflammation to treat disorders such as Alzheimer’s; and EpiVax, celebrating its 20th year in business, winning an FDA contract for its immuno-informatics to establish best practices and procedures to evaluate generic peptide drugs for immunogenic potential and related impurities.

Sometimes it is covering the developing narratives of Rhode Island’s two nation-leading platforms for health innovation: nine health equity zones operating in the state; and the first urban Neighborhood Health Station in Central Falls, being built by Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, now scheduled to open in January of 2019, where more than 80 percent of the community needs for primary care, urgent care and pharmacy can be met for more than three-quarters of the residents of Central Falls, in a one-stop facility.

Sometimes it is being ahead of the curve in covering narratives such as the work being done by Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room doctor, on gun violence; sometimes, it is sitting down with Eric Beane, the outgoing secretary at the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, for an exit interview, after two years of being in the hot seat; sometimes, it is covering the narrative of the state’s largest orthopedic group practice, Ortho Rhode Island, to learn more about their plans to establish a patient-centered orthopedic delivery system.

Shoe leather reporting
Beyond sharing the stories and telling the narratives, the work at ConvergenceRI often requires persistence, what is known as “shoe leather" reporting, to delve into the details and facts:

When Memorial Hospital closed its doors, it meant analyzing the data from EMS transports to discover that the leading “cause” was for alcohol intoxication, and then analyzing the numbers for all of the EMS transports to other hospitals in Rhode Island, where transports for alcohol intoxication were also very high.

During a long, hot summer, it meant paying attention to information on the Twitter-sphere about how behind-the-meter solar on homes and businesses were providing up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity daily during the summer, pushing down peak demand.

After the passage of a new law to allow the distribution of fentanyl test strips as part of a harm reduction strategy, it meant bird-dogging the stage agencies to find out when a pending order for some 3,000 fentanyl test strips would be processed and the test strips distributed to community groups. [The latest word is that the invoice may be processed next week. Stay tuned.]

Perilous times
We live in perilous times, which makes the sharing of stories, competing narratives and convergence all that more important, to build connectedness.

A sitting President may soon face criminal charges as an unindicted co-conspirator for collusion, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and engaging in a corrupt enterprise, in synergy with a foreign country.

The booming U.S. economy is showing warning signs of fraying after several years of abundance, with many “dream interpreters” worrying about recession and whether or not we are prepared for the “seven” lean years ahead.

The rapid onslaught of climate change threatens to overwhelm the capability of our federal, state and local governments to respond to the frequency of storms, rising temperatures and disruption of our world.

The continuing stress of gaps in the state budget may require the need to find new revenue sources, including raising taxes and legalizing recreational marijuana.

The continued consolidation of corporate media platforms and health care companies makes it more difficult to be heard above the cacophony of corporate messaging and the allure of click-bait promoting outrage and anxiety.

As the Earth makes its yearly tilt, turning away from darkness toward light, it is important to remember that we have much to be thankful for, even as we enter a challenging, divisive time in our nation and in our state. Still, we can persist.

As we celebrate the holiday season, please stay warm, stay healthy, keep sharing and stay engaged. See you again on Jan. 2, 2019.


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