Each part of the state has unique challenges and barriers to collaboration. In Northern California, severe weather with adverse road conditions, reoccurring wildfires, and even spotty cellular service make it difficult to come together for common interests. At the first Northern Learning Community Conversation Café, 7 people huddled together to brainstorm their goals for the region. Less than a year later, the Learning Community grew to 115 participants that gathered in-person and online for the Learning Community titled Building on Trauma Informed Practices with Gabriella Grant.

Sheryn Hildebrand, Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Mendocino & Lake Counties, shared with us her experience as a site facilitator for the Strategies 2.0 Northern Learning Community.

The Northern Region consists of 11 different counties in the Northern-most part of California. What are some of the challenges your organization faces when trying to collaborate regionally?

Probably the biggest challenge in the North Coast corridor is geography. Trying to meet in person is challenged by weather as well as distance. Either the freeway is sliding out during the winter and often closed for days at a time or distance driving just to get to a middle ground for meeting is two or more hours one way.

We also have the challenge of limited technology depending on where you sit. Participating via a conference call can be challenging if you’re trying to drive and participate due to limited cell phone tower availability in the rural areas.

As an agriculture community, we combat reduction in services due to the fires. After the fires, tax base is smaller – no homes to tax. Because of the housing problem, rents have increased to equal mortgage payments.

How does Strategies 2.0 help with those challenges?

Strategies 2.0 offers a large availability of free trainings. People who are providing services to families come into the jobs without a lot of training. We hire people right out of college. They have to deal with trauma, they’re not married, they don’t have children. They may have a background of trauma which brings pre-conceived notions. The training brings common messaging and skills.

Strategies gave another opportunity by having a Learning Community hub in the north. We just don’t have access to that type of technology. Instead of just bringing services to urban areas, you are bringing your services to rural areas and I encourage you to keep doing that.

What goals has Strategies 2.0 supported in your region?

We are working on messaging and Strategies 2.0 supports that. Common messaging supports our families and our parents who hear common language. When they hear different messages, that is where problems come in. I think common messaging and support of regional goals through aligned 2.0 Learning Communities points us all in the same direction.

How did you become involved in Strategies 2.0 learning communities?

I am a regional “Innovative Partnerships” coordinator so I had the luxury of learning about the project on the front end from the Office of Child Abuse Prevention and also was familiar with the North Coast Strategies 2.0 coordinator, Susan Jen. Relationships and understanding resources are absolutely key in any collaboration and since Susan and I had worked together over the years via the Lake County Children’s Council, it was an easy fit to work on common goals and implementation within the region.

Staff from the April 2018 Northern Learning Community. From left to right: Gabriella Grant, Rachael Harrington, Michael Williams, Sheryn Hildebrand, and Susan Jen.

What is your role as a hub/remote site facilitator?

My role is to house the equipment as well as facilitate and support remote collaboration of specific learning communities. I also feel my role as a partner is to share the opportunity about each learning community and all Strategies 2.0 projects with my Innovative Partnership partners and their counties as well as statewide to other partnerships I have (CASA Statewide). Hubs draw partners in and expand opportunities for learning while reducing expenditures for that learning by saving time and travel.

How has Strategies 2.0 helped with collaboration?

Susan Jen, as well as other Strategies 2.0 support staff, work closely with me both in person and via email and telephone to successfully coordinate opportunities within and outside of the Learning Communities. Strategies 2.0 is not just a facilitator of training but a valuable resource in support of local and regional goals. Strategies 2.0 has connected partners to build infrastructure in the state of California. We now have the opportunity for common messaging across the state.

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