“The cost of not listening is much higher”
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Since it’s a new option, we didn’t know how popular it would be. Even if changemakers have the means, would they go for it? We recognize resource allocation questions are never simple and making the case to others to spring for a pricier option when the return isn’t necessarily immediate or tangible is, well, difficult. That’s why we were beyond excited when our first registrant to choose the Equity registration option came in the door earlier this month. We were also curious to hear, firsthand, a changemaker’s thinking behind the choice.
Randall H. Russell, MSW, ACSW serves as the founding president of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. The foundation has a bold goal of making Pinellas County, Florida the healthiest county in the U.S. using community-led focus areas within the social determinants to achieve health equity. As our first adopter of the Equity option, Randall kindly indulged us in a short Q&A about his work and why he’ll be leaving the warmer climes of Florida to join us up in the Windy City for a few days this November.
Q: Of all the registration options, why did you ultimately choose to subsidize the cost of somebody else’s Upswell registration?
RR: Achieving equity requires a lifting up of voices that are unheard due to class, race, or cultural access. Upswell’s focus on equity – especially health equity – requires voices that are unheard. As a funder attending the conference, it will only be through lived experience voices, and the voices of those otherwise blocked out, that we can listen closely enough to understand how to close all equity gaps. This level of registration helps make richer the voices who are attending the meeting.
Q: How did you hear about the Equity option?
RR: I saw the equity registration option in the materials and then explained on the registration landing page.
Q: Why are you coming to Upswell this November and what are you most looking forward to?
RR: Upswell offers the best opportunity to integrate the multiple sectors necessary to bring about social change. One sector alone can never accomplish what partnerships and collaborations can bring. This conference models social change through innovative partnerships that help me to mine the creative ideas of others to use in my work.
Q: The thinking behind the Equity option seems really in line with Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg’s mission. Namely, the need to remove structural barriers that most impact vulnerable groups like low-income families and people of color. Did you consciously think about that synergy when you saw that you had the option to offset the cost of participation for somebody else?
RR: Listening to the voices of lived experiences from those we propose to help is the only way we can know what help is needed, and whether or not it is working. Translating the lived experience into policy is critical – and the Foundation’s mission of health equity certainly influenced my choice to sponsor other attendees who would not otherwise be able to attend.
Q: What would you say to encourage others who have the means to consider the Equity option when they register?
RR: The cost of not listening to those who are unable to attend is much higher than the additional cost of the registration. Shame on us if we do not uplift the voices and listen to lived experiences in order to achieve social change. Please consider the ways in which the conference experience will be magnified if we also have people who can teach us from their own lives.
Learn more about the new Upswell registration model.