I am pleased to announce that Health Connected’s board recently approved a new strategic plan, charting our course into 2024.
We conducted a year-long process that incorporated feedback from key stakeholders and deeply engaged our staff and board of directors. Through this process, we clarified our vision of the world we wish to co-create, the central problem we are working to solve and our approach to solving that problem, our core values for how we hope to do this important work, and our primary areas of focus for the next 2+ years. We have experienced considerable organizational growth over the last several years, so the focus of our new strategic plan is a refinement of our current programs and services, which will provide a solid foundation for future growth. Underlying all of our work to develop this strategic plan has been a desire to sow our commitment to equity and justice in the fertile ground of our future.
The last 22 months have presented both challenges and opportunities for Health Connected. For the better part of this period, all of our programs have been delivered online. We were affected by many of the same challenges our school partners have faced – constantly changing schedules and expectations for online or hybrid instruction, lower student engagement, exhaustion for our team and all of the education professionals with whom we partner.
Entering the Next “Normal”
At the same time, we were able to develop an approach to online instruction which was unique among sex education providers. Our live webinars provided continuity of instruction at a time when continuity was a precious resource. Our webinars incorporated a variety of opportunities for students to engage with our content in ways that preserved their privacy and were most relevant to them – one-way chats, polls, anonymous online quiz games, and reflection questions, to name a few. We also provided asynchronous activities students could do outside of the webinars with and without trusted adults to deepen their learning about sexual health topics. This approach has enabled us to remain flexible during the 2021-22 school year as we continue to navigate pandemic uncertainty and has opened up new opportunities for us to bring fun, relevant sexual health education to students who may not have had access to it previously.
Our Financial Position
We are currently in a solid financial position, thanks in part to support from long-time funding partners, new investors, and Paycheck Protection Program loans, as well as continued partnerships with school districts. Financial stability has been critical over the last two years, but, like many other organizations, we have struggled to expand and train our staff fast enough to meet an increased demand for our services. This is especially true this year as school districts see the critical need to support young people’s social-emotional needs. Social-emotional learning is an area that sexual health education providers are uniquely positioned to support since sex education addresses key social-emotional development milestones like building healthy friendships and intimate relationships, seeking out adult and community resources, and establishing community norms of empathy and respect.
Our New Strategic Priorities
So, it is in this context that we are pleased to share our strategic priorities for the next few years, which are designed to increase our organizational impact and long-term sustainability. While these three priorities are highlighted for particular focus over the next three years, Health Connected will continue to maintain our six best-in-class sexual health curricula and deliver exceptional instruction, training, and family engagement programs with a focus on deepening our engagement across California.
Priority A: Re-frame sex education as an integral component of youth social development and position Health Connected as the go-to sex ed organization.
Sexual health education is often ignored as a vital component of age-appropriate social-emotional learning instruction. Health Connected will use our unique position as a curriculum developer, program provider, and thought-leader in the sexual health field to shift the understanding of the scope of social-emotional learning instruction.
Priority B: Expand access for populations who are not currently being fully served with effective sexual health education programs.
Health Connected has significantly expanded the number of young people, parents/caregivers, and education professionals we serve over the last several years, but we know that there are many populations of young people and families who are not being effectively served with high-quality sexual health education. We will focus on understanding and prioritizing these populations and then experimenting with how to serve them more effectively.
Priority C: Critically examine our approach to and thoughtfully integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) practices into our curriculum content, program delivery, talent development, and organizational governance.
We know there is much to be done to understand how we as individuals and as an organization might perpetuate systems of oppression and can participate in healing those same systems. Given our engagement with thousands of students, families, and educators, Health Connected is committed to transformative solidarity practices that catalyze individual and organizational growth by prioritizing relationship-building, normalizing discomfort, and investigating the status quo.
These priorities will be guided by our five core values that have undergirded all of Health Connected's work since our founding. These core values are:
AGENCY: We empower young people to make the decisions that are right for them about their health, bodies, and relationships, free of shame, judgment, or pressure.
JUSTICE: We have an obligation to work towards collective liberation by dismantling the institutional barriers that impede young people’s agency, particularly for those who have been disproportionately impacted by systemic oppression.
CONNECTION: We promote the wellbeing of youth by strengthening their relationships with trusted adults, healthcare providers, peers, and partners; we build bridges in communities to foster connectedness.
EXCELLENCE: We deliver ever-evolving, outcome-driven, research-informed education and personalized service to meet the needs of youth in the context of our constantly changing world.
ZEST*: We spark meaningful learning about complicated sexual health topics through dynamic, inquisitive, and courageous student engagement.
We are grateful to the long-term partners and funders who have supported our work for many years. Our continued growth would not be possible without this generous support in so many ways. To read more about our vision, mission, core values, and strategic priorities, click here.
*After we developed our core values, it was brought to our attention by education professionals seeking to build more culturally-responsive education environments that the term "zest" can marginalize students who contend with intergenerational trauma and institutionalized racism. We are using this term as a representation of Health Connected's fun and exuberant approach in all of our programs, not as an expectation of the young people we engage with.