Special Episode 8: Coalition & Collaboration Leaders

Episode 14 December 23, 2021 00:30:13
Special Episode 8: Coalition & Collaboration Leaders
The Water Safety Podcast
Special Episode 8: Coalition & Collaboration Leaders
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Show Notes

Join special guest hosts Will Koon & Tizzy Bennett for episode 8 of a special podcast series as they interview coalition and collaboration leaders in drowning prevention. In this interview they chat with Alissa Magrum of Texas.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 Hey tizzy. Hi. Well, okay. We've got a few of these under our belt now, and this conversation is so great. Um, I'm so pleased that we had the opportunity to talk with Alyssa <inaudible> from the Texas drowning prevention Alliance. Um, and you'll hear her refer to that as the TX DPA. So when you hear those letters, that's the Texas drowning prevention Alliance. Speaker 1 00:00:28 And while that's the beginning of her introduction, you'll hear from her just all the ways that she is and has been involved with drowning prevention and water safety and the passion that she brings to it. And really looking forward to this conversation today. Speaker 0 00:00:46 All right, here is our conversation with Alyssa, from Texas Alyssa. It is so good to see you. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. Would you please take a minute or two to introduce yourself? Um, tell us a little bit about who you are and your connection to water safety, um, and, and what you do in Texas. Speaker 2 00:01:11 Sure. My name is Alyssa <inaudible>. I am the executive director of Colin's hope, which is a water safety and drowning prevention non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas, but we work, uh, locally, regionally statewide and nationally and even beyond. Um, so I've been in that role for, um, approaching 11 years in December as the executive director. Uh, my, my connection to water safety really began the day after Colin Holst drowned a four year old Colin holes. Two is the reason Collins' hope exists. He was a pre-school classmate of my daughters. So when Colin drown, I suddenly had a parental wake-up call that drowning was something I needed to think about. I'm actually a competitive triathlete. I've been in groundwater all my life. My daughter has been in waters in and around water since she was born, but I really, as a parent, hadn't thought about drowning as something I needed to think of just like, I think about bike helmets or car seats or all those other things that that parents think about. Speaker 2 00:02:11 So, um, my, my water safety connection really began when Collin soap formed in August of 2008. Maybe before that, because Colin drown in June of 2008. Um, since that time I have kind of gotten out, uh, still do the day to day, what feels like a 27, 28 hour a day job, um, as the executive director, but also working locally with our central Texas drowning prevention action team, as well as, um, I'm the vice president of the safe kids, Austin boards. So I bring water safety to that, um, space, um, as well as statewide with the, as a board member for the Texas drowning prevention Alliance and then nationally, um, on, as a co-chair of the NDPA advisory board and some, uh, been working on the national water safety action plan. So my water safety story has just gotten bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper if we want to use the analogy of water over the years. Speaker 1 00:03:10 Thank you so much. Thanks, Alyssa. And hi, it's really good to be here with you today. And, um, while we're going to be primarily focused on the Texas drowning prevention Alliance, your connections with these other related groups, um, please feel free to bring that into our conversation today because absolutely collaboration and connection are themes that we are hearing in all of our interviews. And so please feel free to do that, but with that, my first question for you is if you can provide a snapshot history of the coalition, tell us when it was formed and whether there was an initial catalyst or motivation. Speaker 2 00:03:55 Sure. So the Texas drowning prevention Alliance was officially formed in 2011, a woman named Linda Sanders who owned a swim school in Dallas, in the Dallas Fort worth area. Um, I believe she had had a personal family member had been lost to a drowning and she owned a swim school. So water safety became something that was really around her all the time and, and a passion of hers. And she recognized that in the state of Texas, which is a very large state, um, and very diverse state that there wasn't a, a statewide organization working around water safety, any type of coalition, there's a lot happening, but not a group working together. And so she formed, um, the TX CPA in 2011. It was, I think it was probably heavily more heavily DFW Dallas Fort worth area folks, just because that was where she was, but she really did a good job of trying to bring in people from across the state. Speaker 2 00:04:52 So for example, I'm in central Texas in Austin, there were some folks from El Paso, some folks from around the state. And so she kind of gathered us together to work on, um, just figure out what, what can we do as a state? How can we even start working together? And, and, and that's an epic feat in, in a giant state as, as Texas. Um, and so that started in 2011 and each year there was, um, there was out some outreach to pediatricians that was done in the very early beginnings as kind of the, um, the, the focus I remember in being the executive director here at Collins hope at that time. And I was about three years, well, three years into my work with Collins. So, but only really a year into my role as executive director. And I knew that the TX CPA was going to tackle pediatricians. Speaker 2 00:05:39 So I remember having a conversation with Linda saying, I'll support the efforts of TX CPA in approaching pediatricians in our area, but I'll let you guys do that and we'll do some other things. And so, um, TX CPA started, there was an annual meeting every year. That was, you know, Texas is huge. It was really hard for a lot of people to get there. Uh, but we had an annual meeting for a couple of years trying to wrap our brains and our minds and everything around how to, how to, how to do better water safety and drowning prevention in Texas. So it was started in 2011 and then in 2018, I believe, um, uh, Linda decided that she just, she needed, uh, I think, a larger organization or something to sort of house TX CPA because it was, um, I think some things in her life were changing. Speaker 2 00:06:29 And so at that point, the Texas Alliance of YMCAs picked up sort of brought in housed. I don't even know officially what, what, what happened really, but, um, they said we care about water safety because the YMCA has so much, uh, such a strong learn to swim program and commitment to water safety that, um, that felt like a natural fit. And it lived there for about two years, maybe a year and a half, two years. I came on as a board member for the Texas drowning prevention Alliance during that time. And then in the next two years, it really became not the greatest fit for, um, really the purpose. The, I think the reason was in when I can talk about this more later, is that the person who was handling it at the Alliance of YMCAs, it was an add on to their job. Speaker 2 00:07:17 And so it wasn't that wasn't their primary job and it's a huge job. And that's something you'll hear me say later when I have the opportunity that, um, it can't be an add on to someone's job where it's just a, I don't want to say an afterthought, but where it's really a thing that an extra thing they have to do. Um, and unfortunately that's kind of what happened. And so that it moved, uh, in the last two years and right before COVID really hit, um, there are a few of us who are on the board, uh, here for the TX CPA that have been kind of trying to keep it afloat, trying to figure out what to do really, and trying to figure out how to mobilize such a huge state around something that is, um, so big. And, and you asked about the catalyst, and I think that the catalyst for having a statewide drowning prevention Alliance is really because it's such a giant problem here in Texas. Speaker 2 00:08:12 I mean, granted we're big, but on the average, and these are just child fatal drownings, we average close to a hundred, we lose close to a hundred children in Texas every year to fatal drownings. That's not even counting non-fatal drownings, that's not even touching. And the adults, um, that we lose and, and those numbers are, are big too. So that was the catalyst was we have to do something as a state really. And, and I give credit to Linda for really saying, being the first person to kind of try to wrap herself around how to even do that. Speaker 1 00:08:45 Thank you. Thank you so much in it. It needs that explanation. So thank you. Just one clarifying question. When you give that figure of a hundred, what Speaker 2 00:08:55 Ages of kids are you talking about? So that's zero to 17. Okay. Thank you. And we work with the department of Texas department of family and protective services to have that real, uh, real time number, as best as we can. And so that's the, you know, that's the data that we, we lean really heavily on is that data, because it's pretty up to date by the minute. Like I checked the stats before I got on this, um, interview. And, um, and so that's a number that we can lean in, lean on because we know that it's, it's, it's pretty accurate. Speaker 0 00:09:29 So can we, can we follow up on that specifically because, um, I think that is like the goal for a lot of different organizations around the state is to get some sort of system in place like that. So how did that system start and who you mentioned it was the department of, uh, Speaker 2 00:09:49 Of Speaker 0 00:09:49 Services. So you're only, so you're only getting pediatric drowning deaths. Speaker 2 00:09:54 I was saying. Yeah, that's just the, that's just the, yeah, that's just the child data, the rest of the data it's just between, um, yeah, it's, it's hard. Speaker 0 00:10:03 So can I ask a little bit about the relationship between the TX DPA, the drowning prevention Alliance and the department of childhood protective services? How did that connection start and how has it maintained? Speaker 2 00:10:16 Sure. So there's a website you can go to and you can look at that, um, those, the numbers that I'm talking about, and they have certainly been the, the person who puts it up on the website and who tracks that has certainly been engaged in conversations with TX CPA, but we have a really solid relationship. Um, and we've been able to make suggestions around how they report that on the website. So whether, you know, by location, um, so it's, I would say it's just, it's a relationship of asking for it. And then having a person, this is key having a person over there, um, who is passionate about wanting to make sure that that data is available. And he has a gentleman that does, it has a history in water safety and drowning prevention and a personal story around water. And so I believe that a lot of the recent we have that is because of that one human who believes that it should, um, be available. Speaker 0 00:11:18 Thank you for describing that. Cause I think there's a lot of groups out there trying to do data better. And so, and what we've found is that everybody is doing it in a different way and there's no right, or there's no right or wrong, but it's so interesting that we've got all these different tools, right. Um, you know, some groups are working with EMS and some groups are working with family protective services and other groups are working with public health. And so it's, it's good to hear, I think all of these different examples of the ways that we can do it back to the, to the Texas drowning prevention Alliance can briefly describe how it's currently organized in terms of maybe leadership and who's involved and what people in, how are people involved? Speaker 2 00:12:04 Sure. So currently the leadership sits with, um, the three of us who are the current board and we're really, I'll be quite Frank and honest and saying, we're struggling with figuring out how to keep it going. We each have our own organizations that we're trying to run. And that is a huge challenge. Um, as well as I'm, co-chairing our central Texas drowning prevention action team. So it's like at all the levels and working at the national level at all the levels, it's, there's not enough time in the day or energy to be on it, to be honest. And, um, what the strategy that we're currently using is utilizing where each of us as board members is in the drowning prevention space in the state and trying to bring in all of our partners that we work with and keep them engaged. So for example, if it's Texas parks and wildlife that we work with at the local or the state level, bringing those people in at both of those levels, cause they function locally and they function at the statewide level. Speaker 2 00:13:06 Um, and it's a challenge. I mean, I will be honest. I know when you asked, asked me to do this interview, it was, it was it's, it's a little bit, we're in a little bit of a dicey spot. And, um, I feel like how it's happening right now is a lot of, um, maybe not formally organized systems and structures, but a lot of partnerships and collaborations that are working and sharing of resources. And, and I, I will I'll name, safe kids in this because we have lots of safe kids, um, coalitions across the state. And so we try to, we try to link up those, um, those threads, so to speak, um, as well as all the different parts and pieces, whether it's their swim schools that are working statewide or in, in regions. And, um, it's a lot of just partnerships and collaborations. And I would honestly say there's not a lot of formal, um, structure right now because we don't have the resources to do it. Speaker 2 00:14:06 And I'll go back to this. And I probably will say it a hundred times in this interview. We don't, we, there has to be a person who is owns it or who is full-time on it and honestly funded to do it. And who is not trying to be in 17 different wear 17 different hats. I mean, I know I get phone calls because I'm on the board and I'll get a media call that says, you know, someone from Texas drowning prevention Alliance and I'll put that hat on and I might be wearing my Collin's hope hat for part of this time in the, in that interview or whatever. But, um, it's, it's, it's a struggle. It's a struggle because we don't have, uh, a safe home with a structure around it. That's, that's sort of the puppeteer, so to speak. Speaker 1 00:14:52 So on that line, it sounds like this partnership and collaboration is in fact a real central output of what the Alliance does. And I wondered if, if that's true, if you can validate that. And then if there are any other kind of key activities that the Alliance is involved with or really about the connecting piece, Speaker 2 00:15:17 I think some of it is for sure about the connecting piece and sharing resources. Um, I know that we were able to pull off, um, a couple of years ago. I think it was 20, 20 19, right before, before COVID, everything's like before COVID during COVID or, you know, um, but we were able to pull off a day at the Capitol where we had a really good, we had some brief, uh, legislative briefing and we put up the, um, a number of the Texas families that are part of families United to prevent drowning, put up the, not one more banners in the state Capitol. And we had a proclamation and that was really, really great because I feel like we had good representation from across the state that showed up at the Capitol. And we showed, um, that collaboration in that particular event, um, we have had some really nice sharing of resources across. Speaker 2 00:16:07 Uh, so for example, cook children's has a lifeguard, your child, uh, campaign with some really great public service announcements and things like that. And those have been shared, um, and multiple partners across the state, I think have used those. I know our water safety cards at Collins hope are kind of shared as a resource as well as our water safety quiz. So I think that, um, the, the collaboration and the connections is, is for, for sure right now the foundational piece of TX CPA, as in, um, not some sort of really great structure of we have monthly meetings and we have these coalition things because we're all working so hard in our communities. And I think that's, um, because there isn't someone who's just sitting in a state office somewhere, making sure that those, um, the structure's there. So a lot of it is at the output, as you said, see what is around the collaborative pieces? Speaker 2 00:17:06 And I know that if, um, just the network, to be honest, I know that if I see something that happens in sail Paso, I know, um, some of the members from that were representing El Paso. I know that I can, I know where they are. I know that there's a drowning prevention coalition there and I can reach, reach out for them. So some of that too is just identifying that the spaces where people are working across Texas and knowing that if I need something with beach safety, I know I've got the people in Corpus and Galveston that are working and doing more around rip current or beach safety. And so we can land in on those. And I think that's a thing that's naturally happening versus having a conference or having something like that where I, we could get there. And I think that maybe when we get this, the national plan and we get a little bit of, I think funding is a piece that I will use that F-word funding. There has to be some funding from somewhere because someone has to pay for it costs money to, to have a sustainable organization. Speaker 0 00:18:10 The it's so interesting to, well, I guess, first of all, thank you for sharing candidly with us about where you guys are. Um, I think that it's super important that people listening to this understand that there are really high and great times in a lot of these coalitions, and sometimes there are difficult times. And so at first, I'd just like to thank you for being honest and candid about where you guys are with with that. Um, I, it is interesting to me that the coalition really has survived on this from my perspective has survived on this an informal partnership network, collaboration, um, system without a whole lot of infrastructure and guide rails. And so I think if anybody, if there's any lesson to learn that it's really important that we put our energy and time into fostering those relationships and building those connections and spending time kind of nurturing that aspect of the coalition because in three years, in five years, in 10 years, we don't know where we're going to be and that's, what's going to keep us going Speaker 2 00:19:21 Well, thank you for pointing that out because relationships, relationships, relationships, and that is so key. I mean, we have a TX CPA website and I, um, when I can figure out how to get in there, I changed some things and update some things, but, um, really it's, it is about that, that having the relationships and knowing that we can, it is really, I think you used the word informal. It feels really informal. And when I was preparing for this part of me was, was like, oh no, what am I going to say? Because I I'm, I don't, you know, it's not a rosy picture right now, but I will say it's an honest picture of what I'm talking about. And I think that is where if people are going to learn, um, potholes to avoid, or, you know, things that are positive that they can, I want them to know to hear the real stuff. I don't want to candy coat because what are we going to learn from that? I mean, who's going to be helped by that. So, so yeah, this is, this is how it really is. And we can, um, I do think that we have a ton of amazing work happening across the state. And that is what allows us to kind of be sustaining in that way, because there is a lot happening. Speaker 0 00:20:31 I want to ask you, um, about some of the successes that you feel that the coalition has had, or the alliances had men. You've already mentioned that the partnerships and the network as being a really strong element, are there any other successes, um, that you are like really proud of and want everybody to know about? Speaker 2 00:20:51 Well, I think the original work around with the pediatricians was really great because there was a, um, an MOC and excuse my, I don't know what that stands for, but it's basically a module, uh, uh, education module for pediatricians that were wanting to put more water safety into their visits with patients. And there was some work done around that, um, with pediatricians, which is really, really great. And we're still trying to expand, um, on that work as well as we do work with the Texas pediatric society and the, um, to try to work with our pediatrician so that I feel like has been a really big success that continues on even through the iterations of this organization. I think when we had our statewide day at the Capitol, that was a really, um, a really nice success for us to get a statewide proclamation, um, as well as really have representation from across the state coming together. Speaker 2 00:21:46 Um, constantly our, um, messaging we're trying to, I think it's, I think this is a success in progress, so we're trying to line up our messaging so that we're all saying similar things across the entire state. So I'll use the example of, we used to, and still a little bit, but are trying transitioning way. We used to use the term water guardian and set of water watcher and through some of my work at, you know, on the action plan and through some other work across the state, we are shifting to, okay, let's all use water watcher as a, as a word that we can all line up behind and let's, you know, let's use that word. People can understand that word. And so, um, some things, I feel like that's a big success because in it's weird, but you know, when you let go of terms that you've used, there's territorialism that you just have to put away. Speaker 2 00:22:38 And it's, it's, it's for a lot of us, at least for me, in working for an organization that was founded after, after a child drown, it's a legacy, it's a little bit of a legacy piece. Um, some of that, sometimes the way that we say things, and I think that's something that I'm really proud of across Texas that are all the families that are, have lost, or almost lost children, all the swim schools, all the organizations that are part of this, I really feel like are seeing the value of working together. And that is even in the tiniest ways. Um, and I think that is a huge success because every time someone chooses to work with someone, um, and chooses to get out of their own silos, it's an opportunity for doing more and more and more of the work. And I, and I would say in a state, that's as large as this, um, anytime we can do that, it's, it's a success. Speaker 2 00:23:27 So I look forward to, um, a future. I'm going to just manifest it here, a future, um, Texas campaign of a billboard campaign or a public health campaign. I know that's something I dream of at the national level that we all can get behind. Um, but I think that those successes, sometimes our successes have been really small and that's just adding a partner to the, to the group that hasn't been part of the conversation. Um, and sometimes that's people that are outside of water safety, you know, that's, uh, some corporate partners that might not have water safety as their primary thing that they're doing. And I think we, I think that's a success too, cause we've got some, some partners that we're starting to work with that are not just water safety people. Um, Speaker 1 00:24:11 You're so right. That words matter. And sometimes it's so hard to bring that consensus around a term. And then when you do it really helps to build consistency and messaging out in the community. So what advice I'm going to shift us for our last few questions and ask you what advice you would have for a newly forming water safety coalition. Speaker 2 00:24:38 I would say find, um, a person who's going to be the puppeteer. I think that that's so key if possible, find someone who can do that as their primary function and not as an add-on and not as trying to do 75 other things, because I do think that that is so important and that's something that we're struggling with here. I think having a blueprint at least to work from whether it's an action plan, whether it's when the national plan comes out, it's a statewide plan that, that is able to be follow that, but flexible for what's happening in your state, but have some type of roadmap that everyone is aware of and that everyone is working towards. Because I think if you, if no one knows what you're trying to do, then how can everybody get behind it? Right. And then, um, you know, knowing your data, the best that you can knowing what's actually happening in your community well in your state and then in your communities, I think is so, so important. Speaker 2 00:25:36 Um, finding some funding, even if it's one grant or one little, um, pocket of money that can help with things like ads or, you know, PSA's or a person or something, but being able to find a funder who can, um, who's willing to put some, some money in it because it's, you can, you can get lots of in-kind things and you can, um, do that, but it is, there are some things that you just have to have some, some money at the table. And I think it also adds validity and credibility to our work. If we, if we're not always just asking for everything for as a donation. Um, so I would say find some funding somewhere, even if it's a, you know, a community foundation or a bunch of community foundations that can each put it in there. Um, and then I think be willing to look outside and see what other states are doing and what they've screwed up. Speaker 2 00:26:28 Like, I think there's so many lessons to learn in the, in the failures. Um, I know that's one thing I've learned in my adult life and in my life at leading an organization and multiple organizations is sometimes you got to take some risks and sometimes it is not always going to work out how you want it to. And so then looking at that and saying, what can we learn from that to not do it again? Um, and then look at other people's because, you know, you can avoid pitfalls. That's, that's why I'm so happy to be part of this conversation, um, to maybe help our friends in, in California to, to avoid some of the things that we've, you know, the pitfalls we've had. So I think that's pay attention. It would be, you know, pay attention and, and communicate and form those partnerships because the partnerships are gonna allow those of us who have strengths in certain areas to work from our strengths and to work with, um, you know, with each other's strengths and where, where we don't have a strength, someone else in our collaboration will. And I think that's, um, that's, those are probably the big ones that I could probably go on forever, but Speaker 0 00:27:30 Well, I looked at, you've just dropped so many on us. So to quickly recap, get a dedicated person, have a blueprint or a plan, know your data, get some funding, even a little grant, be willing to look outside and learn and focus on partnership. Speaker 2 00:27:50 Yep. And celebrate the little successes, because I think there's so many things that, that, you know, we S gloss on over. I mean, I was preparing for this and I was just writing some things down. I'm like, yes, yes, yes. Because I was feeling a little beat down by the oh, like, um, you know, that we haven't cracked the nut on the structure pieces and some of those pieces. So celebrate the little wins and share those across your, across the, Speaker 0 00:28:19 Yeah. So, so helpful. Um, Alyssa, I so appreciate your thoughtful approach to this and, um, your, again, this candid conversation and your advice for us as we wrap up, is there anything else that you would want to add? Anything you want to leave us with today because I'm sure this conversation will go on. Speaker 2 00:28:42 Well, I would say thank you for asking, first of all, thank you for looking outside of California for lessons and lessons learned or things. Um, I personally am just honored to be part of the conversation. And I want to say like, the door is open. I mean, I think it would be really cool to have some cross state, um, things going on too. And I think there's a lot to be learned there. So, um, from the, from the big giant state of Texas, um, I would just say to our friends in California, you know, you're, you're getting on the path and, and that's, I think I know that there's a lot of great things happening in California because I work with folks in California and I know that we've learned some things from there. So keep up, keep up the work and know that we are saving lives. I know in prevention, that is so hard some days because you still see the drownings happening, but we have to know that we are saving lives and we are, we are moving mountains. That might be one rock at a time. Um, but we're doing that. So I just, I just appreciate, um, you got you guys and the work you're doing, and thank you for asking me to add to the conversation and have the best to ever. Cause that's our thing at Collins hope. Speaker 0 00:29:53 Oh, I have the best day ever. It's been, it's been, so it's been so good to chat with you again, and I'm again, super grateful for you and the lessons that you've shared with us today, Speaker 2 00:30:06 Alyssa. All right. Thank you both. Bye.

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