The Carnegie Sessions are a set of three forums sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and Heritage University. The goal of these sessions, held throughout 2012, is to increase collaboration in the Yakima Valley in order to address major challenges in the areas of education, health care, and issues related to the environment. These innovative public forums were built using community based participatory research methodology, where representatives from the community framed the issues, designed the format, and identified who should be involved as both presenters and participants. For each session a wide range of people were invited, and a broadly representative panel of local leaders and visiting specialists helped to frame the challenges. The purpose of these sessions is not primarily to inform, but to explore ways to leverage strengths and assets that various communities bring to these issues and to learn whether greater collaboration can create more effectual and innovative structures within which to make improvements in the Yakima Valley.
Several initiatives are currently under way to address the challenges that Yakima County faces in education. Far too few pre-kindergarten children have access to quality early education; far too few of our young people graduate from high school and even fewer attend and graduate from college. How can our towns, businesses, faith organizations, non-profits, and families – ethnically diverse religiously varied, economically disparate, socially separated – come together to improve the success rate of our young people in school and afterward?
There are excellent health care delivery systems in Yakima County – hospitals, clinics, private physicians, the Yakima Nation Health Care system – and there is a splendid new university for health sciences; but access to quality health care still varies enormously and often in parallel with income levels. The focus of this session was how communities can leverage each other’s strengths through greater collaboration and partnerships.
In Yakima County we are blesses with plentiful natural resources, including water. Yet ever increasing demand has caused us to examine how best to allocated this precious resource. The focus of this session is to bring multiple users together to identify and strengthen strategies that will ensure we have the water resources we depend on into the future.