An Opportunity for Growth + Bonding

Last fall, for fun, I read the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandburg (Facebook’s COO). I was really inspired by this book and wanted to discuss it with people who shared my interest in business.  At the same time, Banyan was looking at ways to integrate professional activities into a fun, work-social mix.

But how to find a way to help our diverse and busy workforce continue to grow professionally while bonding with each other at a time when everyone could be available?

Over lunch, I talked to my colleague, Tina about how great it would be to have organized discussions based on books, journals, magazines—pretty much any writing on subjects that we could apply to our work at Banyan.

That’s how the Banyan Book Club was born.

We thought we’d start with a breakfast meeting since most people don’t have conflicting activities right before work (and it never hurts to schedule events around food). Since we have offices in Atlanta and St. Louis, we joined by SKYPE and each office brought some healthy—and if I’m being perfectly honest—some not-so-healthy breakfast treats to share.

LeanInWith all the media hype, “Lean In” was a natural pick for our inaugural meeting. Sandburg based the book on what we can all learn from her experiences and success in the business world. We invited all employees to join in the open conversation, even if they only read the book’s cover.

Because of the subject matter, the majority of the discussion did revolve around women in the workplace, so we looked to our sole male participant, Chris, to provide the man’s point-of-view. Discussion topics ranged from what it meant to “lean in” to the challenges of life as a working mother to negotiating and self-confidence.

The conversation was positive and constructive. I walked out of the room with a new respect for each person’s perspective on the subject matter and an excitement for the next gathering.

Based on the feedback we received, the Banyan Book Club was off to a great start.  We all felt we grew a little, in understanding the dynamics around women in the workplace. We also bonded a little, by understanding our colleagues’ personal perspectives on a very interesting and relevant subject.

The next book on our reading list was “How to Be Like Walt Disney: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life” by Pat Williams. This optimistic and inspiring book walks through 17 steps to live a life more like Walt Disney full of creativity, success and fulfillment.  We’ll highlight how the Banyan Book Club captures the Disney magic in an upcoming post.

Stay tuned!

Healthiest Nation in One Generation

Daunting? Maybe. Achievable? Absolutely.

As anyone who is called to do this work knows, promoting public health can be a challenge: the American Public Health Association notes the current generation isn’t as healthy as the one that came before.

A challenge, yes. But one that’s worthwhile, rewarding, and often inspiring, too.


Day 2, Disaster Plan

National Public Health Week 2014 kicked off on Monday, and our entire team rallied around the effort. Our “Creating Change for Good” motto isn’t just part of our signature in emails or a hashtag. It’s truly the one unifying piece of all of the work we do.

To connect with others who share the same passion is a reminder that no one is in this alone. The benefits of a happier, healthier, safer nation far outweigh the heavy lifting it might take to get us there.

So we signed on as a NPHW partner, joined the #NPHWchat — which generated 5,300+ tweets, included 1,100 participants & trended nationally — and put our own creative spin on each daily theme for NPHW.  The end result:  a light-hearted and serious mix, represented via infographics, videos, and one bad dog trying really hard to do the right thing.

At the end of the day, aren’t we all?

#NPHW week daily themes:
  1. Be Healthy from the Start
  2. Don’t Panic
  3. Get Out Ahead
  4. Eat Well
  5. Be the healthiest nation in one generation.

And finally – today’s theme: “Be the healthiest nation in one generation.” We’re ready to roll up our sleeves. Who’s with us?



Eat Well

If there’s one thing everyone at Banyan can agree on – including the Office Dog – it’s that good food is amazing.

As part of our creating healthy Change for Good Challenge, the teams in ATL and STL came together for our “Wellness Wednesdays.” We shared exercise tips and tricks over lunches comprised of healthy recipes and snacks. Don’t get us wrong, we still like good eats that might not be the best for you – but hey, everything in moderation, right?

We also believe in giving credit where due. Like the rest of us, Macbeth is trying (like, really, REALLY trying) hard to be better. What better incentive than today’s National Public Health Week theme?

Eat well.

Kind of work in progress, but we give him an A for effort!

Cheers to healthy eating, from all of us at Banyan!

Be Healthy from the Start

Welcome to National Public Health Week 2014!

We’re delighted to support this initiative of the American Public Health Association, and hope you’ll help us raise awareness too.

Today’s theme: “Be Healthy from the Start.” Check out the prevention tips below and share with others!


Learn more about the significance of the week and how you can get involved in creating healthy Change for Good today:

Circular Stories in a Linear World

Nearly 10 years ago, I was working my first grown-up job as an outreach representative for a Medicaid company. It was my first taste of public health and I loved it.  In an effort to truly understand the community members we worked with every day, management sent our department to a training based on the book:  “Bridges Out of Poverty:  Strategies for Professionals and Communities.”

A fascinating read, the book talks about the differences in values, characteristics, and social norms of those living in generational poverty, middle class, and wealth.  According to the authors, generational poverty is defined as “…being in poverty for two generations or longer.” Fascinated, I realized that my father was the first in our family to cross the societal line between generational poverty and middle class.

And although the authors go into great detail about aspects of the generational poverty culture, the part that most struck me was how we tell stories.

470024761Any writer will tell you the most common story structure is a very clear, but very linear arc. There is a beginning, the plot develops, climaxes, and there is an end. We see it clearly and very simply in the fairytales told to us as children.

“Once upon a time…this happened, then this happened…and then the hero of the story won, and they all lived happily ever after.”

In the public health model, this story would look something like this:  The 10-family multi-unit housing complex allowed occupants to smoke in their homes.  Because of this, many tenants were exposed to second-hand smoke. Our coalition educated community members and owners about the dangers of second-hand smoke and how it can creep through the building. In January of this year, the complex went smoke-free indoors and now 10 families live in a smoke free environment.

But we don’t all tell stories that way.  I realized that I’m the second kind of storyteller. I tell stories in Casual-Register Story Structure, which looks a bit less like an arc, and more like a series of stories—all with audience participation.

Using the same smoke-free housing example as before, this story would start with how the change has affected the lives of a family in 2A, whose daughter is asthmatic. Then, we would tell you the neighbor in 5D was mad that the change happened and complained to the board. (This part would be complete with gestures and action as we literally act out the complaint). Eventually, we would tell you that the change happened last January, but from the story we told, you would think it was just yesterday.

Now in my role at Banyan, I help communities tell the stories of their success.  And recently, I was reminded of these traits when a community noted that, although all of the training in linear storytelling was great—our storytellers just don’t tell stories that way.  It seems that other cultures, such as the Latino or Hispanic culture, tell stories just like I do.

477653083Even if our circular stories with audience participation are more entertaining, we still need to communicate with the individuals in our community that may value linear storytelling.  Those folks who are looking for the return on investment and still want to know that the beneficiaries of the program or initiative are living happily ever after.

With this in mind, Banyan is currently developing a new kind of storytelling training.  One that still talks about linear storytelling—helping people put the right information in the right sections—but also uses charts, index cards, thoughts, and ideas to shuffle our circular story into one understood by a linear world.

The one thing I’ve learned more than anything else in public health: there is amazing work being done out there, and everyone deserves a chance to tell his or her story.