NCA Reflections: The Final Stretch

This past October, Natalie Kulick, CADCA’s Communications Associate, had the opportunity to virtually attend Week Three of training at CADCA’s National Coalition Academy (NCA). She recounts her experience here:

Entering the final stretch of the NCA, it was encouraging to pause and reflect on the progress that had been made since we first virtually gathered in July. I, along with a few others in the Tennessee Cohort, had entered the first week with little to no background in prevention. By the end of Week Two, I was both surprised and empowered to feel equipped with a newfound confidence speaking on subjects such as the Strategic Prevention Framework, logic models, environmental strategies and more.

Week Three of the NCA proved to be just as illuminating and fleeting as the two that preceded it. While there were still a few more topics left to cover, trainers Stephanie Strutner and Kristina Clark made to sure to allow participants’ additional time and opportunities to ask further questions and wrap up their final NCA products.

One of the main topics focused on during the final week was sustainability. Stephanie and Kristina emphasized that to truly create change and have a positive and lasting impact in a community, you need time, and that in order to ensure that you stick around long enough to have that impact, you need to focus on sustainability. They also impressed upon us that no single source of funding will be large enough or last long enough to see a coalition through to success, thus driving home the importance of a well thought out sustainability plan. In a breakout session following this lesson, participants shared that this was a great reminder for not only why they are completing the NCA products, but also of their goals for their community.

Additionally, throughout the week, we focused on how to create change through policies. We learned the difference between big “P” policies, which are changes to laws, ordinances or policies that must be voted on by an elected legislative body, and little “p” policies, such as changes to an administrative policy, procedure or practice that can be implemented by an organization. To clarify this difference, participants were separated into breakout rooms to brainstorm and identify an ideal policy change they would like for their community and which category it would fall under. Upon returning from our breakout groups and sharing with the entire cohort, some coalitions even sparked policy ideas that others seemed interested in implementing in their own community.

On the final day, coalitions were split into breakout sessions to share drafts of their final products for group feedback and input. While this particular cohort only had the chance to meet and train on a virtual platform, the mutual support and encouragement shown throughout the weeks of breakout sessions and during the final presentations proved that a strong bond and a solid network could still be created. Participants from different coalitions consistently listened to and learned from each other’s expertise and innovative ideas throughout the NCA experience, and by the close of the week, it truly felt like a lasting support system of like-minded change agents had formed. While my personal goal for attending the NCA was to better understand the prevention field and coalition work, I am proud that I was able to spend this time with a group of motivated, passionate individuals who were able to grow and develop impressive final products in a matter of months. I look forward to seeing this cohort receive well-deserved recognition at the NCA Graduation Ceremony at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum this February.

Congratulations to all the cohorts and the full 2021 graduating class of the National Coalition and Graduate Coalition Academy!