NCA Reflections: An Introduction to Prevention

Last month, Natalie Kulick, CADCA’s Communications Associate, had the opportunity to virtually attend the first week of training at CADCA’s National Coalition Academy (NCA) with the Tennessee cohort. She reflects on her experience here:

Going into my first week of NCA training as a newer staff member at CADCA, I was eager to become more familiar with the common buzzwords that I often hear mentioned in prevention work; terms like logic models, local conditions and community assessments, to name a few. Prior to attending, my understanding of these concepts was surface-level; I had yet to fully grasp how each of these components worked in tandem with one another and how valuable they are when it is time to create a strategic action plan to implement in a community.

To kick off the week of learning, trainers Stephanie Strutner and Kristina Clark, found ways to keep everyone engaged and comfortable discussing ideas with one another in a virtual format. After all, this week was not only an opportunity to learn from CADCA’s knowledgeable trainers, but also a chance to exchange ideas and struggles with other coalition members of varying experience levels. This became especially clear during our first icebreaker, when participants were divided into breakout rooms and asked to share information about themselves, their coalition and some of the greatest successes they have had in their community thus far. Many participants that shared a recent initiative or event that their coalition held were met with questions and enthusiasm from other coalition members about replicating those ideas in their community.

As the training continued, Stephanie and Kristina covered a wide range of topics. To cement this new knowledge, they followed their presentations with activities that pushed participants to apply what they had just learned. After spending the morning on the topic of identifying local conditions, everyone was asked to critique an example logic model that appeared at first glance to have little to no faults. Entering the breakout room, we pored over the example silently at first, struggling to identify the common mistakes the trainers promised we would find. Then, after the first mistake was spotted, the confidence of the group grew, and more of what we had just learned flooded back to our minds. The exercise felt like one large, collective breakthrough. Following that activity, participants expressed how eager they were to get back to their coalitions, so that they could apply similar improvements to their own logic model.

As the final day of training for Week One concluded, Stephanie and Kristina opened the dialogue for participants to share their thoughts about the first week of the NCA. Overwhelmingly, coalition members expressed gratitude for the ability to continue to access training and get one-on-one support, despite being unable to meet in-person. As for myself, I parted that week with a clearer understanding of the work that goes into creating lasting change in communities and a deeper appreciation for the dedicated change agents who make that impact happen.