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10 Tips to Make Your Open School Chapter Thrive

By Gina Deitz | Tuesday, April 5, 2016

This month, the Open School community went back to the basics to revisit the best practices for starting and sustaining an IHI Open School Chapter.

On our most recent Global Chapter Call, participants heard from two Chapters: a growing undergraduate Chapter at Willamette University in Oregon that’s found great success in its first year, and a long-time Chapter at the University of Toronto that’s developed a strong leadership structure and continues to spread its reach.

We’ve summarized the top 10 tips we learned from these Chapters below, but don’t just take our word for it. We encourage you to check out the full call recording here.

1. Define your Chapter’s role at your school or organization.

Establish a mission statement to guide your work. For example, Toronto aims to educate every student to practice and teach quality improvement and enhance patient safety. Willamette University is a small liberal arts college that’s not affiliated with any graduate health programs, so the Chapter decided they had to find a niche as a pre-health professions club. They reflected this in their mission statement.

2. Be flexible and creative in your marketing and strategy.

Begin your marketing efforts early and often in the beginning of the year. There’s a number of events — orientations, other student group meetings, classes — where you can connect with potential members. The IHI Open School offers free recruitment materials (request them here!). Sharing your association with IHI has helped many Chapters establish credibility, and excites people when they see they can be part of a larger movement. Once people have joined your mailing list, email is an easy way to send a newsletter or targeted messages about speakers, events, or opportunities to build skills in quality improvement.

3. Build a strong leadership structure.

Chapters choose to set up their leadership structure in a variety of ways. It’s important to facilitate interdependent, interprofessional teams rooted in a shared commitment to health care improvement. Establishing committees to separate the different portfolios of your work will expand your capacity, too.

4. Create a long-term vision for your Chapter.

Make a plan for transitioning your leadership team. Even if you’ve built a strong leadership structure, succession planning is key to long-term growth. Incorporate strategies for sustainability over the coming years — don’t just look ahead to the next few months, but consider how you can continue to work in the next few years and beyond.

5. Create mentorship opportunities for your members.

For one, you can create mentorship within your Chapter — between older and younger students (which will help with Chapter sustainability, too). But you can also look to local health professionals and residents for sources of mentorship.

6. Connect with local community.

Willamette Chapter Leaders took part in the IHI Open School Change Agent Network (I-CAN) to join efforts with another IHI Open School Chapter in Portland, OR to fight homelessness and housing insecurity in the local community. The University of Toronto uses IHI Open School courses (such as the Quality Improvement Practicum and the Basic Certificate in Quality & Safety) to support the program they’ve established, which places students in over 20 different projects each year through the many partnerships they’ve established with hospitals and smaller community health centers.

7. Be intentional about getting support from key stakeholders.

Always be sure to follow up with the connections you make — you never know where they might lead you! The University of Toronto built a relationship with the Centre for Interprofessional Education, and not only do they advertise all of the Chapter’s activities, but they now offer credits in interprofessional education for their events, which motivates students to participate. Whether your focus is curriculum integration or building a sustainable QI program with community partners, your opportunities are sure to grow if you garner diverse support over time.

8. Tailor your events to your audience.

There are so many activities you can do with your Chapter. Before you begin planning, it’s important to establish your goals and target audience for the event. Many Chapters bring in speakers to build connections to quality improvement or hold skill-building workshops. In addition to Open School courses, there’s also a number of videos, case studies, and games on the IHI Open School website. Willamette University, which held 20 events within their first four months as a Chapter, loved Health Care Scattergories.

9. Identify a strong Faculty Advisor.

We’ve heard time and again that having a strong Faculty Advisor is critical to the success and sustainability of the Chapter. Similar to your stakeholders, they can add to the legitimacy of your work, but they’re also often associated with organizations outside of the university setting. They can build connections for the Chapter that are key to finding quality improvement opportunities in hospitals and clinics in the area.

10. Use the IHI Open School Chapter Network as a resource.

For one, your IHI Open School Regional Chapter Leader brings a great deal of experience and expertise you can learn from. Additionally, the IHI Open School has a network of almost 800 Chapters, and it’s important to consider what you can learn from one another. The Willamette University Chapter, for example, started last summer through the support and mentorship of another long-time Chapter in Portland, OR. Use the Chapter Map to see who’s around you, or connect with your Regional Leader to see if they have suggestions about Chapters who are doing similar work!

Every quarter, the IHI Open School hosts a Global Chapter Call, which provides an opportunity for Chapters Leaders, Chapter members, and Faculty Advisors, to connect and discuss their work. The calls are also a great chance to share the local work your Chapter is doing with a global network of leaders and innovators.

Want more tips for starting and sustaining your Chapter? Check out the IHI Open School Chapter Leader Toolkit here.

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