An expansive vision of community health

I grew up the son of a pharmacist, so as you can imagine, I learned at a pretty young age how people get their prescriptions filled. It took me a lot longer to realize that being healthy is about more than taking medicine. The kid who grew up in the drug store has come to realize that healing starts with me: self-care is primary care. These days, I know that my first job is to manage what I eat, how I exercise and much more.

Over the past year, I have come to understand this much more deeply as I have learned more about the inspirational work of the Catalyst Initiative, launched by Penny and Bill George and put into place by Suzanne Koepplinger, who until recently was a board member of The Minneapolis Foundation.

Catalyst grew out of the George Family Foundation’s broad body of work to bring mind, body and spirit together to build healthy communities. Suzanne’s powerful contribution to this effort has been to fuse her years of building authentic community relationships with Catalyst’s work to honor and grow culturally authentic self-care practices. Catalyst, and Suzanne, didn’t impose their ideas from a distance. They listened a lot, respected the role that culture plays in health and viewed diverse communities as assets. Perhaps most important, they deliberately began supporting efforts that focus on the people and communities most in need of investment, especially people experiencing trauma, toxic stress, inequities and lack of access to the many resources that support well-being.

Catalyst’s impressive early work includes convenings, trainings and seeds grants that have empowered individuals and communities throughout Minnesota to adopt integrative health and healing practices. Trainings on mind-body medicine that Catalyst has made possible in Indian Country have reached more than 1,000 people. An Islamic toolkit supported by Catalyst aligns the science behind self-care with faith-based principles. And the initiative’s Youth Healing Justice Network supports trainings for youth of color in mind-body practices that promote self-regulation and stress reduction—skills that those young people have gone on to teach in workshops for adults, including school and law enforcement professionals.

Watching this innovative effort with admiration, The Minneapolis Foundation came to believe that Catalyst could, and should, grow. We also saw tremendous synergy between Catalyst’s work and our forums on community issues, as well as our investments in economic vitality, education, civic engagement and more.

Last year, we came to an agreement with Penny and Bill George to bring Catalyst to The Minneapolis Foundation, where we could work with them, and Suzanne, to find new partnerships, new intersections and, when necessary, new funding to increase the initiative’s impact. Our goal is to reach more people, but without losing the authentic, community-centered approach that has so inspired us in Catalyst’s work.

We highlighted this partnership at a March 29 convening on the power and potential of work led by Catalyst and its partners.

At the same time, we will also be featuring new stories on our website about the many facets of health that The Minneapolis Foundation and our donors invest in. In the past five years alone, we have made more than 4,200 grants totaling nearly $26 million to health-related causes. More than 70 percent of that amount has supported organizations in Minnesota, from nonprofits that increase access to nutritious food in high-needs neighborhoods to medical research and patient care at the world-class institutions we’re privileged to have in our community.

We invite you to take this journey with us, as we explore the local organizations that contribute to our community’s well-being and meet some of the innovators, including Catalyst, that are challenging us to expand our understanding of what it means to be truly healthy.