Culture of Connection Action Team
Promote a culture in Jefferson County that fosters safety, trust, belonging without judgement, collaboration, personal relationships, listening and empathy. The connection of people who are most isolated, whether by geography or identity (including gender, sexuality, age, income, race, and language), is our priority.
About the Strategy Area
Building a culture of connection means focusing on the development of conditions within Jefferson County where everyone can be a part of and belong within our community. The goal is that both people and organizations in the county are well connected in a caring and supportive community.
Since 2020, the Culture of Connection Action Team has been focusing their work and effort in finding ways to foster these conditions by celebrating existing successes, encouraging replication of their environmental, cultural, and physical conditions, and addressing gaps in current efforts throughout the community. To learn more about how the team works together, please visit our Action Team page.
"The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food."
Dean Ornish | American Physician
Towards Fostering Safety, Trust, Belonging, Collaboration, Personal Relationships, Listening and Empathy
Pilot Storytelling Project:
We Belong Jeffco
Many organizations and collaborations have identified social connection as a key upstream approach to improving health and life outcomes. In 2022, the Culture of Connection team set out to implement a project to understand social connection and belonging through the process of storytelling. The team recruited storytellers and learned alongside the process of developing, creating, and sharing the stories. The workshop participants shared over 25 stories about connection and belonging and four people recorded their final stories – two in English and three in Spanish – to be distributed throughout the county. The team identified common themes within the stories plus lessons-learned for expanding the pilot. Unexpectedly, the team experienced how the process of listening to and sharing stories helped them learn about themselves, relate to others and connect within shared human experiences regardless of one’s held identity.
What We're Learning
Creating conditions where people feel that they are a part of and belong within a community can generate meaningful changes that impact health and life outcomes. The following are some conditions we are finding necessary for building communities and spaces that foster safety, trust, belonging, collaboration, personal relationships, listening and empathy.
Realize that showing up as your true self can be scary. We cannot be our true selves unless we feel safe - take time to build relationships and trust while setting aside judgement.
Recognize that connection doesn't just happen — it takes work. When we not only share genuine interest, support and care for others, but also show our own emotional vulnerability, that is when connection takes place.
Acknowledge that we all have more in common than we realize. Although the events that occur in our lives may be different the emotions we experience are universal.
Listen with an open mind when someone shares their experience with you. Put yourself in the other person's shoes — can you empathize?
Culture of Connection in Action
Intergenerational Connection Through Photography and Memory
The University of Denver, Denver Public Library, and LinkAGES Colorado connect older adults with college students through an annual photography and storytelling program called Photography and Memory. Program participants, Bob and Tiffany, had no idea that they would be forming a meaningful friendship with a total stranger when they signed up to participate. They also couldn't anticipate that their new friend would be decades different in age. Over ten weeks, the two bonded over a shared love of storytelling and capturing life through film. Their friendship sustained them both through the highs and lows of life, and they continue to build on it today. "Until you get to know someone, you don't realize how much you have in common with them." - Tiffany, program participant.
Jefferson County Open Space Work with Jeffco CTC BADJ Program
Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) is striving to create an inclusive and welcoming environment, in the parks and within the organization, that reflects the diverse communities within Jefferson County, Colorado and the Denver metropolitan area. With this goal in mind, JCOS is currently acting as a pilot site for the Out for Safe Spaces/BADJ program. “Out for Safe Spaces'' is a national initiative that supports adults who work with youth to visibly identify as trusted adults to LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and multiracial youth. Participating organizations' staff and volunteers receive training in building affirming environments for LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and multiracial youth. Upon completion, they receive a badge signifying that they are prepared to work with and support LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and multiracial youth as an ally. In 2022, JCOS was able to attend six youth pride events in partnership with Jefferson County Public Libraries. In 2023, they plan on attending all six library events again as well as Jefferson County Public Schools first ever pride prom.