Jennifer Butcher, MPH is one of BC Healthy Communities' Community Well-being Specialists. Jen spent the last several years applying her population health savvy and asset-based approach to roles in learning facilitation and sustainability coaching. A former nurse, Jen now brings her wide-ranging and integrative skill set to her role at BC Healthy Communities. Learn more about the interdisciplinary approach Jen’s developed for working in communities, and about what she sees as the key element required for success in creating healthy communities.
Why do you do healthy communities work?
"I think what draws me to this field of work is a passion and curiosity for creating vibrant communities – which includes health as a major part of that. I really enjoy supporting communities to create places and spaces where people feel a sense of belonging and connection not only with each other, but also their surrounding environment. My role at BC Healthy Communities allows me the opportunity to tap into and appreciate the multitude of continuously moving pieces of a community and see how all those pieces fit together to shape and evolve it. It’s such an exciting challenge to dive into the different layers that make up a community, from the leaders and governing bodies that create and implement healthy public policies, to the grassroots organizations and citizen-led movements that spark social change, and all the connections in between. There’s a real challenge facing us to be continuously navigating those tensions and opportunities simultaneously, and I enjoy working with various partners at the local government and health authority levels to identify and leverage their communities’ unique assets to bring about sustainable change and impact.
A particular aspect of my role that I really enjoy is engaging in partnership development processes. I believe that strong, collaborative relationships are key to the success of any healthy community initiative and it can sometimes be challenging and intimidating for partners from multiple sectors to come together in agreement on a shared vision or set of priorities for a broad community-wide project. Part of my role is to take them through that process of landing on a set of common language that resonates with everyone in the room so that they can work more synergistically together for the benefit of populations in need. Supporting collaborative groups to find their stride in those initial stages of formation is so rewarding, and I love seeing how well it catalyzes the work to progress."
How is what you do unique from other public health approaches?
"I think working from a Healthy Community Approach gives us a strong foundation to guide our work as an organization, and it ensures that we are always thinking about our work through an equity lens which is so important from a public health perspective. Asset-based community development is a central component of my work with communities, which is a bit divergent from traditional problem-solving methods but so much more effective in my experience.
I also really value the idea of using multiple frameworks and approaches in my work, and really listening to and responding to the needs of the community. Meeting people where they are at in their process of change is imperative to ensure I can be as supportive as possible for their needs. Also, the fact that we have a mix of public health and planning staff on our team is another unique asset that I think really sets our work apart in our field."
What is your secret superpower (outside of work)?
"Hmmm, I guess my ability to be a full-time working mom to a happy, energetic 2-year-old could be considered a superpower! I think most moms might agree with that statement. Other than that, I am a self-taught quilter which is something I am proud of because I didn’t start learning to quilt until a couple of years ago. I really enjoy the freedom to be creative with what I’m making, and the fun that comes with learning as you go – I suppose that’s something I bring with me to my work as well. I love just trying things out and seeing what sticks!"