Leading Social Change

February 22, 2016

As the run for the White House heats up and the candidates take center stage in debate after debate, we are faced with the arduous task of the deciding who is the right leader for our country. Who has the leadership skills, integrity and vision to tackle the seemingly unsurmountable problems we are currently facing from a crippled global economy to eroding education and healthcare systems?

Interestingly it is often the nonprofit sector that must shoulder the burden created by these staggering social problems, and it is going to take a new kind of nonprofit leader to do more than feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, but create new approaches that solve underlying issues causing those problems. That is the fundamental difference between charity and true social change.

Hand to Hold Board-of-Directors leading social change

Hand to Hold board members from left to right: Doug Levine, Rebecca Yates Pemberton, Executive Director Kelli Kelley, outgoing board president Scott Whitaker, incoming board president Lana Sacrum-Craig, and Todd Boullion.

In Reinventing the Nonprofit Leader, Nell Edgington challenges nonprofit leaders to recognize their critical role in the economy, the community and the solution. She encourages us to confidently gather and lead an army of people and resources necessary to create true social change.

For Hand to Hold, that social change is the delivery of psychosocial support for NICU families, because we understand that by pioneering and championing fundamental changes in the delivery of mental and emotional health during the antepartum period, throughout a NICU stay and after hospital discharge, we help improve outcomes for medically fragile babies and their families — in turn helping mitigate long lasting social challenges, including higher rates of divorce, child abuse and mental health diagnosis such as anxiety disorders, depression and PTSD.

Hand to Hold has been working hard for the past five years to build our army of supporters and stakeholders and strategically align ourselves with partners who will help move our mission forward. In 2015 we were honored to serve on a workgroup of multidisciplinary professional organizations and NICU parents formed by the National Perinatal Association to develop recommendations for Psychosocial Support of NICU Parents, which were published in the Journal of Perinatology in December 2015. We are now actively engaged in introducing these recommendations to hospitals and encouraging and facilitating their adoption.

This is more than a shift in protocol. This is a sea change in philosophy that requires an understanding that the mental, physical and social health of the family is directly correlated with the long-term physical and developmental outcome of the baby. Following my recent keynote presentation at the National Association of Neonatal Nurses Annual Education Conference where I spoke to more than 500 NICU professionals about the role of the NICU nurse in delivering true Family Centered Care, 82 percent of attendees reported that the content of my speech would change the way they care for NICU families. That is social change.

Hand to Hold programs and services are more than a band aid. They are designed to transform the lives of NICU families, which in turn benefits our communities, our economy and most importantly the social and developmental outcomes of babies born preterm or with special health care needs. I am honored to lead this amazing organization and use my voice to ensure true social change.

Thank you for your support!