Ann Arbor – A first-of-its-kind initiative to support caregiving in Michigan will launch in January 2020 with participation from government, business, nonprofit, and philanthropy, announced Atlas of Caregiving, a national nonprofit. The initiative, “We All Care,” is supported by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund (Health Fund) and the Elderly Needs Fund, a supporting organization of Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF). Through a series of workshops and collaborative learning, We All Care will help participating organizations examine the role of caregiving in their employees’ lives, their workplace, and their communities.
A cohort of six Michigan organizations will participate in the initiative: the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Southeastern Michigan Senior Regional Collaborative, Temple Beth Emeth, Zingerman’s, Newyago County, and Hospice of Michigan. The seven participating organizations will work with Atlas of Caregiving to evaluate the impact of the program on employees, clients, and the broader community.
The workshops, called “Mapping Ourselves: Personal Science to Strengthen Communities,” provide participants with tools to visualize the support that takes place across relationships and environments in their lives. The sessions employ scientific methods to make visible the behaviors and connections that often go unspoken and unseen, helping participants better understand and value their own care ecosystems, their interconnectedness, and how they each contribute to community wellbeing.
“We’re extremely excited about the prospect of working across the Michigan community to spark a social conversation about care,” said Rajiv Mehta, CEO and founder of Atlas of Caregiving. “By becoming more aware of ourselves, we’re better able to understand and care for others. Due to the lack of social conversation about care, people’s knowledge and personally-discovered solutions are hidden from the rest of their communities. What we’re really doing in Michigan is unleashing community wisdom.”
Health Fund Program Officer Tim Nyonsenga expanded on that point, saying that “the real power of this project comes in its potential to reframe the conversation around caregiving, statewide. Bringing together such a diverse group of organizations to demonstrate how many of us are caregivers and how we are all connected—that can be our first step on the path toward systemwide change in Michigan.”
Atlas of Caregiving and the Health Fund believe findings can help employers and policymakers identify solutions to support the workforce and residents, a critical need for the millions professional and family caregivers in Michigan.
Zingerman’s has long been a leader on workforce-related issues. As cofounder Ari Weinzweig said, “The work of Atlas is very well aligned with what we do here at Zingerman’s to help create a positive, highly interconnected, and supportive organizational community that helps everyone here to do better. The tools give everyone who learns it ways to test, track, and measure how well they’re doing in creating those positive communities.”
In addition to changes in practice and policy, long-term goals of We All Care include more effective services from community and older adult service organizations; and improved health and wellbeing for caregivers and care receivers of all ages in Michigan.
Fremont Mayor Jim Rynberg underscored the need for culture change in communities: “In my representation of both the City of Fremont and United Way in Newaygo County, I have found that our society needs to redevelop a true culture of caring for each other,” said Mayor Rynberg. “Our current system offers a variety of ‘caregiving’ services without taking into account the critical person-to-person interactions that give life meaning, particularly as we age. Responsibility, lifelong nurturing, maturity, and empathy are the cornerstones of family. If we forget how we care, we forget how to live a full life.”
Similarly, Rabbi Josh Whinston, of Ann Arbor’s Temple Beth Emeth, expressed the project’s spirit of exploration: “I think we have a myopic understanding of care. Once we begin to see our web of care, I think it could change the way we function as a community. Maybe it can lead to greater happiness? Greater satisfaction? I am just fascinated by the idea.”
About Atlas of Caregiving
Atlas of Caregiving is a California-based not-for-profit with a mission to transform how we care for ourselves and our communities through innovative research, practical tools, and rich collaborations. Learn more at atlasofcaregiving.com.
About the Michigan Health Endowment Fund
The Michigan Health Endowment Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of healthcare, with a special focus on children and seniors. You can find more information about the Health Fund at mihealthfund.org.
About the Elderly Needs Fund
The purpose of the Elderly Needs Fund—a supporting organization of Fremont Area Community Foundation—is to make grants to benefit and enrich life for seniors in Newaygo County. Grant requests are accepted for projects or programs that promote physical health of seniors in our community, mental/emotional well-being of seniors and their caregivers, social enrichment and prevention of social isolation, and basic human services for the elderly. For more information, visit facommunityfoundation.org/enf.
About Fremont Area Community Foundation
Fremont Area Community Foundation exists to improve the quality of life for Newaygo County residents by connecting community needs with the passions of families, businesses, and individuals. Through strategic and responsive grantmaking, we support programs and organizations that create long-term solutions to the most pressing needs in our community. For more information about Fremont Area Community Foundation, visit facommunityfoundation.org.