Making a difference means distributing goods and services more equitably. By extending the reach of innovations, we can bring solutions to under-served populations and communities. Using new technology to solve old problems, eliminating existing barriers to access, and creating equitable distribution systems are just some of the tactics that work to expand access to resources for those in need.
But how can we scale local solutions to enact larger, systemic change? How do we know what works, or what challenges these approaches might face? The stories in this collection offer evidence of what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve when it comes to expanding access.
In Villages Without Doctors, Tina Rosenberg asks whether doctors and nurses are the only path toward expanding rural health networks. In her piece, we read about how access to healthcare can be expanded by reducing costs—in this case, by relying more on communities and less on specialists. Another story considers affordable housing, showing us that be rewriting the rules to make them more equitable has a positive impact on communities.
Read on to learn more about how rural cooperatives are working to link the rural United States to the fiber optic, and how the LA Unified School district is using grab-and-go food distribution to ensure that meals get into the hands of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click here to explore other stories about Expanding Access in the Story Tracker!
- In Tina Rosenberg’s story, Villages Without Doctors, Raj Arole states that many rural problems are “simple.” Does this mean that rural healthcare problems are easy to solve? Explain the significance of this statement and how it relates to the model of community health put forth in the article.
- In Here Comes the Neighborhood, the author describes a success story that dispelled local fears about allowing affordable housing in their community. What did critics allege would happen to the area economically, and what do the data show? Can you use these data to make a compelling case in another city?
- Briefly explain the role that utility co-ops played in the creation of electrical infrastructure in the United States, then consider how are electrical co-ops in rural communities are adapting to meet infrastructure challenges in the 21st century. Are there any comparisons between the infrastructure projects of the early 20th century and today? Describe some of the new challenges faced by co-ops today.
- How did local and federal resources contribute to LAUSD’s food program? Describe the financial needs, as well as what other constraints the program faced. What issues did the community raise about law enforcement and personal identification? How did LAUSD address these concerns?
- Create your own collection using the Story Tracker about either an issue or a Success Factor that relates to Expanding Access. Choose 4-6 stories and prepare to share your insights with your group or class.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- Raj Arole’s statement “rural problems are simple,” is followed by the explanation that local woman with knowledge and skills of community health workers can expand access to basic services. Therefore, we may argue that by making these “simpler” interventions more accessible early on for more people, we can improve overall healthcare outcomes and reduce costs. Furthermore, by tapping into community-level care offered by women in Indian villages, Arole argues residents can get access to services that doctors and other experts might not offer (the author notes that prestige and distance acted as a barrier to health care for many underserved and socio-economically immobile communities). Community health workers are increasingly becoming a key to expanding access to healthcare and transforming communities in many developing regions of the world. Would this strategy work in the United States? Has it been tried? (Hint: you can answer this question with your students using the Solutions Story Tracker).
- In Here Comes the Neighborhood, the author describes a success story that transformed the lives of many low-income people. Affordable housing units built in an affluent area of Mount Laurel, New Jersey prompted many critics, who feared that this would destroy the community. Local residents objected to the idea of affordable housing in their neighborhood, arguing that property values would fall, crime would increase, and the quality of the schools would decline. Instead, the impact of the affordable housing on this community was overwhelmingly positive. Despite positive outcomes, however, fear and prejudice often stop solutions like this one from spreading. What does this mean about the challenges change makers need to overcome in working to expand peoples' access to basic goods and services? Encourage students to discuss ways in which they would use the data presented in the article to encourage similar projects in other communities. What challenges might they face? What tactics can we use to overcome implicated biases, prejudices, and other challenges that work against positive outcomes for all communities?
- The article in Quartz provides some context for the work of electrical cooperatives across the United States, explaining that many cooperatives arose from the larger federally-subsidized effort to electrify the United States beginning in the 1930s. Many cooperatives are working to undertake the type of new infrastructure projects that private companies are unwilling to bring to rural communities; however, with an insufficient commitment from the Federal Government, funding and progress is very piecemeal and riven with racial disparities. Some of the projects, such as one in southern Indiana, received funding from a smart-grid federal grant. Encourage students to use the Solutions Story Tracker to find other examples where local cooperatives succeeded in installing major grid infrastructure for the community.
- When asked about the question of identification in the food delivery process, LAUSD decided to only take reservations for how many meals each family needed, requiring no additional verification upon pick-up. The need for law enforcement was also limited and was primarily directed at regulating traffic. Ask your students to consider whether this effort seems to be a singular anecdote of success, or whether they think that there are broader ways to interpret the lessons of this and other stories in this collection? Do they give you hope?
- Answers will vary. For more on creating collections, click here, or use the course activity found in the Making a Difference course module here. For more on Success Factors, click here.