The executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers (MACHC) hired us in the spring of 2010 to help them examine these questions on behalf of their members, Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQCHCs or FQHCs).
We decided to use one of our signature strategic planning tools, ecosystem mapping, to drive the engagement. Over several months, we completed 17 one-hour telephone interviews with a variety of stakeholders in the health care field throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Most of the interviewees were leaders of FQHCs, but not all. Some were representatives from state health departments, and others were representatives from various trade associations and interest groups representing doctors, hospitals, and FQHCs themselves. When combined, the interviews painted a dynamic portrait of a rapidly changing ecosystem for FQHCs and consumers. At the conclusion of the engagement, we worked with a graphic designer to transfer the insights from our research into a visual diagram of the ecosystem for low-income consumers of health care. We presented that diagram during a retreat of MACHC board members that we facilitated. We left MACHC with a comprehensive written report of the key findings from our research, as well as with a list of the recommended action steps they and their members could take to provide better services for low-income consumers.