Conference Focus

Systems Leadership:  The Intersection of Person and Place

Systems leaders understand that to influence lasting change, our work must move beyond a focus on individual behaviors to a focus on underlying social conditions and the environment in which people live, all which impact health and well-being.

The evidence is clear—a person's ZIP code is the biggest predictor of a person's health and well-being. When compounded with individual experiences and adversity, living in communities with widespread poverty, lack of opportunity, and limited access to high quality services, further thwarts an individual's ability to overcome persistent and toxic stressors. Achieving widespread and sustained improved outcomes for people who experience multiple barriers to health and well-being requires moving beyond a focus on individual health behaviors to a focus on the social determinants of life.  

The 2018 Alliance Executive Leadership Conference invites national experts and chief executives driving systems change to achieve meaningful, lasting change with individuals, families, and communities. Together, we will explore the intersection of efforts to build resilience at the person, community, and systems levels and to move upstream toward prevention. We will look at:

  • Trends as well as national and community-driven efforts to address the fundamental determinants of resilience and well-being
  • Leadership skills necessary to influence change at the organizational and systems levels
  • How emphasis on social, economic, and human capital within local settings can unlock human potential in communities often left behind

Conference Sessions

Effective Strategies in Systems Leadership and Context

Each systems initiative is guided by a unique combination of needs, opportunities, and partners. Hear from leaders in behavioral health, child welfare, and community development who are using a systems lens and a neighborhood focus to achieve greater results for children, families, and communities. Following the panel, participate in small-group conversations to delve into how these initiatives operate and thrive.

Leslie Newman, CEO of Children & Families First, will discuss the organization’s work to educate and collaborate with stakeholders to drive systems change on behalf of children who are at risk for entering the child welfare system.

Mike Hanley, CEO of United Neighborhood Centers of Northeast Pennsylvania, will share his organization’s multifaceted approach for addressing the social determinants of health, which includes working with the systems that impact family and community well-being, as well as a targeted approach in a local neighborhood.

Nancy Brady, president of Neighborhood House in St Paul, Minnesota, will discuss her organization’s transformation from using a traditional service approach for supporting new Americans and people experiencing poverty, into a holistic and multi-generational strategy that focuses on helping families move to safe, stable, and rewarding lives. 


  • Nancy Brady, president, Neighborhood House

  • Michael Hanley, CEO, United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania 
  • Leslie J. Newman, CEO, Children & Families First


Advancing Health Equity in Birmingham

Addressing health and well-being at the population level requires leaders working together across systems and sectors to achieve common goals. In Jefferson County, Alabama, rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are higher than the national average, contributing to the state's rank as 47th in the nation for overall health. The Jefferson County Health Action Partnership (HAP) has been working for the last 10 years to improve the health and quality of life of residents in and around Birmingham through cross-sector partnership and collective action.

The initiative brings together medical and public health research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, state and county departments of health, local nonprofit and advocacy groups, and funders on this initiative to eliminate health disparities through public policy, outreach and community-based programs and projects. Following a landmark community health equity report by the Jefferson County Collaborative  for Health Equity (formerly Jefferson County Place Matters) in 2013, the HAP has put forward policy and community action initiatives using a collective impact approach to identify and address conditions in the social and built environment that contribute to poor health outcomes.

Dr. Monica Baskin, head of the collaborative and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Fellow, will lead a panel of representatives from the HAP to share the results of their work, along with an in-depth look at the mechanisms for forming and maintaining an effective partnership over the long term. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore a systems-level initiative and take home strategies for getting involved in population health efforts in their local communities.


  • Monica L. Baskin, professor and vice chair for culture and diversity of the University of Alabama Birmingham Department of Medicine, and leader of the Jefferson County Collaborative for Health Equity
  • Drew Langloh, president & CEO, United Way of Central Alabama
  • Christopher Nanni, president & CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham
  • Mark E. Wilson, health officer and CEO of Jefferson County Department of Health


Breakout Session: Getting a Seat at the Table

Social sector organizations can use the formal structures and timelines that exist within most planning efforts for federal dollars. Talk with colleagues who have used these structures effectively to get involved in these efforts. Discuss how these processes work in most communities, how to get involved early, and how to leverage relationships and structures to create an integrated community response to major social challenges.

Presenter: Ron Clewer, COO, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

Breakout Session: Achieve Your Vision: Partner to Design a Better Solution

Developing a shared vision in a collaborative partnership is the first step toward creating integrated community solutions to respond to social needs. The challenges in achieving the vision are effectively communicating, executing plans, and measuring progress across those partnerships. Join data solutions provider MPOWR for this session to provide input and feedback on Envision, a beta solution designed to address these challenges. This is not a sales pitch, but a unique opportunity to help a vendor learn how to better meet the needs of the social sector and to provide input before MPOWR Envision goes to market. This solution was identified as a response to the recommendations from the Alliance’s Innovation Design Summits last year; however, participation in the summits is not a prerequisite to attend this session.


  • Jeff Fahrenwald, vice president of strategy development and execution, MPOWR
  • Eric Vance, director of business development, MPOWR


A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America

Join leaders in philanthropy, nonprofit, and the public sectors for a generative conversation on the key challenges and opportunities identified in the groundbreaking report, A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America. Led by Alliance President and CEO Susan Dreyfus, leaders will reflect on early implications of the report’s recommendations and potential pathways forward. Participants will then work together to identify and develop ideas for concrete action at the local and national levels. Participants should be familiar with the report and arrive ready to engage in strategic thinking about its findings, which serve as a call to action across sectors to strengthen the role of community-based human service organizations in the ecosystem of support for child, family and community well-being. 

Commissioned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and produced by Oliver Wyman and SeaChange Capital Partners, the report focuses on human services community-based organizations, their economic and social impact, and the need to preserve and strengthen their critical role in building foundational supports that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. 

Moderator: Susan N. Dreyfus, president and CEO, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

  • Nancy Buckner, commissioner, Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Drew Langloh, president and CEO, United Way of Central Alabama
  • Christopher Nanni, president & CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham


The Role of ACEs in the Context of Family and Community

The Building Community Resilience approach provides partners with a process to create shared understanding of how adversity associated with poverty affects health and well-being, and it lays a pathway through which they can align systems to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the context of family and community. 

Wendy Ellis, director of the Building Community Resilience initiative at George Washington University, will share how this initiative is achieving impact in five regional areas. The approach engages many partners including school systems, community-based human services organizations, health care systems, grassroots community initiatives, and more. Together, they are better able to address the social determinants of health and ACES, which can increase a person's risk for poor coping mechanisms and result in lifelong chronic illness such as depression, heart disease, obesity, and substance abuse. 

After learning about the approach and guidelines for creating a resilience initiative, participants will engage in a facilitated conversation with Ellis and Trillium Group CEO Kim Scott, who is implementing the initiative through Trillium Family Services in Portland, Oregon. This session will provide practical tools and takeaways on how to implement this kind of initiative. 


  • Wendy Ellis, director of the Building Community Resilience initiative, George Washington University
  • Kim Scott, CEO, Trillium Group


Civil Rights Study Tour

Saturday, May 19 from 8:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: $60

Learn about the pivotal role Birmingham protests played in the civil rights movement by participating in this study tour of three important sites. Birmingham is the location of Project C, one of the most influential campaigns of the civil rights movement. In the spring of 1963, Project C gained nationwide media attention as nonviolent protesters were met with unleashed police dogs and fire hoses, creating pressure to help pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Study tour stops include Kelly Ingram Park, site of civil rallies and demonstrations; 16th Street Baptist Church, location of the bombing that killed four young girls; and the Birmingham Civil rights Institute, a civil rights museum and research center. The stops on this tour are part of the recently established Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

The tour will conclude at noon. Participants may coordinate their own transportation to depart directly from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, or return to the conference hotel.

If your schedule permits, consider traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.