Our very intense work-filled week ended in the island nation of Grenada with an overarching recommendation for social interoperability among the program offices in the Ministry of Social Development and Housing. While presenting the final part of our four-project endeavor for the Ministry I was struck with a certain sense of déjà vu as I illustrated the connectedness of the seemingly separate services the Ministry provides for the people of Grenada. Why déjà vu? Well, it is often the same kind of task here at home in the US to demonstrate the importance of an interoperable healthcare system that could eventually expand to include its social determinants. Our team spent four of the most insightful days doing interviews, collecting on the ground data, and working with the Ministry to learn and build on the organization’s wealth of resources.
The workload was immense but the wrap up felt extremely rewarding…and we still found time to hit the beach and enjoy some island sun, sand, sea, and fresh Caribbean breezes! We learned a lot, we did a lot, and we produced a lot.
The formal discussions with management and program officials of the Ministry proved extremely useful for our work, but it was the market place conversations that afforded some of the most demonstrable insight into the Grenadine communities. Those informal, community chats, provided a tangible reminder of how much human discourse is still one of the best ways to shape one’s understanding of the unknown. After more than two hours of one-on-one chats between our individual group members and vendors in the center of the island’s capital, St George’s, we left the market with a better understanding of community views on the Ministry’s social programs, and thoughts on domestic violence and sexual abuse. It was also interesting to learn about the island’s shifting head of household gender dynamics, much like North America where family roles changed when the workforce saw an increased participation of women.
As I recover from the inevitable lethargy that air travel causes I reminisce about blue water, sandy beaches, and Grenadian spices. But, perhaps more important, I reflect on just how much likeness there is within this global world in which we live. While we might have differences in beliefs, values, preferences, and ways we communicate, beneath it all there are similarities that bind us across borders…like interoperability!