Healthy Men, Healthy Communities

“A lot of the talk is measuring up to the statement, ‘What does it mean to be a man?’ Instead, we should be asking, ‘What does it mean to be you?’ You are doomed to fail if you are trying to measure up to an expectation that others [and] society have of you.” 

Supporting Fathers and Families

Fathers and father figures have an immeasurable impact on child, family, and community wellbeing. For the past 5 years, Vital Village Network has been collaborating with community-based organizations providing targeted services to boys and men. In the summer of 2015, we conducted a survey on perceptions of fatherhood among 121 individuals attending a Father Family Fun Day. That Christmas, we hosted a holiday party for over 60 fathers and their families. In fall 2016, we hosted a digital storytelling workshop that provided 5 fathers the opportunity to narrate their experiences with fatherhood. Vital Village Network continues to generate innovative approaches to meaningful male engagement through capacity building, technical assistance, research, and evaluation. 

John J. King Jr.'s Digital Story

Javon Taylor's Digital Story

Male Engagement Network: Making Connections

These are survey responses to, "List three words that describe your role as a man in society."

The Male Engagement Network (MEN) addresses mental wellbeing, financial stability, and anti-displacement advocacy for men of color ages 25-55 in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) Boston, Mattapan United/Action for Boston Community Development, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Nuestra Comunidad Neighborhood Development Corporation are engaged in the collaboration. 

Vital Village Network was responsible for data collection during the 6-month planning process.  Though focus groups are a universal tool for qualitative data collection, we wanted to identify an innovative way to generate more meaningful conversation on mental wellbeing. Recognizing that these conversations are not the norm among men of color, we felt the need to incorporate a different medium of communication into the space and showed clips of The Mask You Live In to open each focus group. This documentary explores the widespread impact of toxic masculinity and identifies ways to raise a healthier generation of boys and men. Several men remarked that the documentary closely mirrored their personal experiences and felt affirmed knowing that many of the challenges they’ve faced are universal. They were also elated to be participating in a conversation on mental wellbeing because the topic is so infrequently discussed. Without prompting, the men began suggesting additional community spaces to host the screening and facilitate this conversation. We collected 174 surveys and engaged over 150 men with our focus groups. 

Following data collection, we reached a point in our process where we were rich with ideas but our action plan lacked detail and structure. In October, we invited Garen Nigon to facilitate an Equity Action Lab where we were able to develop a concrete action plan with measurable goals and objectives. We were recently notified that our collaborative has received funding to support the implementation of several strategies outlined in the action plan. The Equity Action Lab served as a compass on our journey and was pivotal to our success.