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THRIVE Participant Perspective--Honoring Choices Virginia

Our Third Cohort of THRIVE: An Accelerator for Social Good, facilitated with our partners at The Spark Mill, began in early September. Each week, we'll bring you the perspective of a participating nonprofit and share a little about their organization.

Honoring Choices Virginia

What are you hoping to get out of this program?

Eleanor Jones, Director: We are working on gaining clarity around our strategic plan and what we will look like in ten years.

Ken Faulkner, Board member Ex officio, Volunteer: The underlying need is to redefine who we are in light of the changing world that we live in. The way we used to do things is not applicable. For example: the shift of focusing on health systems vs vulnerable populations.

Richard Szucs, Board Chair: COVID has changed the way we do things with other organizations. We operated face-to-face trainings and facilitated conversations. We had to move to a virtual environment, which has actually expanded our reach and made it much easier to do the things we do.

Eleanor: In COVID, advanced care planning and medical decision planning is more relevant than ever. We used to speak theoretically, but now we have a real life example. If you end up in the ICU because of COVID-19, do you know what you‘d want a healthcare professional or your family to know? What are your wishes and how do people act accordingly? The pandemic has brought a very real, clear, and understandable need to the public but also to healthcare professionals and systems. What if 30% of people going into COVID had already had an advance care conversation? Perhaps we wouldn’t have had a ventilator shortage.

What did you learn, or feel spoke to you about today?

Ken: Change is hard--it can be good and hard at the same time. I’m encountering my own resistance at times and dealing with that. It brought up some of my own cynicism, of my own perception of things that I think can't be changed.

Eleanor: The juxtaposition of the time we’ve all spent in the organization (founder vs newer staff) and also type of the work, (physician, chaplain, community engagement), it gives us different perspectives on how the work should be done and how successful we’ve been so far. THRIVE is powerful-- it’s created weekly time for us to do this. There’s progress, and resistance, and confusion, and hope every week. We’ve never created this much time, this consistently, to really get at the core of “Why why why?”

Tell us about your experience in the program.

Eleanor: Our mission/vision were very inward facing, this is what we want to do. Last week and this week, what we’re working on is making them outward facing and meeting our community needs.

Richard: We’re getting down to the basic things, that while they’re difficult to change, they need to change. They're systemic. We may not have the power to change everything, but we do have the power to advocate for the change.

Eleanor: Change is anxiety-producing, but the fact that change was thrust upon us by the pandemic and we saw how some of those changes were beneficial, helps you realize that change is not really a threat, it is an opportunity. This is huge--are we ever going to be able to change this? We keep falling back into the old mindset and having to remind each other, we’re trying NOT to do that anymore. We want to be more community-centric, not health-system centric.

How do you see this applying to your organization?

Richard: We looked at our mission/vision, which were good, but they didn’t as clearly communicate to the general public what we do. They used a lot of jargon, like the term advance care planning--people don’t know what that is. We can improve our language about what we do.

Ken: Let’s use “future medical decision making.” Maybe even our name doesn’t communicate what we do. This [type of organization and this name, Honoring Choices] exists all over the country. What choices are we talking about? Advanced medical choices.

Holly Chasan-Young, Mentor: I see the shifts happening from this program. We want to be more human-centric, how do we bridge that gap? As part of the theory of change exercise, what are all the assumptions we’re making, and how does that help or hinder where the organization wants to go? Let’s get aligned! We’re making different assumptions, it's nice to get them on the table.

Eleanor: What we all keep coming back to, is that we agree a major shift is needed to focus on health justice and equity, and that’s why it’s person-centric care. We cannot do this work unless we are creating equal access for everyone, elevating communities who have little access right now, and empowering people to advocate for themselves and build their own health literacy.


Have you wondered how to talk to your loved ones about what medical care you would or wouldn’t want in a medical crisis? Are you a health care provider that wants to have these conversations with your patients, but aren’t sure where to begin? Honoring Choices Virginia, together with their partners and volunteers, is actively engaging the Commonwealth of Virginia to change the culture about future medical decision-making–also known as “advance care planning”. Too often in our health care system, individuals do not receive the care they wish for during a medical crisis. Starting a conversation about future medical care can be difficult but it is imperative that these conversations happen.


The THRIVE accelerator program provides an opportunity for nonprofits to look beyond current challenges and obstacles and plan out a direct and streamlined path forward. Organizations will tackles a specific hurdle they want to clear to get to the next level of impact with the community and will spend concentrated time with staff and board planning and executing real-time solutions with guided facilitation. We will utilize accelerator techniques to build a cohort-responsive program.

THRIVE was created through collaboration between

The Collaboratory of Virginia and The Spark Mill.

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