September Newsletter | Sowing Our Vision: Liberation in 7 Generations

Greetings Deaconess Community,

The onset of the pandemic and a change in executive leadership called us to reexamine our multi-year strategic plan and reevaluate the ways the Foundation is advancing justice as an institutional advocate. Over the course of 18 months, we sought the wisdom of residents in our communities – those in which we live, work, and serve. We listened with new ears and open hearts, believing that no voice is too small, and no vision is too audacious to influence our work.

The Foundation engaged a consultative project team to connect with and collect feedback across a variety of neighborhoods and community gatherings, funded partner focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and national peer funder conversations and policy research.

To achieve our community and participant-centered engagement goals our consultative partners employed a three-prong outreach strategy:

  • Regional Community Engagement – Goals: 1) listen to, learn from, and understand the desired improvements of community residents and organizational leaders; 2) ensure community voice guides and leads the work; 3) ensure community is at the center of all decisions; and 4) support community ownership of policy change.
    Deaconess-Interested and -Impacted Parties – Goals: 1) better understand Deaconess’s potential from the perspective of those closest to the organization; 2) determine lessons learned from Deaconess’s existing priority portfolio that might have implications for this project’s recommendations; and 3) glean additional feedback on potential organizational values to guide Deaconess’s work in the future.
    National Partner Engagement, Research, and Analysis – Goals: 1) explore policy trends and themes; 2) connect insights to community findings to inform recommendations, and 3) discover relevant case studies to provide context to findings and recommendations.


Challenges must be addressed in the aggregate
Time and time again, our neighbors and partners near and far said that it is much too difficult and unrealistic to compartmentalize individual and community needs in neat public policy boxes or zones. That just isn’t how any of us experience life. Our life experiences are intersecting and interdependent on many variables. There is no one systemic failure that could truly be addressed without great effort around the others, so challenges must be addressed in the aggregate.

There is a need to care for everyone from newborns to Centenarians
Generational transformation is tied to the health and well-being of everyone. Children, adults, and elders exist in the context of one another, families, communities, and systems. Together, we are shaping our ideal healed future.

It is difficult to survive and thrive in a colonized, racist set of systems
With our collective understanding of systems’ roles in creating and exacerbating brokenness and harm, no efforts can solely focus on the impact of systems. Many of them are working as they were designed. We must undo the harmful systemic structures that exist while prophetically imagining and pursuing a future of atonement, healing and restoration.

Deaconess’ mission, vision, and values must be reimagined for the work ahead
For this chapter, in Deaconess’ history, the Foundation must be explicit in its intention in the world around us.

Ultimately, the insights urged us to imagine a journey and future for which the last seven generations of Deaconess’s work have prepared us.


We are clear, our community has called us to envision a future society where liberation is the lived experience, and all people have space and capacity to dream. With a focus on health justice and social justice through building beloved community and power building, Liberation within 100 years –7 generations—is attainable.

Our strategic aspiration and strategy reflect what we have learned and what we have processed together up to this point. Our guiding values are faith in light of our commitment to Jesus Christ reflecting His love for all people, healing as a holistic process, justice as a resolution against oppression in all its forms, and liberation, not meant to simply describe an outcome, but rather it is an intentional and conscious movement in which our community can freely exist, dream and thrive in the absence of oppressive systems in a culture of solidarity, respect and dignity. Our focus areas, health justice and social justice, are built on these values.

In the coming weeks, in our newsletter we will continue to share various components of our new strategy with you. We will share hallmarks of building beloved community and power building. We will share our incremental goals and frameworks informing our approach.

Our approach is designed with you and the heartland in mind. And we invite you to join us, to lend your voice, to lean into your power, to share the joys and solve for the challenges. Our strategic plan is adaptive and responsive. The urgency of now requires that we forecast today for the outcomes we expect in by year 2123.

So, join us in uprooting oppressive systems and planting anew. Truly we’re in a new season with fresh oil.

In service to the will of the Spirit and the mission,

Bethany Johnson-Javois, President & CEO and

Constance Harper, Vice President of Policy, Advocacy, & Strategic Initiatives

P.S. – If you have not yet attended one of our in-person community meetings outlining the strategy with audience participation, please join us on Wednesday, October 25th in Belleville, IL. Learn more and register here.

Read the full September eNewsletter here.