Stories of Capacity Development: An Interview with Irma Hinkle

November 3rd, 2021 | Story

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“JSI team members have expertise in many different areas. In our time working with JSI, the team was able to respond to multiple requests and build on the established relationships and broad understanding of our programs to deliver effective TA.”

Irma Hinkle is a grants director with LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, Virginia, where she develops, manages, and oversees a full range of grant management activities.

LGBT Life Center empowers LGBTQ communities and all people affected by HIV through improving health and wellness, strengthening families and communities, and providing transformative education and advocacy.

Tell us about LGBT Life Center. 

We started 30 years ago as a small AIDS service organization with a staff of fewer than 10 focused on the needs of women and children with HIV. We always aspired to become a one-stop-shop with integrated HIV clinical services. In 2019, a partnership with CAN Community Health made it possible to offer support services and co-located clinical care. We now provide HIV-prevention services, pre-exposure prophylaxis, nonoccupational HIV post-exposure prophylaxis, HIV medical care, LGBTQ wellness, and primary care. 

Our second-most significant area of growth has been in housing services. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified housing instability. We are proud to provide emergency assistance to temporarily house someone for up to 60 days and rapidly rehouse someone into permanent housing within 30 days. This is critical for LGBTQ youth and seniors. Today we have about 70 staff in our housing, prevention, and clinical departments. We have grown significantly and are slowly building infrastructure to support them.

How has  JSI worked with your organization?

We began our work with JSI through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded HIV prevention grant. JSI was one of the capacity-building assistance providers that supported the needs of community-based organizations to deliver high-impact HIV prevention services between 2014 and 2019.

We struggled to implement and tailor CDC’s HIV prevention effective behavioral interventions (EBIs). The initial classroom-style training for the EBIs provided a good foundation for implementation, but not necessarily the skills to negotiate technical and management implementation issues. JSI provided technical assistance (TA) that helped us implement interventions as intended while tailoring activities to our specific community needs. Today, we still use many of the tools JSI provided including work plan and social media strategy templates and qualitative evaluation instruments. We have had a lot of turnover in staff over the years, but the TA resources that JSI shared still apply and we use them for ongoing coaching of new staff. JSI also allowed us to follow-up after a formal TA request. We could contact JSI and get feedback on our progress through email and phone calls.

How did your work with JSI promote sustainability? 

We were able to take the principles we learned through one TA session and implement them in other areas. Specifically, JSI equipped us with a problem-solving framework that we have applied in different situations. After we received TA focused on the development of a social media strategy, we were able to implement similar action and work planning steps in other areas. Now we apply similar strategies to everything we do. 

What are your lasting impressions of your work with JSI?

Relationship-building was central to JSI’s TA approach. Facilitating connections and trust is necessary for effective capacity building. Working in human services, we are building relationships with our colleagues, community partners, and consumers. Personal relationships enhance our learning and skills development. Often TA providers have discrete areas of expertise, and as new needs arise, a different provider or consultant needs to be engaged. However, JSI team members have expertise in many different areas. In our time working with JSI, the team was able to respond to multiple requests and build on the established relationships and broad understanding of our programs to deliver effective TA.

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