Call Me a CAB!
Introducing BP's Community Advisory Board
Body Positive recently completed a three-month steering committee process designed to help strengthen the organization's Community Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB is made up of clients, community members, volunteers, staff and board members. The CAB's purpose is to advise on the design, implementation, and evaluation of the programs and services offered by BP. The CAB hopes to help ensure that what BP does is responsive to the community at large and specifically to those living with or at-risk for HIV by helping to continually improve programs and services.
The CAB is like a human pipeline, it brings information and issues back and forth between the community and BP. It's very important for BP to know what's happening on the street, in the playgrounds and parks, and in people's lives so that the agency can develop programs and services to help people.
Part of the CAB's job is also to look at the educational materials that BP develops and to provide feedback on them before they are finished. Many of the CAB members are people living with HIV/AIDS and have a lot of life experience, knowledge, and wisdom that makes their opinion very valuable to BP. "It's tremendously important that our CAB reflect what the HIV/AIDS epidemic looks like in our community," says BP Executive Director Eric Rodriguez. "It only works if there's trust between the CAB, the community and BP, and if we keep communicating. A CAB is designed to facilitate that communication."
One of the challenges in assembling an effective CAB is that people with HIV/AIDS are increasingly called upon to sit on advisory committees, which can make it hard to find people who are ready to take on the commitment. BP's CAB meets once a month for two hours. It's doesn't sound like much, but it can still be hard to get everyone in the same room. "I was a Peer Educator at BP for years," says CAB member Yolanda Diaz. "But now I'm Dean of Students for the women's HIV treatment education organization SMART University, I go to the Mayor's Planning Council meetings, I'm busy! But the BP CAB is important to me and even if I can't make every single meeting, I make it a priority and I make sure I know what's been going on!"
BP strongly believes that the organization is stronger by having a strong CAB that shares their knowledge and advice, and is no rubber stamp just okaying whatever the organization does. "We are an opinionated group," laughs CAB member Michael Taylor. "I am a volunteer on "The HIVe" socials for HIV-positive gay men and I have run support groups. I love BP and I sit on the CAB so I can 'talk back' to the agency for all the people that I come into contact with at events. That way BP gets the best sense of how things are working and its impact on people's lives."
BP's CAB currently has openings for new members. CAB members agree to make every effort to come to monthly meetings at BP. Past, present and future volunteers and clients are encouraged to consider joining the CAB. If you'd like more information on the CAB, or think you'd like to consider joining, please call Executive Director Eric Rodriguez at 212-566-7333.
Christopher Murray is a member of the Board of Body Positive and co-chair of the CAB.
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.