Center in Community Action Team
Create conditions for community voice to be equal in decision making.
About the Strategy Area
Centering work in community means focusing strategies and initiatives around the perspectives and experiences of the people who live in the community. It also means striving towards sharing decision-making across institutions and people with lived experience.
Since 2021, the Center in Community Action Team has been practicing building authentic community engagement and community driven change. This includes a two-way exchange of information, ideas and resources. It also creates opportunity for community decision-making. To learn more about how the team works together, please visit our Action Team page.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead | American Cultural Anthropologist
Towards Creating Conditions for Community Voice to be Equal in Decision Making
What We're Learning
Creating conditions to connect community members, businesses and organizations in meaningful ways can generate solutions for lasting and meaningful change that impact health and life outcomes. The following are some conditions we are finding necessary for shared decision-making.
Build trust by creating shared understanding with the intent of taking action. Community members want action, not just talking or learning.
Advocate for change! Organizational partners must be in a position (both emotionally and organizationally) to advocate for organizational or program changes identified by community partners.
Clarify what each partner can and cannot do. As much as we may want to, we all have limitations. If organizational change is linked to a single person, be transparent about that.
Welcome open and honest communication. Grow toward giving and receiving sincere feedback and strive for a prompt response. If a particular project or initiative does not feel like a good fit, share those perspectives.
Acknowledge and consider the diversity and history of our communities. Recognize reasons for mistrust while also addressing power dynamics that exist.
Centering Community in Action
Increasing Hispanic Participation in a Local Vaccination Clinic
A representative from Lutheran Medical Center partnered with Spanish-speaking community members to increase participation in a vaccine clinic among Hispanic individuals. Through conversation, the group began to understand the decision-making process at the clinic, the organizational structures that impacted barriers and barriers to seeking or receiving vaccinations at the clinic. Through connection, additional people were brought into the conversation including representatives of the facility hosting the vaccine clinic, new community partners and other organizational representatives. Through collaboration, partners identified and implemented (some successfully and others not so much) solutions identified by the partnership. Together, the clinic saw a 111% increase in participation by Hispanic participants during the intervention period compared with the pre-intervention period.
Elevating and Supporting Youth Voices Through Youth Town Halls
Jefferson County Communities That Care (Jeffco CTC) collaborates with community partners and youth to plan and host an annual youth town hall to understand the issues teens are facing today. The town halls give youth a platform to share their thoughts and opinions about a variety of topics that may affect them and their peers, including substance misuse, interpersonal violence, hopelessness and anxiety, and more. Jeffco CTC intentionally includes youth throughout the town hall planning process to ensure the coalition is prioritizing its work on projects and initiatives that actually benefit the population it is striving to support -- the youth of Jefferson County. Youth town hall planners and hosts are compensated for their work and recognized for their accomplishments at community meetings and events. Youth who participate in the town halls receive gift cards for their time. Each youth town hall has been unique: They have been in person and virtual; focused on specific subjects, like substance misuse as well as LGBTQ+ support; and have had small numbers of participants as well as over 100 participants. As different as each town hall has been, all have provided opportunities for youth and adults to learn and grow alongside one another. In the words of a recent youth town hall planner, "It feels like we are actually doing something that makes a difference!"
Community Leadership in the Jefferson County Food Policy Council
The Jefferson County Food Policy Council is working hard to ensure that community-centered decision making is central in their work by creating a Community Advisory Board to lead the organization and working with community members from across the food system who know what issues their communities face. Recently, the community came together to create a 2023 Policy Issues Guide for the Jefferson County food system. The issues in the guide were collected from community members and put together to create a collective vision for the changes they want to see. The council members voted to approve the guide and choose three top issues to focus on this year. One of those issues is community leadership throughout the food system. They have a coalition of community members who are advancing community leadership at food pantries by advocating for just and equitable volunteer policies in order to ensure the community members who volunteer at and participate at pantries are treated fairly and have a say in the organizational policies.
Tools and Resources for Centering Work in Community
Many resources exist to inform and support community engagement and community/organizational partnership. Resources referred to in this action team are listed below.