A more just and equitable society is a healthier society. The Trust’s Community Partnerships strategy supports communities across Colorado in recognizing and building their own power to achieve these conditions.
The Trust’s role in the partnership is to provide resources for capacity building, community organizing and collaboration at a local level. The majority of the work is done by communities themselves. Diverse teams of Coloradans first identify their own community's existing assets, as well as barriers to justice and good health, and then propose and implement solutions with funding and input from The Trust. By building their collective power, communities can best address injustices that impact people disproportionately based on their race or ethnicity, their income or where they live.
A cornerstone of this work is that it centers the people most challenged by inequities, and believes in their power to organize themselves to advocate for change. When it comes time to create solutions, the people most affected by specific challenges should have a lead role in determining how to address them. For instance, if a community identifies a lack of affordable housing as a pressing issue, then those people who are most struggling to afford a place to live should have opportunities to articulate how the problem affects them, propose solutions and oversee their implementation.
Each community takes the lead in both crafting its own solutions and evaluating whether its efforts are meeting these goals. These solutions are rooted in addressing one or more social determinants of health specific to their community.
At the same time, the strategy has an overarching objective: To partner with communities to support them in building their collective power—and specifically the power of peoples that have been historically disenfranchised.
We believe that building power is foundational, not only to changing community conditions, but also to shifting the policies and systems that shape communities. With the power to advocate on their own behalf and influence the systems that surround them, people who have previously been excluded from decision-making will create stronger, fairer and healthier communities throughout Colorado.
In August 2020, The Trust shifted its approach to the Community Partnerships strategy to one centered on community organizing. Community feedback and the strategy evaluation have indicated that the first 5 years of this strategy created capacity and built power, especially at the individual level. These learnings also indicated that it was necessary to evolve the strategy into one centered on collective power building, using defined cycles of planning and action rooted in longstanding community organizing principles. The Trust believes this will result more explicitly in lasting, sustainable systemic change and improved health equity outcomes.
This approach will allow The Trust to build community organizing capacity in clear, measurable and proven ways. It will allow resident teams to see wins from their efforts throughout the process and be able to take action on issues as they arise, in the way community organizing intends. When communities see and feel the fruits of even small labors, power is built and systems can begin to change.
This organizing cycle is not original to The Trust. It is a variation on similar organizing cycles that have been developed in the field of grassroots community organizing over the course of at least 50 years. This model is inclusive of the four strategic goals of the Community Partnerships strategy:
- Support community organizers to develop leaders in communities.
- Support communities to take collective action to improve the conditions of their lives.
- Support the creation of a durable, community-appropriate organization in place to build power and mobilize resources beyond the investment of The Colorado Trust—an organization able to recruit people, develop leaders, gather information and organize the money needed to accomplish the goals.
- Support communities to be a meaningful part of an organizing infrastructure that is being built regionally and across the state.
- We use community organizing tactics and strategies to execute our work and build a community‘s collective power to advance health equity.
- We partner with people in communities who experience adverse impact and treatment (both unintentional and intentional discrimination) in their everyday lives to lead this work on the ground.
- The partnerships develop sustainable capacities and networks that go beyond individual power building to achieve collective power building for systemic change.
- We strive for systems change—changes in norms, narratives, and institutional practices and policies that will lead to shared power and social justice.
- We support ongoing learning throughout the strategy by transparently sharing successes and failures to adopt standard best practices. Any variations in our agreed-upon practices—including the reasoning and the expected and desired outcomes—are vetted and communicated before, during and after implementation.
- Our collective celebrations, evaluations and follow-through are required practices to ensure sustained change and evolution in the strategy and across the work.
The Colorado Trust has a community partner working with communities in each of seven regions in the state. Trust community partners live in the regions in which they work.
The map below shows the Community Partnerships regions, as well as pin drops for the locations of communities currently taking part in this work. The map is updated regularly as the work in the strategy progresses. Click on any pin drop to view contact information for the community partner in that area of Colorado:
Watch the videos below to learn more about some of the Colorado communities where this work is underway.
To better understand the impact of the Community Partnerships strategy across Colorado, The Trust is working with several entities to perform a multi-level evaluation.
First, local evaluators are partnering with resident teams to assess their work and help them identify changes needed within community-level projects.
Second, an empowerment evaluation (managed by Change Matrix) is underway with funded communities and the local evaluators, to offer coaching, training and support for resident teams to design and conduct local-level evaluation of their health equity plans, and also to assure alignment with the strategy principle to build and sustain capacity in the communities. The evaluation measures are being directed by the resident teams.
Third, The Trust is working with an external contractor (Community Science) to complete a macro-evaluation of the strategy; at this level, the evaluation is assessing the strategy’s success in building power in communities.
Lastly, The Trust is conducting an ongoing process evaluation among resident teams, to better understand successes and challenges of partnering with The Trust on the Community Partnerships work. The goal is to use this feedback to improve the strategy and share back information, stories and learnings among resident teams. Evaluation contact: courtney [at] coloradotrust.org (Courtney Ricci, PhD), Head of Evaluation & Learning for Community Change, 303-837-1200.
GRANT AMOUNT: $30,719,088