Building Community Capacity to Shape Outcomes of Health Equity Work
Advancing health equity may require capacity building by promoting the ability of communities that experience
inequities to shape conditions that affect health and well-being.
Map Community Assets
A first step to building community capacity may be identifying community assets to understand existing community
strengths and identify opportunities for intervention. The Social Determinants of Health Toolkit discusses
asset-based community approaches,
including the process of asset mapping.
Promote Civic Engagement
engagement, such as volunteering and voting, allows community members to actively change conditions that
affect health and well-being. The Community Tool Box offers a comprehensive Justice Action Toolkit that describes opportunities
for communities to promote civic engagement to advance health equity.
Develop Rural Leaders
Supporting rural leadership can help shift power dynamics to be more representative of communities that
experience inequities. One strategy to develop leaders is through pipeline programs that encourage young rural
leaders to remain in rural communities. Training and skill-building for rural leadership development emphasizes
improving communication, increasing knowledge and education, and providing opportunities for engaging community
members to participate in achieving goals.
The RuraLead Learning Initiative is conducting a key study into equitable
rural leadership development, including an inventory of rural leadership programs and “journeys”
that detail how rural leaders have emerged in different regions of the country.
Promote the Capacity of Nontraditional Partners to Apply for Funding Opportunities
Building capacity may involve helping nontraditional partners apply for funding to realize their vision of
equity. For example, some community partners may need additional training or support to connect with and build
relationships with philanthropies. Others may need
legal assistance to set up the infrastructure for receiving and managing funds. For example, Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center
(SEAHEC) helped a local community coalition secure legal assistance to formalize their status to a
tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, which allowed the coalition to apply for, receive, and control their own
Examples of Programs Building Community Capacity to Shape Outcomes
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust's Healthy Places NC initiative is
funding communities to improve health outcomes through systems change in rural North Carolina. The program
emphasizes the importance of community-led efforts and capacity building for sustainable change. West Marion Inc. is a
Healthy Places NC participant.
Alianza in the rural Coachella Valley
helps elevate local resident leadership to create opportunities for civic engagement, leadership
development, and collective impact.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Rural Capacity Building for
Community Development and Affordable Housing Program helps rural organizations and tribes create
community development and affordable housing strategies. The program offers grantees training to support
The California Rural Legal Assistance's Community
Equity Initiative supports rural residents with opportunities to address environmental justice and
take part in improving their own communities.
Lake County Build a Generation works to provide opportunities for rural
Lake County, Colorado, agencies to increase their health equity capacity through ongoing training and
The Colorado Trust's Health
Equity Advocacy Strategy supports organizations to enhance the ability of community members to
advance health equity. Organizations work with community members to provide leadership development training
and build their capacity to engage in political processes.
Questions for Consideration
What is the readiness of collaborators to engage in the work? What assets and skills are already present in
What skills are needed to advance health equity and implement priority strategies? What training or capacity
building is necessary to help build those skills?
Who are the decision-makers in the community? Who is not represented in discussions that affect health
outcomes and health equity?
Are there any barriers to civic engagement, such as voting, in the community?
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
AmeriCorps Evidence Exchange
Provides a database of evaluation reports from AmeriCorps-funded projects, including civic engagement and
The Brushy Fork Community
Describes a curriculum to expand leadership capacity in the coalfield regions of Central Appalachia that is
locally driven, affordable, and adaptable to meet the needs of rural communities.
Organization(s): Brushy Fork Leadership Institute, Berea College
Provides an overview of youth civic engagement and resources related to promoting youth civic action.
Organization(s): The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs
Engagement and Civic Infrastructure to Advance Health Equity: A Workshop
Discusses the relationship between health equity and civic engagement. Workshop proceedings are provided through
a 21-video series and accompanying documentation.
Organization(s): The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Rural Development Initiatives (RDI)
Helps rural communities develop networks of rural leaders by offering leadership programs, revive rural economic
vitality through customized training and technical support, and organize rural leaders as advocates for
Connecting Rural Development, Health and Opportunity
Works with academics, practitioners, and policymakers to blend knowledge and experience to address the racial,
economic, and geographic inequality in rural communities. Focus is on what efforts work and what is needed to
create a shared vision and understanding that will support and improve the health and well-being of rural
Organization(s): Aspen Institute, University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Robert Wood Johnson