The BUILD Health Challenge® (BUILD) has always emphasized the “Bold” nature of awardee community partnerships – that is, coming together to work towards transformational change that disrupts systems and lasts beyond the award cycle. For BUILD communities, that has primarily focused on 

  • Shifts in sustainable funding;
  • Organizational practice changes, shifts in mindset, and new ways of working; and 
  • New legislative, regulatory, and public policies at the local level that support improvements in community health.  

While we have seen BUILD partners make impressive achievements in all three areas over the last six years, policy change is one of the biggest challenges – and one of the most powerful vehicles for broad-reaching and sustainable impact.  The policy process can often seem opaque to those without experience working on this issues, outcomes are unpredictable, and ability to successfully participate in policy design and implementation can vary deeply depending on government structure, politics, leadership, and systems. At the same time, when a policy is passed, the impacts are farther reaching and more challenging to undo than other types of systems changes. 

In their final year of the third BUILD cohort, many awardee communities are working towards policy change, accelerated by the national conversation around health equity and racial justice and the growing interest of policy makers to invest in the root causes of health. At the same time, there is a growing desire and increased opportunity for residents to co-design “the new normal” alongside other leaders.  

With that in mind and based on the success of similar past BUILD efforts in New Orleans and Houston, the BUILD funding collaborative decided earlier this year to direct $100,000 to support five current BUILD awardee communities in their efforts to deepen resident advocacy capacity. Through this funding opportunity, BUILD partners will work with residents to provide training and bolster the capacity of community members to engage in the regulatory, legislative, and public policy processes. The selected projects are taking a powerful next step in creating change on the issues that matter to those most impacted: 

  • Greenville, SC: The Build Health, Build Trust/Fomentar la Confianza y Salud team is developing a Food Equity Action Board to guide the action of the Food Security Coalition – a group of organizational partners who are working to address the root causes of food insecurity in Greenville through policy change. Residents will be compensated for their participation on the Board, translation services will be provided to facilitate equitable participation, and a community consultant will be engaged to design and implement a six-month training curriculum. This work will advance Greenville’s goal of centering resident voices in the work and building capacity among residents to engage in advocacy around food security.
  • Milwaukee, WI: The BUILD Sherman Park project is led by the Sherman Park Community Council, which includes residents and stakeholders from the seven neighborhoods that compose Sherman Park. The Community Council has identified five core priority areas for their work and possible policy opportunities. They seek to equip the Community Council with the tools to make change in those five areas by partnering with local advocacy groups to provide training. In addition to general capacity building, this work will serve as a bridge to decide the allocation of the Milwaukee BUILD microgrant funding, which is designed to support resident-led, Sherman Park-specific projects.
  • New Brunswick, NJ: The New Brunswick Health Housing team established a tenant association in February 2021. With the help of a small corps of community health ambassadors (CHAs), they reviewed and prioritized a series of recommendations from two housing reports that outlined national best practices, as compared to current local ordinances within the City of New Brunswick. This plan seeks to enhance the tenant association’s ability to advance those policies through training of both New Brunswick Tomorrow’s housing manager as well as the tenant association members on policy and advocacy best practices. Ultimately, this work will develop stronger ties between the City and the residents to ensure healthy housing for all.
  • Vallejo, CA: The Vallejo Housing Justice Coalition (VHJC) is hiring a Campaign Coordinator to help identify, develop, and run a tenant rights campaign. Through this opportunity, VHJC will train tenants and community leaders on how to fight for housing affordability for all Vallejoans. The team will leverage existing advocacy knowledge and resident participation to implement a training curriculum that is designed specifically to support leaders of color and low-income community members to participate in city processes and to connect their lived experiences to change in their communities. Resident participants will receive stipends for their participation.
  • Washington, DC: The Healthy Together BUILD team will host trainings designed to build the capacity of DC parents and caregivers to advocate within the institutions that impact their children’s well-being – including schools, public agencies, and the legislative system – to create trauma-informed schools and communities and to increase children’s access to timely, high-quality mental health support in DC. These trainings will focus on policy change and know-your-rights capacity building, including train-the-trainer workshops. They will build on the DC team’s existing Parent Café work, which employs a similar peer-to-peer model, and leverage the team’s active engagement with the City Council.  

We are excited to learn from these five communities – and to connect those learnings with you. The partners will receive ongoing technical assistance from ChangeLab Solutions, as well as facilitated peer learning opportunities. We look forward to the partners sharing their experience over the coming year, driving our knowledge of how best to center lived experience and advance health equity for the long term – stay tuned!