Over the past year, the world has experienced change at a rate and at a scale that was unthinkable and untenable before the pandemic. And yet here we are. Living through such significant shifts requires us to not only adjust in the moment, but also to rethink what is needed — and what is possible.

To reimagine the future of community health, one that is centered on racial equity and justice, as well as community co-development and leadership, The BUILD Health Challenge® (BUILD), is conducting a listening tour with a variety of key stakeholders, including past and current grantees, in collaboration with the Success Measures team at Neighborworks America. This effort being conducted throughout 2021 is intended to gain critical insights to inform the program planning for a potential fourth BUILD cohort, future strategies within the philanthropic sector, and practices within community health. 

While we are eager to dive into the insights shared with us and provide insights for the field of community health, we recognize the value of this process as equally important to the outcomes. It represents change in how BUILD and its partners are operating and implementing these strategic elements. Below we share highlights from our process, and will follow up with key learnings this fall.

Planning for the listening tour started late last year, kicking off with a discovery session between BUILD staff and funders that identified the need and resources for such an effort. Through this convening, we framed our learning goals and purposefully left open-ended how the findings might shape the next BUILD cohort. In February, we invited four former BUILD awardees — Evette de Luca, C. Benzel Jimmerson, Robert Nnake, and Kellie Teter — to act as co-facilitators for the listening tour sessions. These four partners were instrumental to the process, providing unique insights from their experience with BUILD, as well as their community health work representing different sectors, to focus and refine the design and execution of the process to elevate learnings. This entailed crafting questions, deciding on the discussion formats, and facilitating conversations with participants.

Next, we conducted four virtual sessions in March. Participants included past and current awardees, representing community-based organizations, residents, public health departments, and hospitals. All past and current BUILD awardees were invited to participate in this process, and both co-facilitators and participants were offered compensation for their time, contributions, and expertise. It was essential for us to hear from a variety of different stakeholders to gain an encompassing understanding of where communities are in terms of needs, goals, and strategies for advancing racial equity, resident leadership, and community co-development. We were thrilled and grateful to have over 30 awardees participate. 

The first three sessions were designed as small World Cafe-style discussions, led by the Success Measures and BUILD alumni awardee co-facilitators. The group split into three breakout rooms, consisting of a smaller subgroup of participants and one co-facilitator. Each breakout room focused on addressing one question through roundtable open discussion. The three questions our learnings focused on were:

  • Centering community co-creation: How is lived experience lifted up and how is it used to frame solutions and disrupt the systems that have caused the racial inequities?
  • Collaborative capacity & systems change: Did the BUILD way of doing business and work create a space for meaningful and authentic collaboration? How has this collaboration made systemic change possible? 
  • Racial equity & racial justice: Thinking about your experience with BUILD and your collaborative work, what would your BUILD program look like now if you prioritized a racial equity centered approach?

The groups eventually made their rounds through all three breakout rooms. At the end, the group reconvened as a whole to talk through their reflections on the questions posed and how their distinct community and public health experience shaped the conversation in each breakout room. 

Focusing on a single topic in a small group allowed for free-flowing, constructive conversations carried by personal experiences of the participants. Coming back into a large group at the end of each session to reflect helped shape and make sense of these sharings in a larger context. In that spirit, the fourth session convened all participants to respond to the findings as a collective — they were invited to approve, challenge, or refine thematic findings from the first three sessions, and to participate in discussion groups to share their responses. 

The next steps in this learning journey are for BUILD, the Success Measures team, and the alumni co-facilitators to refine these takeaways, and center them to inform our planning for a potential next BUILD cohort. With ongoing contributions from our funding collaborative, additional stakeholders, and awardees, we hope to share a report publicly this fall with key findings that will include learnings from three cohorts of BUILD communities, and how their knowledge and experience will shape the future of BUILD. Stay tuned for more!

On behalf of everyone at BUILD, we would like to give thanks to our four co-facilitators for their incredible contributions and expertise, as well as all who participated in the listening tour. This process would not have been possible without any of these partners, and funding collaborative members. We are inspired at BUILD by this collaborative process towards creating equity and making health a just opportunity for all.