“True partnership transforms the people in it… And we should recognize that, acknowledge it, and embrace it.”

– Dr. Rishi Manchanda at the opening plenary of the 2018 BUILD Health Challenge Annual Convening

The BUILD Health Challenge inspires cross-sector partnerships between healthcare, public health, and community organizations. And the spirit of collaboration was alive and well at the annual BUILD convening on September 12-13, in Denver, where representatives from all 19 awardee communities, as well as BUILD funders and partners came together to celebrate successes and share the lessons they’ve learned over the past year.

BUILD awardees collaborating at the annual stakeholder meeting.

Over the course of two days, the members of the collaboratives—each consisting of a local hospital or health system, the public health department, and a community-based organizations—shared lessons, discussed common obstacles, and explored new ideas. Representing the de Beaumont Foundation, I was inspired to see that so many different kinds of organizations share a mission to improve population health, and I took away three important action steps that I hope will inspire you and your own efforts to improve community health.

1. Cultivate relationships and peer learning networks.

During a session for the public health departments participating in BUILD, several leaders talked about how they are working to break out of their “lane” or traditional roles to form and participate in new innovative partnerships that improved their influence and impact in the community. In conjunction, local hospitals/health systems and community based organizations had similar sessions to discuss their BUILD partnerships. Through these sessions all partners were able to grow their peer learning network and develop relationships that they can draw on through the next year of this BUILD award and beyond.

2. Identify common obstacles and be open to new ideas for addressing them.

While BUILD awardees are scattered across the country, they often share common challenges and opportunities. During a session on how to plan for and implement systems change, attendees spoke about the challenge of identifying how systems change was developing through their BUILD partnerships. The BUILD evaluation team offered explanations and ways that partners could incorporate this type of evaluation into their ongoing projects. There was strong resonance around the shared opportunity and continued need to ensure that BUILD partnerships are invoking systems level change in their communities, in order to truly change the conditions in which the residents live and can therefore be healthy.

3. Recognize other stakeholder perspectives and opportunities to align with them.

The need to understand different perspectives was particularly evident in the “Funder’s-Eye View” session, which was a dialogue between several of the BUILD funders and the grantees focused on emerging opportunities from the grant makers. Everyone agreed that the BUILD cohorts’ local work and successes were excitingly being used to build a national platform to make multi sector community partnerships like BUILD the new normal—but also acknowledged a wide variety of challenges and tensions such as the length of the award cycle, sustainability planning, and striving for upstream outcomes. The closing plenary of the convening featured Gita Rampersad from the American Hospital Association, Jenifer Wagley from Avenue, Kathy Chan from Cook County Health and Hospitals System, and Patrick Cusick from the Cleveland Department of Public Health, who told their stories of how they found their health passions and how that drives their community work in BUILD.

During the meeting I also heard BUILD described as a “ripple effect” – a stone in the water that allows for cascading impacts. It was clear that the successes of BUILD are having important ripple effects through the BUILD communities and partnerships, amplifying innovative solutions to community health problems. By cultivating peer learning, working together on shared challenges, and aligning BUILD stakeholders, the BUILD ripple effect is brought into full force. Leaving this meeting, I am excited and encouraged by the prospect of what lies ahead for these 19 communities and their network of partners during this coming year as they complete their BUILD awards.


Rachel Locke, MPH, CPH, is the ASPPH Public Health Philanthropy Fellow at the de Beaumont Foundation. She recently graduated from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health’s Environmental Health Department with a Certificate in Toxicology.