In 2015, five funders and 18 communities set out together with the bold goal of transforming systems through cross-sector partnerships, a focus on the social determinants of health, and community-driven approaches — so that everyone could have the opportunity to reach their optimal level of health. While health equity has been part of The BUILD Health Challenge® (BUILD) since its beginning, our understanding and practice of the concept hasn’t remained static. The role of health equity in our mission has evolved, and in so doing helped reshape BUILD into its current model — and focus on equity — today.
Over the years, we have aimed to listen, to learn, and to act. Many of our reports and learnings reference this continuous process, as understood at both the community and the initiative level. As the field continued to advance, the knowledge, goals, and practices of our communities drove us forward — to be more intentional and more explicit about BUILD’s commitment to equity. At the same time, we wanted to pause amid a national conversation around health disparities and racial injustice, and reflect on BUILD’s health equity journey to where we are now — and where we are headed.
Moving to Center: BUILD’s Journey to Advance Health Equity offers a look back at how the role of equity evolved to become a critical and catalyzing driver of this national initiative. Patterns emerged in our equity journey to date:
- Identifying shared values, a common language, and effective tactics helped “socialize” equitable approaches into broad initiatives. There were more opportunities for conversations and learning among stakeholders around equity as we sought common ground and shared action.
- BUILD stakeholders and partners became more comfortable transitioning from discreet ideas and acts by individual partners to integrating equitable approaches into all aspects of their efforts as they increasingly recognized the value of these approaches. Health equity practices have become more interdependent over time.
- The sustained efforts, narratives, and commitments to equity had a cumulative effect. It has become difficult to untangle the equity-advancing ideas and acts of single stakeholders or communities in BUILD; instead, a growing confluence of diverse and inclusive voices, ideas, narratives, strategies, supports, and frameworks mutually reinforce one another and pushed the model to a new height.
Six years, 55 community partnerships, 16 funders, and three learning cohorts later, we are realizing the benefits and impact of our equity efforts to support values, practices, and learning (learn more about the BUILD model’s impact). The BUILD model is more explicit than ever in articulating equity as a core pillar and priority; the nation’s greater focus on systemic inequities and racial justice has only strengthened equity as a cornerstone of this work.
So what’s next for BUILD’s equity journey? Truth be told, we’re not quite sure. We will continue to listen, to learn, and to act, as we always have. We will continue building our own capacity, along with that of the BUILD communities, to center community members in collaborative movements to change health and advance racial justice across the country. We know that our communities carry an immense wealth of knowledge and vision in this space. Importantly, we are not just reporting on these actions and best practices by the BUILD awardees, but holding ourselves and our partners accountable too. Early in 2021, we embarked upon a listening tour — a learning journey to engage our community members in co-designing BUILD’s future. (Learn more about the process and preliminary findings.) It has proven to be a transformative process for BUILD, and one that is yielding powerful insights and bold ideas that will help propel us forward. While we may not know exactly what BUILD will look like a year from now or beyond, we are certain that we will all be on this journey together.
At BUILD, we acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of Equal Measure as our evaluation partner over three cohorts of BUILD communities. They provided the deep and constructive understanding of BUILD’s practices and growth that are captured in this report.