The BUILD Health Challenge welcomed its new cohort of 19 communities during a two-day long convening in Washington, DC. The BUILD awardees represent some of the most promising upstream efforts to transform community health in America today. Everyone who attended, including funders, speakers, and partners of BUILD, all united together with the common goal of improving community health.

This is the first time this cohort of communities has come together in-person, and the result was an action-packed two days filled with learning, sharing, and inspiration. Through a mix of conversations with guest speakers, networking sessions, and workshops, attendees left feeling inspired about their projects having developed a community of practice across sites and within teams.

On September 12, we kicked off the convening at the AT&T Forum. The sessions on this first day highlighted the BUILD principles: Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local and Data-Driven. Awardees heard an inspired affirmation of why the collective efforts of this cohort are so important to the fight for better health in America from Brian Castrucci of the de Beaumont Foundation.

Next, members of the first cohort took the stage to share their experiences, on what worked, and what didn’t, as well as words of wisdom they had on making the most of their time with BUILD. BUILD alumni encouraged the new cohort to be bold when focusing on systemic change through policy, and thorough in research when using data to elevate their projects.

The conversation then shifted in the following panel to policy – both legislative and institutional in nature – to start a dialogue with attendees about ways in which they can create systemic change as part of their projects. Mayor Paul Leon of Ontario, CA, joined us for this special session to share his experiences working with the Ontario BUILD project.

Afterwards, the focus was placed on data and how the communities might further integrate data-driven approaches into their work. We were joined by representatives from the All In network, which is a peer network of communities engaged in similar data-driven efforts related to population health. BUILD is proud to be working with All In to further the efforts of dozens of communities working toward the same goal of moving attention, action, and resources upstream to improve community health.

In the first keynote of the day, Reverend Shavon Arline-Bradley and Amy Slonim, from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation engaged in a lively conversation with attendees about the interplay between health equity, collaboration, community engagement, and leadership in addressing health disparities at the local level. Communities had the opportunity to think critically about the health equity gaps that exist within the world, how they affect constituents, and ways to effectively address them.

The convening also provided the communities a chance to get together with the extended BUILD team that is set to work with and support them during their upcoming two-year long endeavor. They met with their technical assistance, communications, and evaluations teams, and began reinforcing these important relationships.

The day closed with an inspiring conversation with Nadia Morris of AT&T’s Health Foundry moderated by Graham McLaughlin of the Advisory Board Company on the future of health technology and innovation, and then after, all communities were invited to enjoy the beautiful DC weather at the Nationals’ baseball game that evening.

The second day took place at the Kaiser Center for Total Health, and with a day under their belts, it was a chance for teams to roll up their sleeves and do some work together. We began the day with a collaboration session, to share commonalities – by region and by issue area– and a chance to share learnings. A storytelling workshop followed, challenging community members to craft and share a compelling story that championed and advanced their projects’ aims.

The closing keynote featured a conversation between NPR reporter Allison Aubrey and the Kresge Foundation’s Chris Kabel, in which Aubrey shared her insights on the complex role of food and nutrition in communities, along with what it takes to craft a captivating story. The concluding Q&A session allowed the communities to dig deep into her expertise in journalism and learn how to engage their audiences to help amplify their stories and create meaningful change.

Congratulations again to the 19 new awardees. BUILD is honored to be working together with them to advance their efforts to improve community health. This convening represents only the beginning of an exciting two-year long journey together. We are excited to see what we will BUILD together in the years to come!