Franklin Borough, New Jersey, resembles many rural communities. Once the thriving “Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World,” Franklin now faces steep economic and health disparities. The Forward, Franklin Initiative is addressing these disparities by rebuilding a sense of community and pursuing two upstream, integrated goals: 1) Increasing sense of community via a process of “re-imagining” town identity and enhancing public spaces to facilitate social connection; and 2) establishing a local, data-informed, cross-sectoral, resident and organizational partnership (the Forward Franklin Alliance; FFA). Fueled by local data, the FFA directs grant strategies, while working to systematically change the role residents have in decision-making and transforming health of community members long-term.


BUILD and its communities apply bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven (BUILD) approaches to improve health in communities that are adversely affected by upstream factors.


The formation of the FFA is a bold shift in the power imbalances in decision-making and service-delivery in Franklin, by enhancing the capacity of residents to influence local policy and practice. To make this change at the policy level, the Borough municipal authority, Atlantic Health System, and Sussex County Division of Health, have all committed to working through the FFA.


This project uses two upstream strategies: 1) engaging residents in a process of “re-imagining” town identity, and 2) enhancing public spaces. Ultimately, by revitalizing public spaces, there are more opportunities for social support and belonging.


FFA, the local health system, and the county public health office are aligning their practices for a cross-sector community intervention in Franklin.


To date, nine local organizations and over 300 residents have come together around shaping health in Franklin. The FFA is a goal in itself, but also the coordinating body for the desired outcomes of community identity and engagement. FFA  residents will participate on the steering committee to continuously help shape the direction and process of community engagement and ownership, shifting power and decision-making towards locals.


The New Jersey Health Collaborative (NJHC), a network of more than 100 organizations, is creating the first neighborhood level database and set of local indicators for Franklin. Using a community-based participatory research framework, the NJHC Data Committee works hand-in hand with the FFA to determine which indicators are the most helpful to their work.