In 2017, The BUILD Health Challenge® (BUILD) launched a second call for applications, funding 19 new and returning multi-sector partnerships. The new cohort focused on a wide variety of upstream factors that influence health, including food justice, healthy and affordable housing, community cohesion, public safety, transportation, and addiction, among others.  

During the first cohort, as the awardees learned to partner with each other and advanced new approaches to health, the BUILD funders were also learning about what it meant to launch and execute a collaborative initiative like BUILD. The funders had moved quickly to put together the funding, the application process, the technical assistance teams that served the first two cohorts (from Practical Playbook, the Prevention Institute, and County Health Rankings and Roadmaps), and most importantly, a vision for what BUILD communities could achieveAs more funders joined the collaborative – growing from five to elevenit was obvious that the vision was a compelling one.  

Learn more about the development of the innovative funder collaborative. 

In practice, however, the workload behind the scenes was overwhelming and the infrastructure needed developmentFor the second cohort, BUILD worked to make sure the initiative was as strong as its promise.   

  • The funding collaborative realized they could better serve the BUILD communities by investing in BUILD’s capacity, including hiring dedicated staff and developing a governance structure.  
  • They doubled down on their technical assistance to communities with a team dedicated to promoting health equity, and relaxed regional population thresholds to make BUILD accessible to a more diverse set of communities. The engaged technical assistance focused on supporting health equity practices and strategies within the community collaboratives. 
  • BUILD released an Opportunity Fund to address emerging opportunities, identified by both current and past awardees, for targeted investments that could move community initiatives forward. 
  • The BUILD team also created a pilot program in partnership with Campbell Soup Company to invest in capacity building with 25 organizations in three communities across New Jersey and North Carolina. Together, we leveraged BUILD’s experience in working with cross-sector and community-driven collaboratives through technical assistance to help connect partners, build community power, and share BUILD’s strategies for driving sustainable improvements in community health.  
  • And finally, the leadership embarked on a strategic planning process, allowing BUILD to measure and track its impact.  

All of these efforts combined ensured that BUILD moved steadily towards its vision of a new norm in the US – one that puts multi-sector, community-led partnerships at the foundation of improving health for everyone.   

Want to learn more about systems change in practice?  
Read stories from the second cohort of BUILD partnerships.

evolved as an initiative, so too did the BUILD communities. Several BUILD communities from the first cohort returned for the second cohort, and we began to see both new and returning partnerships reach goals and have outcomes came to fruition. Without planning awards, the new cohort included more established partnerships, and the communities moved forward bold ideas with power and energy.  

Thanks to the intensive learning process of the first cohort, we established frameworks that allowed communities to track their progress toward sustainable change. We even saw systems changes take place during the two-year grant cycle – nearly 60 across the 19 communities, including new and re-allocated funding streams; organizational shifts and scaling; and new regulatory, legislative, and public policies. Awardees were recognized as leaders in the field by their neighbors, local government, and other national initiatives. A highlight for the entire BUILD community was when PBS NewsHour nationally showcased the efforts of the Collaborative Cottage Grove team in Greensboro, NC, and the Avondale Children Thrive team from Cincinnati, OH, in two separate segments. 

The BUILD peer network was growing, and so were the ways they supported each other, learned from each other, and amplified each other’s work. One colleague described BUILD’s impact as “a ripple effect” – the momentum around the work was influencing communities, initiatives, and other stakeholders that saw that the BUILD model was working. Despite challenges and roadblocks, the possibilities for sustainable change felt practically limitless when community leaders, community-based organizations, hospitals and health systems, and public health departments aligned resources and visions to create a new vision of health in America