There's Something Happening Here... A Look at The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative

by Manuel Pastor; Jennifer Ito; Anthony Perez

Feb 1, 2014

In 2011, TCE commissioned PERE to help capture some of the dynamism happening in each of the sites as they were pivoting from the initial planning phase, which started in 2009, to early implementation.

Our focus was on the over-arching story of BHC rather than on the narrative of each site, which would have required many more interviews, many more site visits, and many, many more pages to convey. And while we touch on some of the interactions between BHC and the communications and policy work done under the statewide umbrella of Health Happens Here, our emphasis in this report is on BHC and the sites themselves.

Through the course of this research, we have become increasingly convinced that TCE is indeed onto something -- if not big, at least important. In order to clarify exactly what it is, we use a simplifying three-part storyline linked together by an overarching concept of Just Health.

  • There are two types of social capital that are important for collaborators: bonding and bridging
  • Bonding social capital is built between like-organizations whereas bridging social capital consists of links that cross difference.
  • For community residents to exercise power, they need to feel a sense of common destiny (bonding) but to garner all the resources they may need to improve lives, they will need to connect to outside forces who may have money, decision-making power, and political influence (bridging)
  • Some major challenges in regard to collaboration: disagreements around what critical terms mean, like systems change and resident engagement; insufficient trust and
  • relationships among the partners; and complicated structures and processes of coming together and getting it together
  • There can often be over-arching tension between funders and community-driven change
  • At the onset, funders might need to spend considerable time in each site making sure that organizations are connecting with each other and other key stakeholders, that different perspectives and community voices are being elevated, that meetings are taking place and have varied representations, and that everyone involved in the initiative is thinking about how they can work together to push forward the initiative
  • Striking a balance between direction and guidance from the foundation and allowing more ownership from the community can require some navigating by all involved
  • Being sensitive to power dynamics within collaborations is essential for their efficacy moving forward
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