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Building and Sharing Power: Lessons from California

A Partnership with The California Endowment

What We Worked For

Distilling and sharing learning from 10 years of community power building in California to advance health equity and racial justice.

Building Healthy Communities (BHC) was an innovative, 10-year, 14-community initiative of The California Endowment (TCE) to achieve more equitable health outcomes in California. TCE engaged CSSP as a partner to assist in distilling and elevating the learning from its BHC initiative. Our work was designed to contribute new knowledge to the field and prompt action by communities, state and local decision-makers, and philanthropic organizations.

About Building Healthy Communities

From 2010 to 2020, TCE invested $1.75 billion and partnered with 14 communities across California and many state-level organizations and alliances. TCE investments in grassroots organizing and youth mobilization—termed “people power” by participants—far exceeded anything seen in prior initiatives and this model became a template for community and foundation partnership. Communities participating in BHC insisted on systems transformation as the essential pathway to positively change the range of conditions identified as the social determinants of health and this focus led to significant policy change and demonstrated new ways of advancing health equity and racial justice in California. Partners focused their organizing and advocacy on policy and systems change, rather than program development and implementation, and proactively deployed communication and narrative change strategies.

Over the decade, BHC’s “theory of action” became clear: improve health status by building “people power,” transforming policy and public systems, and expanding opportunities in communities that have been historically marginalized.

How We Did It

To capture the power building story, CSSP partnered with TCE and a host of local and national evaluators to engage key stakeholders across the initiative: BHC youth and adult residents, foundation staff and board members, and state-wide advocates. Multiple products have been produced as part of this work. 

CSSP’s work was designed to be useful to participating communities and state and local partners and to provide valuable information for the Foundation’s transition planning. These products included a 10-year retrospective report recapping the evolution of TCE’s emphasis on power building and the lessons learned along the way as well as three targeted studies focused on key aspects of BHC:

In addition to reports CSSP has generated to highlight this work, we also produced sessions for our virtual learning series, titled Learning, Equity, and Power (LEaP). This installment of LEaP was aimed at sharing key findings and actionable insights from BHC and focused on five key, interrelated learning questions. Please see the sidebar to learn more about LEaP, and explore our five learning questions below to watch recordings of the LEaP sessions and access related resources. 

Our Learning Questions

This installment of CSSP’s Learning, Equity, and Power (LEaP) initiative highlighted lessons and insights from selected research and evaluation of The California Endowment’s (TCE) decade-long Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. There were five virtual learning sessions in this installment of LEaP, with each session providing answers to one of our learning questions. In addition to a recording of each virtual session, there are resources, such as blogs and reports, associated with each learning question. Please explore the learning questions below to access the videos of the sessions and additional resources.