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Section 3. Our Model of Practice: Building Capacity for Community and System Change

Tool 1: Principles, assumptions, and values that guide the work of building healthy communities

  1. Community health improvement involves the population as a whole, not merely individuals at risk for specific physical, mental, or social conditions.
  2. Community health requires changes in both the behaviors of large numbers of individuals and the conditions or social determinants that affect health and development.
  3. A healthy community is a local product with priority issues and strategies best determined by those most affected by the concern.
  4. Freedom and justice require reducing income disparities to promote optimal health and development for all.
  5. Since health and development outcomes are caused by multiple factors, single interventions are likely to be insufficient.
  6. The conditions that affect a particular health or development concern are often interconnected with those affecting other concerns.
  7. Since the behaviors that affect health and development occur among a variety of people in an array of contexts, community improvement requires engagement of diverse groups through different parts of the community.
  8. Statewide and community partnerships, support organizations, and grantmakers are catalysts for change: they attempt to convene important parties, broker relationships, and leverage needed resources.
  9. The aim of support organizations is to build capacity to address what matters to people over time and across concerns.
  10. Community health and development involves interdependent relationships among multiple parties in which none can function fully without the cooperation of others.

Tool 2: Using this model of change--"Building capacity for community change"

Work Group for Community Health and Development Logic Model: Our Theory of Change

1. Community Context and Planning

The first step in the process is understanding the context in which people act. By the context, we mean people's experiences, their dreams for a better life, and what makes them do what they do.

With an understanding of the context, the group can move forward with planning. Collaborative planning is a critical and ongoing task of a successful organization. It brings together people and organizations with different experiences and resources. Together, they clarify or develop the group's vision, mission, objectives, strategies, and action steps. In doing so, they can bring about changes in the community.

2. Community Action and Intervention

The planning process should be followed by action--going out and doing what was outlined. Sometimes, there is serious resistance to efforts that will need to be overcome.

3. Community and System Change

The goal of planning and action is to bring about community and system changes. Bringing about these changes is an important step towards achieving your organizational goals. By community change, we mean developing a new program (or modifying and existing one), bringing about a change in policy, or adjusting a practice related to the group's mission. system changes are similar to community changes, but take place on a broader level.

4. Risk and Protective Factors and Widespread Behavior Change

Our belief is that when these community and system changes occur, they should, taken together, change the environment in which a person behaves. This is sometimes referred to as increasing protective factors and/or decreasing the risk factors that community members face.

Risk and protective factors are aspects of a person's environment or personal features that make it more likely (risk factors) or less likely (protective factors) that she will develop a given problem. Often, risk and protective factors can be considered flip sides of the same coin. The intended effect of environmental change is widespread behavior change.

5. Improve More Distant Outcomes

Improvements in more distant outcomes, such as reducing violence or increasing employment rates and family incomes, are the ultimate goals of collaborative partnerships. By reducing the risk factors (and enhancing the protective factors) for the issue you are trying to address, you will affect the bottom line. Data on community-level indicators can help you determine just how much progress you have made towards your ultimate goals.

Stephen B. Fawcett
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