How Can We Share Power with Communities?
Build strategic community relationships, share power and decision making, and spark meaningful participation (Read actions you can take below)
Strong, strategic, long-term, and trusting relationships with community partners are vital to advancing health equity and transforming public health practices. These relationships must recognize each other’s strengths, be rooted in shared values and interests, share decision making, and allow for authentic participation by those facing inequities.
Rather than simply seeking feedback or hosting one-way conversations, health departments must intentionally listen to and learn from communities, and partner with communities in ways that build their capacity and power to gain greater control over the factors that affect their lives. Health departments should follow best practices, which include:
- Remaining open to learning about community priorities
- Allowing time and space to get to know one another
- Identifying strategic opportunities for communities to contribute their expertise and knowledge
- Sharing resources to develop skills and capacity to partner with the health department
Most importantly, departments must demonstrate a willingness to be guided by communities’ needs, interests, and voices, which will determine departments’ policy and program priorities.
Case studies that share power with communities
Actions to Advance Equity Using This Practice
Your leadership, staff, and department can take the following actions to share power with communities:
- Partner with communities experiencing inequities in ways that intentionally share power and decision making. Identify strategic opportunities and avenues for communities to contribute their expertise and knowledge. Co-develop, adopt, and promote a shared agenda, narrative, and resources to advance health equity
- Design more inclusive decision-making processes to actively reduce the marginalization of specific racial and socioeconomic groups. Allocate time, funds, and capacity building to facilitate the meaningful participation of communities experiencing health inequities in department decision making
- Create a culture of respectful co-learning, evaluation, reflection, and transparency about department and community needs/priorities to build trust between department and community partners
- Allow time and space to connect. Routinely attend meetings and events organized by community and social justice organizations and show support by staying informed of their activities and priorities
- Train and prepare staff to respectfully and thoughtfully engage with communities experiencing health inequities
- Highlight and sustain community partnerships that have led to changes in department policies, processes, and practices
- Use data, advocacy, and other expertise to support community-led social justice efforts that would improve equity