Over the past decade, many health foundations have shifted from funding specific programs to addressing social determinants of health by supporting policy and systems change strategies (Gray-Akpa and Khanna 2018). Abundant research has demonstrated that low-income communities of color face structural barriers to health that more affluent white communities do not, ranging from access to healthy food to stable housing and clean air (Pastor et al. 2022).

These differences in community conditions didn’t happen by accident—they are the result of intentional policy decisions over generations that apportioned resources and opportunities along racial and ethnic lines (Rothstein 2017). All too often, communities of color were excluded from the decisionmaking tables that determined, for example, what types of housing or industry could be built where, who had access to quality schools, and which professions were valued more than others.

Perhaps due in part to the fact that much of institutional philanthropy is the byproduct of extreme concentrations of economic power, many foundation staff and board members have been uncomfortable recognizing the fact that the disparities in resources that contribute to health inequities are the result of disparities in power (Reich 2018). In recent years, that reluctance has receded considerably due to a multitude of factors. Community power is now called out as a necessary pre-condition for change among both individual foundations and funder collaboratives such as the Amplify FundConvergence Partnership and Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice (Ito et al. 2023).

Investing in community power was one of the core components of The Kresge Foundation’s Climate Change, Health and Equity (CCHE) initiative, launched in 2019. CCHE is comprised of three strategies: influencing health care and public health institutions to reduce their climate impacts and partner equitably with their communities; mobilizing health care and public health practitioners to take climate action; and supporting community-based advocacy to improve climate resilience and health equity (Cook et al. 2023).

The majority of the $22 million in funding has gone to support community-based organizations; this article highlights the work of two of Kresge’s 14 funded community-based partners and how they have built power to achieve community-defined goals. Kresge currently supports both organizations with 45-month, $750,000 general operating support grants.

Read the full article about community power in healthcare by Jose Franco Garcia, Samantha Hamilton, and Chris Kabel at Grantmakers in Health.