Giving Compass' Take:

• Nupurd Chaudhury and Liz Ward describe the barriers that the New York State Health Foundation ran into in their attempts to make an impact on community health and how creative grantmaking strategies led to success. 

• How can grantmakers better engage with the communities that they want to impact? What intangible assets can grantmakers offer communities? 

• Learn how community-led urban design can fight gentrification

When the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) launched the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund, the flagship program of our Building Healthy Communities priority area, we knew access to healthy and affordable food, opportunities for physical activity, and the overall built environment of neighborhoods greatly influenced health outcomes. But we also knew that community leaders were the key to making any real change.

Community residents have great ideas to make their communities healthier—such as building new urban farms in food deserts, making streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians of all ages, and activating public spaces for recreation. Although policymakers and city planners may recognize the health disparities that a community faces, they are typically not directly tied to these neighborhoods the way residents are.

This is a huge missed opportunity—who better to say what a community needs most than the residents themselves?

But here also lies the problem. Even when community members do take steps to organize, develop action plans, and engage policymakers, their ideas have traditionally been underfunded or overlooked. Fostering community engagement and leadership development not only helps shape the neighborhood’s future, but also ensures that improvements are sustainable beyond the project’s funding period.

NYSHealth decided to step out of our traditional grantmaking comfort zone and provide resources at the hyper-local, neighborhood scale by recognizing that any efforts to engage communities needs to be done with communities rather than to communities.

Read the full article about community health by Nupurd Chaudhury and Liz Ward at Grantmakers In Health.