Community power is the ability of communities most impacted by inequity to act together to voice their needs and hopes for the future and to collectively drive structural change, hold decision-makers accountable, and advance health equity.
For more than 20 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has supported community power organizations and advocacy networks that engage in grassroots organizing, particularly with people who are low-income, of color, and/or youths. The Foundation has supported communities in their power-building efforts to mitigate tobacco use and childhood obesity and, most recently, to improve community conditions and confront structural racism.
Elevating Community Power and Community Voice
As the pandemic and recent uprisings against racial injustice have laid bare, structural barriers and systemic racism remain persistent obstacles to achieving health equity. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are leading vital movements that are galvanizing their communities and seeding transformative change. Building power within communities is essential to the health and well-being of people that have endured decades of racial injustice, economic exclusion, social marginalization, and health inequities.
Low-income people and communities of color have been excluded from decision-making on the policies and practices that impact their health and prosperity, through generations of systemic exclusion and disinvestment. Our learning has shown that the people most directly affected by systemic barriers and inequities are best positioned to identify the solutions and actions needed to drive change.
That’s why community power is important to how RWJF contributes to transformative change, in a variety of areas—from housing, to healthcare, to birthing, to family caregiving. The evaluation of this work, which will center on the principles of equitable evaluation, should begin to shed light on the impact we can have in community power-building and support our learning efforts to hone our strategies.