From Our Blog

Community Innovations Survey of Community Development Corporations

In early 2020, we surveyed Community Development Corporations (CDCs) across the country to gauge their interest in and capacity for engaging with healthcare in their communities.

During this survey process, we heard from 119 CDCs across 30 states, spanning geography and urban and rural communities. We learned that while many CDCs who answered the survey are already engaging with healthcare, many need additional capacity (knowledge, staff, and resources) to sustain healthcare engagement efforts. We also found that many are still at the beginning of their journey toward healthcare engagement.

Here we provide the history and context of this effort, describe what we learned, and discuss how we will continue to support CDCs in their local work to advance racial equity, reduce poverty, and improve health.

Context

With funding from The Kresge Foundation, we launched Community Innovations, a program with a three pronged goal: to enhance the Network’s understanding of how best to support local organizations’ cross-sector efforts; to connect local organizations to other peer organizations and the larger national dialogue, resources, and tools; and to embed capacity within organizations to undertake health strategies and engage with healthcare.

As a way to help inform the Community Innovation’s proposal process, we worked with our partners’ organizations who share our vision and Community Innovation Advisors to disseminate the survey to a large audience.

We received 119 responses to the survey from CDCs across 30 states. These CDCs focus on a range of efforts that span the social determinants of health (SDOH), including housing, education, healthy food access, economic stability, and others (see figure 1).

Figure 1: CDCs’ areas of focus

CDCs already see the health value of their work

  • Many respondents use health language to describe their programs.  66% have initiated a health strategy, and 47% describe their work as addressing social determinants of health.
  • Respondents are engaging or want to engage with healthcare.  More than 50% of respondents are currently working on engaging healthcare. Of those, most expressed the need for additional capacity to move healthcare partnerships forward. Of those who are not engaging healthcare, 84% want to learn how to begin.
  • Among challenges to building strategies for engaging healthcare, respondents identified Lack of Financial Resources and Lack of Staff Capacity as the biggest barriers (See Figure 2).  More than 50% of respondents agreed that lack of financial resources and staff capacity are the biggest barriers to building strategies to engage healthcare.  Importantly, 40% of respondents disagreed that a lack of understanding of SDOH resulted in a barrier to engaging healthcare.

Figure 2: CDCs’ challenges to building strategies for engaging healthcare

CDCs want additional support engaging healthcare

  • Respondents rely on national stakeholders for healthcare resources. Over 60% of respondents indicated that they relied on resources produced by national organizations to inform their healthcare engagement strategies. In order of magnitude, respondents named NeighborWorks America Training Institute, BHPN, LISC, Enterprise, and Urban Land Institute as the most helpful.
  • Respondents expressed a need for additional technical assistance and training. Over 35% of respondents specified the type of support they would need to engage with healthcare (Figure 3). Of those, the most selected types included:
    • Guides and toolkits for getting started
    • Case studies of existing programs
    • Connections to other CDCs partnering with healthcare provider

Importantly, this survey took place in January, 2020 prior to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans that were killed due to police violence, and the national spotlight and ensuing rise in racial justice work. We would not be surprised to see a shift in responses if we were to resurvey these CDCs at the end of 2020.

Figure 3:  Support CDCs’ need to engage with healthcare organizations 

  • Respondents identified tools and resources that would be helpful to them for engaging healthcare organizations. Over two-thirds of respondents specified tools that would be of help (Figure 4).  Of those, the three top resources included:
    • Dedicated staff time and resources to develop partnerships;
    • Help identifying common language around health indicators and metrics; and
    • Training developed to build capacity for cross-sector collaboration.

Figure 4: Helpful tools and resources for CDCs to engage healthcare organizations

Summary

Based on the survey results, the Network has continued tailoring resources to meet the needs expressed. In addition, we are actively providing technical support and resources to five CDCs as part of the Community Innovations award program. Further, we are exploring ways to provide additional capacity building to the broader CDC field in order to support their local healthcare engagement efforts. This survey has helped us better understand the CDC landscape and BHPN’s role at the intersection of community development, health, and finance sectors. This survey shows that CDCs already inclined toward cross-sector collaboration – both early adopters and those with interest – are considering the health value of their work, interested in developing healthcare partnerships, and need additional knowledge building and capacity to engage with healthcare.

The Build Healthy Places Network works to be the go-to resource for these CDCs in support of a common vision: communities where all people can live rewarding and healthy lives.

About the Author

Colby Dailey

Colby is a Strategic Advisor at the Build Healthy Places Network where she oversees organizational strategy and growth, business operations, and program implementation.