Our Journey

The CBI Change Agenda —

Community Building Initiative (CBI) continuously refines its own policies and practices while maintaining a singular sense of purpose rare in grantmaking. CBI’s purpose is to increase community power. This is accomplished by building the capacity of people residing in marginalized communities to gradually and continuously engage in joint efforts to change conditions, policies, and practices that result in neighborhood distress.

Launched CBI as a traditional grant program aimed at improving health outcomes for low-income communities.
The model was refined to focus on organizational capacity to support communities in collective action. Focus of technical assistance largely on lead agency and agency staff. Launched first CBI Cohort under new model.
Launched CBI Cohorts #2 and #3.
Launched Cohort #4.
Launched Cohort #5.
New Information Development consultant begins work to clarify CBI’s values, terms, model, objectives, and desired legacy, emphasizing community capacity and power.

Launched cohort #6.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Further refined the model to focus on policy and systems change strategies to address upstream conditions that perpetuate disparities.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Began to shift focus of capacity building and technical supports to neighborhoods/community core teams and away from the agencies/organization capacities.

Launched Cohort #7.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Clarified power-building as the means for promoting equity and social justice for BIPOC communities. Began to explore impacts of funding mechanism and grant making structure.

Launched Cohort #8.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Refined CBI language and process to speak more clearly to its power-building agenda. Began to develop strategies to shift more resources and decision-making authority directly to neighborhoods through a new community-centered funding strategy.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Piloted a funding structure that shifted to a sustainable community centered approach giving residents more power in securing, managing, and deploying grant resources via a Fiscal Sponsor partnership.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Based on lessons learned over the Initiatives history, the model was revised to increase the potential for sustained action post grant:

Expectations were aligned with the realities of community members’ daily lives — right sizing scope and commitments aimed at sustainability.

The model was adjusted to emphasize mobilizing internal/neighborhood assets rather than external resources.

Began a shift toward purpose driven funding — with sites requesting funds to accomplish a specific plan/action, rather than planning actions/activities based on available funding amounts.

Built sustainability work into the front end of the Initiative training and support — identifying basic group operating structure, decision-making processes, communications, and resource management strategies with community members from the outset.

Son crédo: « Je ne sais pas ce qui est possible ou non, alors j’agis comme si tout est possible… »

Continuous Community Power & Self-Reflection

Like other grant programs, CBI is advancing a theory of change. Community power is achieved by increasing community cohesion, growing individual and collective leadership within a community, strengthening relationships with partners outside the community, and building influence with those who make decisions impacting the community. While this theory of change remains constant, CBI engages in consistent and continuous self-reflection and refinement of the model to support the Initiatives investment goals of neighborhood empowerment. CBI embodies a fundamental commitment to advancing the greater good. This self-reflection and enthusiasm for making needed changes is a shared agenda. CBI is deeply committed to ownership by individual neighborhoods. Providing resources without also providing control will not contribute to a community’s power.

CBI’s notion of partnership is an active one; continuous, driven by residents’ priorities, firm in its duty to assist rather than demand, and a touchstone to the Initiative’s image of a just and healthy world.


The CBI model is continuously assessed and refined. In addition to operational adjustments, these refinements clarify the Initiative focus on building power, the equity and social justice frame, and a community centered investment approach. Refinements are also encouraged at the community level. CBI’s neighborhood-specific plans have a strategic outlook with clear and precise activities and  outcomes. While action is oriented toward specific changes in a neighborhood’s health and safety, CBI takes to heart the fact that residents’ needs are constantly subject to new or varying influences and opportunities—both positive and negative. CBI allows changes in local plans and promotes the greatest flexibility possible within a given neighborhood setting.

Ownership by Community

  • CBI partnerships are active, driven by a neighborhood’s interests and priorities.
  • Communities are free to decide the issue they want to address. CBI provides robust assistance and tailored coaching to ensure that community action on any issue is focused on community building and upstream strategies that offer the opportunity to learn the skills and build the relationships necessary for sustained action.
  • True community centered work must also enable a neighborhood to manage its own resources — human, material, or monetary — effectively. The Initiative continually explores funding strategies that ensure a community has equal power and access to the resources made available to them.

Sustained Post-Grant Capacity

  • Short-term grants support long-term neighborhood engagement, leadership, partnerships, and political action.
  • A multi-year Power Building Academy cultivates skills and learning, builds tools, supports the development of new partnerships, and promotes changes that are steps in a strategic process that empowers a neighborhood to become, and remain, civically engaged.
  • Real change is defined by a community’s continued capacity to create change, not just by its improved health and safety.