Key Points

This article shares The Colorado Trust’s experience with Community Partnerships for Health Equity (CPHE) after initiating a resident-led strategy for systems change and encountering the myriad challenges to its implementation that ultimately led to exiting the initiative.

The CPHE strategy intended to fund community members directly instead of working through the nonprofit sector in the state, and thereby shift power from nonprofit organizations to residents. It eventually involved more than 20 communities across Colorado and created change in certain communities — from filling service gaps and creating local partnerships to shifting local systems.

The Trust had good intentions in its desire to achieve health equity through collective actions to build power and tackle the root causes of health disparities. But in doing so, it blurred its role as funder, intermediary, and community organizer, causing it to have to deal with many unanticipated difficulties, internally and externally, that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions of the in-person interactions necessary for building relationships and trust.

This article candidly describes the reasons for the difficult decision to end the CPHE strategy and the events that led to its closing — the complicated, sometimes hopeful and joyful, and other times messy and painful journey that led The Trust to this point and to share its lessons with other foundations. A place-based foundation can play a significant role in building community capacity to achieve health equity by staying in its lane as a funder and investing in organizations with strong roots in underserved communities as well as in a local community capacity-building intermediary space to provide technical assistance, training, and other supports.

Open Access