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Community-Driven Policy Change: Guides, Toolkits, and Practices

August 13, 2020

By Phoebe Co, Child Advocacy Intern, Vital Village Network



Advocating and organizing for policy change is one approach to fostering equitable systems that promote family and community wellbeing. Community-driven policy advocacy builds upon and appreciates the strengths, desires, and capacities of community stakeholders. Such approach acknowledges that community stakeholders hold the wealth of local knowledge and are positioned to deepen understanding about the complexities and relationships in the systems they are embedded in. By upholding local knowledge and the potential of community stakeholders, community-driven policy advocacy promotes creativity, ownership, and adaptive and transformative advocacy strategies that are appropriate and responsive to the local context.


A number of organizations have produced toolkits, guides, and resources filled with ideas, practical tips, and examples. The following is a curated list of resources to support groups who intend to enact policy change alongside families and community stakeholders. The first section elevates the importance of upholding social justice and equity, the next category provides a list of guides, toolkits, and examples, and the last section shares relevant knowledge and skills to navigate the policymaking and advocacy process.


Centering Social Justice and Equity


Like any social change effort, policy is susceptible to either advancing social justice and equity or having the opposite effect. Intentional effort is therefore necessary to uphold commitments to social justice and equity in the pursuit of change.


The Power of Community Wisdom in Advancing Health Justice & Racial Equity (The Praxis Project) This resource provides a background on the significance of centering the wisdom of communities in public health efforts and an overview of a series of briefs on this area of focus to be released this 2020.


Community Centered Health Justice and Racial Equity: Organic Efforts Towards Health Equity-Driven Policy and Practice. (The Praxis Project) This brief shares examples of initiatives and endeavors to illustrate the significance of the necessary and authentic engagement of community base building organizations that represent the desires of communities to promote health justice and equity

TransformHarm.org TransformHarm.Org offers a vast number of insightful guides, toolkits, handbooks, curriculum, workshop and strategy session examples, case studies, and more on focus areas such as healing justice, restorative justice, transformative justice, community accountability, and community organizing.

South Carolina Racial Equity Impact Assessment Guide (Children's Trust of South Carolina) The Race Equity Impact Assessment tool is intended for any decision maker, analyst, organization, or legislator who intends to ensure the equity of a proposed policy. The tool guides users through a systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups can potentially be affected by a proposed policy, action, or decision, and what can proactively be done to achieve equitable outcomes.

Toolkits and Examples

Organizations that are committed to promoting child and family well-being can draw ideas from these guides that break down the process of advocating for policy change for health equity. A number of these resources also offer guidance, tips, examples, and takeaways about community-driven, policy change initiatives.


Getting Started With Policy Change (County Health Rankings & Roadmaps)

This guide contains guidance, examples, and tools to learn about the what, why, and how of policy change and upholding equity throughout.

Building Community Resilience Policy and Advocacy Guide (Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, Milken Institute School of Public Health George Washington University, Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness)

Intended to assist organizations in "becoming effective policy advocates and educators by helping identify and act on policy opportunities that will ultimately prevent and mitigate adverse childhood and community experiences and build community resilience to help children, families, and communities thrive."

Health Policy and Advocacy Toolkit (Families USA)

This resource provides a guide with practical knowledge and tactics to doing advocacy work. The toolkit is especially for people new to advocacy.


Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities through Policy and Advocacy (Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities)

This toolkit aims to support network engagement initiatives among communities through policy and advocacy efforts.

Getting BUILD Ready: Tools for Moving Resources, Attention, and Action Upstream to Drive Sustainable Improvements in Community Health (The BUILD Health Challenge)

A guide and webinar describing progress and tools to influence systemic progress in health according to BUILD principles: Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, and Data-Driven.

Community Approaches to Systems Change: A Compendium of Practices, Reflections, and Findings (The BUILD Health Challenge)

This resource offers a collection of practices, reflections, and findings based on the experiences of BUILD Health Challenge’s work with 19 communities across the country. Their efforts have led to 60 new systems level changes, including policy shifts, stronger community leadership, and new funding streams, which contributed to their intended impact of improving health outcomes.


Plucking the Roots of Systemic Violence (Nollie Jenkins Family Center)

This webinar showcases a campaign built upon community-rooted conversations among youth and families to end corporal punishment and systemic violence in schools and foster dialogue on solution-based organizing and alternatives to violence.

Knowledge and Skills to Navigating the Policymaking and Advocacy Process

These set of resources provide practical guidance and how-to’s to knowledge and skills needed in engaging in policy change and advocacy.

How To Set Up A Meeting With Your Member of Congress (Families USA) A guide outlining the steps involved in setting up and preparing for a meeting with Members of Congress.

Caucus “Ask” Toolkit: Asking Your Congressperson to Join the Bipartisan House Trauma-Informed Care Caucus (Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice)

This toolkit provides guidance on engaging in a call to action with congress around the National Trauma Campaign. It can serve as an example for engaging with congress for policy.

Research Action Design: Plan your transmedia strategy with a multitrack timeline!

This webinar introduces organizations to transformative media organizing, "a liberatory approach to integrating media, communications, and cultural work into movement building" and also provides a multitrack timeline tool to aid in mapping out transformative media organizing strategies.

Visit the NOW Resource Library https://www.networksofopportunity.org/Resources for further resources on community-driven policy advocacy and other essential topics to promoting change (equity tools, coalition development and governance, community engagement, data storytelling, planning for sustainability).


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