Our Services

Consulting and Advising

Our organization has been at the forefront of collective efforts to demonstrate how the places where we live affect our health.

We’ve partnered with foundations and communities in 42 states on successful initiatives that have deepened the field’s understanding of how the community change process works best. We’ve learned that authentic, community-led, and sustainable change not only takes time, but also requires a strategic approach. Everything we do is by design—we can’t help but be intentional. As your strategic partner, we can help you:

Design and manage initiatives and strategies that advance health equity and healthy communities through policy, systems, and environmental changes.

Over the last two decades, we have demonstrated that by reshaping policies, systems, and environments, multi-sector community partnerships can help everyone achieve their full potential for health and well-being. In addition, we help each funder, partnership, and community leader we serve advance equity by elevating it as a priority in all projects and initiatives. To learn more about Healthy Places by Design’s tailored approach to community change, explore our Community Action Model. Our collaboration with the following organizations offers additional examples of our team’s experience with designing and managing community change initiatives:


New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI)

Leaders with NJHI initially learned about Healthy Places by Design through our work with County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Inspired by that approach, NJHI has trusted us as a strategic partner since the inception of its Upstream Action Acceleration initiative, which supports community-focused, cross-sector coalitions to adopt and implement upstream environmental, policy, and systems changes. The initiative builds upon previous planning and assessment work of New Jersey coalitions to sustain healthy communities. Learn more about our partnership here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Healthy Places by Design helped design, and serves as faculty for, the CDC’s Walkability Action Institute (WAI), an annual training opportunity that builds multi-disciplinary teams’ capacity to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes to make their communities more walkable. Learn more about this project here. For a related CDC project, our team also co-designed, drafted, and finalized the Active Communities Tool (ACT). ACT is designed to help communities assess how local built environments, planning processes, and policies support physical activity.

Facilitate strategic planning for healthy community initiatives and the organizations that support them.

Sustaining healthy community initiatives isn’t just about finding the next grant—it’s about identifying how to leverage all assets in a community, coalition, or organization and strengthening the supports needed to ensure that changes in systems, policies, practices, and programs are built to last. Examples of our team’s experience with strategic planning include:


Health by Design

Health by Design unites advocates of community design, transportation, and health to support healthy and active living in Central Indiana and beyond. Our team provided ongoing coaching, consultation, and technical assistance along with strategic planning, visioning, goal setting, and evaluation. We also provided consulting support for the creation of a three-year coalition development plan and a one-year programmatic action/evaluation plan to improve local policies and environments.

Duke Center for Child and Family Policy

Healthy Places by Design conducted a business and marketing assessment to help a grant-funded program of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy systematize its services, support additional clients, and sustain its work through a mix of projects and independent consultancies.

Identify trends and opportunities in the healthy communities field.

Since the founding of our organization, Healthy Places by Design has incorporated ongoing learning into our team’s culture. As communities’ demand and capacity for change have grown, we’ve evolved alongside them to support coalitions that are not only addressing active living and healthy eating, but also housing, community safety, restorative justice, and other social determinants of health. We helped the following organizations identify important issues and emerging trends relevant to their work:


Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF)

Our team consulted with MFF and its collaborative of statewide SNAP-Ed partners focused to improve the health of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens. To complement direct education work, we provided partners with tailored guidance documents, curated resources, and templates to help them explore community-level policies, systems, and environments and deepen their capacity to address root causes of health inequities. Drawing from our Community Action Model, SNAP-Ed partners framed their analyses around communities’ unique culture, assets, infrastructure, history of achievement, and challenges. Learn more here.

New York State Health Foundation and the New York Community Trust

We worked closely with both funders to co-develop, coordinate, and facilitate a flexible peer learning collaborative that meets funded communities’ current and emergent learning needs. We have curated and delivered over 130 editions of a bi-weekly email newsletter with links to funding opportunities and resources that reflect grantees’ emergent needs. Likewise, we hosted ad hoc peer exchange sessions to support healthy community conveners as they scrambled to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on their neighborhoods. Learn more here.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and MMS Education

Our team helped identify emerging issues in global health through key informant interviews and secondary research. This work led to the creation of a $3 million funding opportunity to help select U.S. cities learn from promising global practices that address health, equity, and climate change. Learn more about this project here.

Coaching and Technical Assistance

Since 2002, our organization has provided extensive, direct technical assistance and coaching to more than 200 community partnerships in 42 states, and has worked with more than two dozen philanthropic organizations.

This support has helped build the capacity of community members and their partners to take meaningful and lasting action to improve health and well-being. Our Community Action Model outlines our approach to creating healthy communities, and serves as a free resource for coalitions working to make their communities healthier places to live. Healthy Places by Design tailors the approach outlined in the Community Action Model with each of our partners to:

Help local leaders identify and implement community-specific strategies.

Healthy Places by Design draws from evidence-based and practice-tested approaches, helping communities tailor them to their unique community context. We recognize that community members’ experiences often reveal which policy, environment, or systems changes will have the most impact and be the most sustainable. We have championed authentic community engagement as an essential practice for lifting up and learning from local realities, and have extensive experience helping leaders integrate their community’s experience into practical next steps. The following initiatives offer examples of our experience helping local leaders select context-specific strategies:


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

From 2008-2014, our project officers worked closely with 49 communities funded as part of RWJF’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative to help fight the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. We worked closely with local multi-sector partnership organizers across the country as they assessed their communities’ needs and assets, engaged residents, identified action priorities, implemented systems change approaches, and evaluated their work. Learn more about the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative here.

John Rex Endowment

Healthy Places by Design worked with six municipalities funded as part of the Wake County Healthy Community grant initiative to improve residents’ health by enhancing community environments and other governmental supports. In addition to coordinating a grantee peer learning network, our team advised city planners and parks and recreation officials as they developed and implemented new polices, programs, and structures to increase access to healthy food and active living opportunities. Learn more here.

Coach communities through resident-led change processes, maintaining thriving community coalitions, and sustaining healthy community work.

We help local leaders navigate an asset-based, facilitative leadership approach that grounds community change strategies in people’s lived experiences and helps community members take positive actions that are meaningful to them. Inclusive processes for generating collective action also shift power to community members, which is an ideal outcome of true resident engagement and community organizing. We helped the following organizations embed community-led processes into their initiatives:


Danville Regional Foundation

Danville Regional Foundation (DRF) partnered with Healthy Places by Design to develop a Quality of Life Plan and processes that would address disparities in three neighborhoods in Danville, VA. We worked with DRF to ensure that the Plan was community-driven and that local leaders were paid for their valuable contributions. We also facilitated a process for people who lived in each neighborhood to share what they saw as priorities for enhancing their quality of life. Learn more about our partnership with DRF here.

New York State Health Foundation (NYSHF) and New York Community Trust (NYCT)

Our team provided coaching and technical assistance to grantees of NYSHF and NYCT as part of the Healthy Neighborhoods Learning Collaborative. Our support was tailored for partnerships that shared similar goals but dealt with contextual differences. We also provided training and coaching on project sustainability by presenting our Sustainability Framework to grantees; leading a workshop on the topic; and providing one-on-one coaching to local coordinators residing and working in NYC neighborhoods and upstate communities. We have also provided similar sustainability workshops and coaching to grantees of the John Rex Endowment and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more here

Collaborative Learning and Networking

The process of community change is complex, so leaders at all levels may be challenged by the rigors of the work.

They need opportunities to learn, build skills, develop supportive relationships, access new resources, recharge their motivation, and simply remind themselves that they are part of something bigger. Through our collaborative learning and networking support, we create mutually beneficial exchanges among communities and thought leaders that lead to action, network-building, and impact at local, regional, and national scales. Healthy Places by Design can help you:

Design and manage comprehensive, multi-component, and tailored collaborative learning and networking initiatives.

Over the last two decades, we’ve learned that some of the most powerful and inspiring lessons have occurred when people from different communities have an opportunity to share and brainstorm with each other. By prioritizing interactive peer learning experiences, Healthy Places by Design helps generate mutual understanding, develop shared commitment to action, and forge strong connections between community leaders, funders, investors, residents, technical assistance providers, and other community change agents. The following partnerships offer examples of collaborative learning and networking initiatives our team has designed and managed:


Health Legacy Collaborative Learning Circle

We worked with four local grant makers with service areas spanning seven states to plan, facilitate, and reflect on lessons from community site visits. The process helped test and expand grant makers’ assumptions about promising approaches for addressing common population health challenges; explore organizational best practices related to programming and operations; and understand the roles and impacts that health legacy foundations have in their communities. Learn more about their insights here.

Aetna Foundation

Healthy Places by Design helped envision and design a virtual peer learning network in which grant coordinators working to advance health equity can join peers from diverse contexts to exchange ideas about common challenges. Learn more about this project here.

Plan, host, facilitate, and assess in-person and virtual learning to spark generative thinking, develop new partnerships, and share wisdom and resources.

We facilitate in-person and virtual spaces in which advocates and community change agents have opportunities to exchange insights and develop self-sustaining peer learning processes. Healthy Places by Design’s approach to planning appeals to people with various learning styles by including collaborative learning opportunities in diverse formats, such as in-person convenings, site visits, online webinars, videoconference meetings, tailored webpages, and curated e-newsletters. We have helped facilitate collaborative learning and networking experiences for the following organizations:


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), and MMS Education

Healthy Places by Design collaborated with RWJF, UWPHI, and MMS Education to plan and execute the multi-day Culture of Health Prize Celebration & Learning Event, which emphasized inclusive practices such as simultaneous translation. This event honored Prize-winning communities and provided a forum for sharing successes and lessons learned about what it takes to create a culture of health, particularly in communities most impacted by inequities. Learn more about this project here.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHR&R)

Since 2016, Healthy Places by Design has supported the CHR&R Community Transformation Team by leading the management of the CHR&R Community Collaborative Learning Awards and facilitating online discussion groups in conjunction with the CHR&R national webinars as a venue to deepen relevant cross-community sharing and networking. Learn more about this project here.

Strengthen connections between funders and communities to accelerate and sustain community-led action.

Since our inception in 2002, Healthy Places by Design has worked in a unique position at the intersection of community coalitions and those who invest in them. Our expertise in public health and healthy community change ensures that we bolster our clients’ organizational capacity around collaborative learning in ways that are relevant to their needs. As a facilitator between communities and those who invest in them, we help address power dynamics and foster mutually beneficial learning processes. The following projects offer examples of our collaborative learning services:


New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI)

NJHI’s Upstream Action Acceleration initiative supports community-focused, cross-sector coalitions’ efforts to adopt and implement “upstream” environmental, policy, and systems changes. Healthy Places by Design brought expertise from years of experience with designing and leading grantee convenings in order to build trust and relationships within the Upstream Action Acceleration learning collaborative. During the first year of the initiative, we facilitated monthly webinars, videoconference sessions, and two in-person convenings to support collaborative learning among the grantees and their community coalitions. Learn more about our support here.

Aetna Foundation

Our team has supported Aetna Foundation’s Cultivating Healthy Communities grant program by co-developing, coordinating, and facilitating a peer learning network connecting 45 place-based partnerships in 19 states. We helped set a “virtual table” for lively conversations in which community coordinators exchanged ideas about addressing health and racial equity, evaluating progress, engaging young people and adults in neighborhood-level solutions, and sustaining their important work in communities. Learn more about this project here.

Contact us to learn more about our services and for additional examples of our work.


Let’s explore real steps we can take together to help your community be a healthier place to live.

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