Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps



From 2016–2018, Healthy Places by Design supported the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning initiative, and this work has been extended through the 2019–2020 Community Collaborative Learning initiative. These initiatives have been made possible through a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and our organization.

The funding opportunity was designed with a rapid-response or opportunity grants approach, enabling communities to respond to timely priorities to advance a Culture of Health. Specifically, the Action Acceleration funding pathway supported the advancement of local action within a community, while the Collaborative Learning funding pathway supported mutually beneficial learning exchanges across communities that lead to local action or impact. To learn more, visit the Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning webpages.

Our partnership with CHR&R also supports collaborative learning between partners in different communities by hosting videoconference discussion groups, which provide venues for deep and relevant strategy-sharing and networking. By providing intentional time and space for community partners to share interests, strategies, and challenges with each other after the CHR&R national webinars, Healthy Places by Design’s collaborative learning services have enabled them to generate a sense of mutual peer support and camaraderie in addition to learning from others about what has worked and what hasn’t as they make progress toward their priorities. One resident shared, “We are not aware of any other platform where that could happen.”


Our Support

Our support has involved:

  • Managing the funding process from start to finish;
  • Developing the rapid-response approach in a way that minimized burden on communities and created access to flexible funding;
  • Helping communities align their project ideas through one-on-one coaching calls;
  • Providing a virtual venue and light-touch facilitation for collaborative learning sessions so that, after the CHR&R national webinars, smaller groups can discuss topics in more detail; and
  • Serving as a “staff extension” to the CHR&R team.


  • Launched funding opportunity and awarded funding to support more than 50 communities across the country from 2016–2018;
  • Managing process to support 25 additional cross-community learning collaborations in 2019–2020;
  • Facilitating learning exchanges for community partners to benefit from and contribute to shared learning and engagement; and
  • Partnering in the overarching County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, network, and related field-building.

Services Provided:

  • Program design and management;
  • Learning network facilitation and management;
  • Convenings and training events;
  • Field building with local, state, and national partners; and
  • Creation of webpages to serve as a content hub.


The CHR&R Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning fund awardees have addressed a range of health factors that reflect their local priorities. The rapid and collaborative funding process contributed to this progress. One applicant shared, “The feedback session before we submitted our proposal officially was invaluable, because it really caused us to reassess the type of work we had talked about getting funding as a result of our yearlong group. We needed to get more specific, look at sustainability, and focus on bringing together community systems.”

Resident leaders have also reported that these unique initiatives have resulted in:

  • Recognition of the need to close the divide between residents and organizations in their communities;
  • A sense of comradery among resident leaders across the country and connection to a greater community;
  • A feeling of acknowledgement and empowerment;
  • Knowing they were part of a national team of people talking about activating residents in order to change their communities;
  • Opportunities to explore serious topics that most communities hesitate to tackle; and
  • Interaction between multiple groups of people who have different perspectives and experiences, which has broadened the reach of the work and ripples out to communities.

“This format creates new relationships and networks with those who have a common desire to improve health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.”

“Being able to share with and learn from other individuals in an up-close and personal way is invaluable. This is rare for traditional webinar sessions; so many webinars are one-way communication with only an opportunity to send a question to the presenter(s). There is rarely an opportunity to share and learn. Just knowing that the facilitators and the other participants [of this initiative] are an ongoing resource and that we can reach out to them is very positive. This format creates new relationships and networks with those who have a common desire to improve health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.”



“Healthy Places by Design has a willingness to build relationships and make it more than transactional by spending time to get to know people on the team and have an in-depth understanding of what we’re doing. They are more a part of our team than “just a contractor” we give work to. They are also thoughtful about putting community first and making sure we’re bringing lived experience into the room… The fact that they bring that mindset is really helpful and makes this collaboration work well. We all need those reminders of “is this the community’s need or our need?” They are very clearly connected to our work, and also bring an outside perspective that helps get us out of places where we might be stuck or need some redirection.”

Team Director for Community Learning, CHR&R

Learn more about this project on our blog:


Communities Building Housing—and Hope

The 2018 County Health Rankings highlight the link between health and stable, affordable housing. The data include insights about housing affordability; insecure housing and homelessness; cost burden in relation to food insecurity and children in poverty; and the intersection of housing with place, race, and health. The 37 CHR&R Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning Fund awardees to date have addressed a range of health factors, including housing.

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County Health Rankings and Roadmaps National Program Director Discusses Collaboration’s Value

We chatted with CHR&R Program Director Julie Willems Van Dijk about how she views collaboration and what we can learn from her experience. She shared, "In organizational settings, people are paid, and there are standards, boundaries, and rules. But in a collaboration, you need to find different ways to incentivize people."

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Culture of Learning

Learn more about a Culture of Learning, one of Healthy Places by Design's six Essential Practices. Practicing a Culture of Learning requires ingrained, ongoing opportunities in a community to improve effectiveness and impact through partnerships, continual assessment of initiatives, and collaborative sharing and learning.

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