Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

A Case Study in Community Grant Funding: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

A Case Study in Community Grant Funding: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In principle, when government agencies provide grants to community groups, the community's control over health decisions and its capacity to address local health issues are both increased. Many problems can arise in the implementation of such an approach to health promotion. The authors describe a healthy community planning process with a granting component that they implemented in one regional health authority in Alberta, Canada. Participants were expected to find value in the planning process itself, but this was compromised to some degree when the prospect of project funding was introduced. The specific funding model adopted amplified these difficulties, which included the lack of well-defined criteria or guidelines early in the planning process. Failure to define the granting process from the onset represents a failure to articulate values underlying funder decisions. Suggestions for an improved approach to community granting are offered.

BACKGROUND

Community members identifying and acting upon their own priority health issues is one of the most important ways by which community health and well-being are enhanced. Health promotion professionals working in government health agencies are constantly looking for effective strategies that can be implemented to strengthen community action. One direction they have frequently pursued is creating programs that include the provision of funding to community groups through a granting process.

In this article, we reconstruct our experiences with community granting in one regional health authority (RHA) in Alberta, Canada, and suggest how the process might be improved. Our insights emerge from a process of self-reflection rather than any formal research study. It is likely others have had similar experiences. Sharing and discussion contribute to the wider knowledge base available to the health promotion profession.

COMMUNITY GRANTS AS A COMMUNITY HEALTH DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

Community granting--which we define here as the provision of funding to community groups or organizations by outside parties through a competitive application process--is a common strategy in health promotion and other social service initiatives. This is, of course, the role of community organizations like the United Way and various charitable foundations, which have a long history of supporting community activity in this fashion. Granting is also, however, a strategy that government bodies have adopted as part of a mandate to encourage and support community efforts to address local priority issues and concerns.

Departments and agencies in several countries have made widespread use of granting. In the province of Alberta alone, recent examples of grant funding for community projects addressing the factors that determine health include federal government health programs such as (a) the Canada Action Program for Children/Canada Prenatal Nutrition Projects Fund, (b) the Community Animation Program (for projects linking health and environmental concerns), and (c) the Population Health Fund (focused on capacity building among vulnerable populations). Grants were also offered by the federal justice department for community-based crime prevention projects. The Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research offers grants for prevention programs in this field. This is only a sampling from a much more extensive list. Examples can also be found in other Canadian provinces (e.g., the Union of British Columbia Municipalities' Community Health Promotion Grants), in Australian states and territories (e.g., the Aboriginal Health Promotion Community Grants offered in New South Wales), at both state and federal levels in the United States (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Justice Small Grants Program), and undoubtedly elsewhere.

Yet even though the use of community grants as a health promotion strategy has been widespread, our search of the major databases turns up little academic analysis. …

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