DOI: 10.1002/hpm.3702 ISSN:

Actualising power sharing in community‐led initiatives: Insights from community‐based organisation leaders in Chicago, USA

Alexis Grant, Jeni Hebert‐Beirne, Saria Lofton, Brenikki Floyd, Emily Stiehl, Sage Kim
  • Health Policy


There is an increasing call for a governmental organisations such as local health departments and federal health and human service agencies to partner with community based organisations (CBOs) for health promotion. There is a large body of literature suggesting that CBOs need capacity building or empowerment to do this work, but less literature about the necessary culture shift at governmental organisations who fund public health work. This study aimed to examine the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of CBO leadership who do not want to partner with state funders, and understand which structures and practices demonstrate power‐sharing in a community‐led approach. We conducted six interviews with community‐based organisation leaders and conducted a thematic analysis and a secondary, inductive discourse analysis of the transcripts to analyse why organisations chose not to apply for a government funded initiative and how they talked about power‐sharing for community‐led public health. Themes about the decision for CBOs to apply to the public health funding initiative: how it related to the CBO's scope of work, meeting the needs of the community, having the technical capacity, and cross‐cutting themes of putting the community first and having a long‐term positive impact. Organisations rejected the opportunity for this funding due to poor fit, even if they could fulfil the scope of work. A community‐led approach was described as one that includes the government giving up control, creating spaces for meaningful participation and power‐sharing, and systems demonstrating trust in CBOs. These findings reiterate that in order for public health to be community‐led, there needs to be system‐wide transformation and intentional investment that supports an infrastructure for community‐led public health. State funders can learn from practices in trust‐based philanthropy, such as flexible funding and reporting requirements. The results of this study can support the wider participation of CBOs in collaboration with state actors, maximising the transformative potential of collaboration, ultimately transforming power structures and advancing health equity.

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