Investing in community power building to increase civic engagement through voting: lessons from the Building Healthy Communities initiative

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Community Practice


oregon; core; diversity


The objective of this study was to examine the impact of investments in community organizing made as part of a 10-year comprehensive community initiative focused on community power building in California. Data from multiple sources were used to examine the relationship between investments and one measure of civic engagement, voter turnout. Comparisons were made over time (2010–2019) and between intervention and propensity-weighted comparison sites. Analyses determined that investments by the funder were positively associated with turnout; this effect differed across elections and was largest in 2012. Broad investments to support community engagement, organizing, and base building had a positive impact on voting, an important indicator of civic engagement. In historically marginalized or underserved communities, investing in power building can yield benefits despite structural barriers that result in inequities. As restrictive electoral reforms grow across the country in the wake of the 2020 election, initiatives designed to build power may support proactively organizing against these changes or provide the infrastructure to understand and navigate them. Investing in community power building is a promising strategy for philanthropic organizations, organizers, and policy makers.


Health Care Administration


Population Health