Turning great ideas into healthier communities


PHI's Sue Grinnell to Present at Community Agency & Health Symposium

March 21, 2017

It’s well-established that treating disease and reducing risk factors is not enough to sustainably improve health. What’s missing is whether people have a sense of control over their lives, also known as agency. Community Agency & Health is the inaugural symposium of Bridging Health & Community, an organization dedicated to transforming how we approach health so that it goes beyond health care and public health to include fostering community agency. 

To foster community agency, the health sector must adopt, and adapt to, a more inclusive, participatory and responsive approach than it has been used to. This requires participating in a sustained process for deriving and implementing solutions together with other sectors and community stakeholders, including residents. The success of this collaborative process depends on mutual respect for each other’s knowledge and perspectives, empathy for each other’s day-to-day realities, and a willingness to share decision-making and to find ways to work within each other’s frameworks for accountability.

The symposium goes beyond the usual framings of the social determinants of health, cross-sector collaboration or systems change, and is open to anyone interested in health and willing to explore the well-documented potential of community agency.


Community Agency & Health
Mon, May 15, 2017, 9:30 AM – Tue, May 16, 2017, 3:30 PM PDT
Oakland Marriott City Center 1001 Broadway Oakland, CA 94607
Learn more and buy tickets.


Session: Setting the Stage 

Participants will explore how they can work in ways that foster community agency to improve health. To help that happen, the event will start off with a session called 'Setting the Stage,' designed to spend some time on the first day getting everyone on the same page: introducing the concepts, challenges, and pathways that tell the story of why and how community agency is key to the future of health. This session features Sue Grinnell, Director of Business Strategy and Technology at Public Health Institute's Population Health Innovation Lab. Sue will discuss the need to find different sources and uses of financial and other forms of capital and reflect on whether current approaches that incentivize coordination of resources to tackle health with more than just clinical care have been able to go far enough to encourage new ways of investing and new ways of working.

Learn more about the session.


Advancing Community Agency

By focusing on strengthening the capacity of community members, cross-sector collaborations will be more successful and inclusive. The 12 principles for fostering community agency are: 

  1. Include in a community’s collective effort those who live there, those who work there, and those who deliver or support services provided there
  2. Spend time understanding differences in context, goals and power
  3. Appreciate the arc of local history as part of the story of a place
  4. Elicit, value and respond to what matters to community residents
  5. Facilitate and support the sharing of power, including acknowledging existing imbalances and building the capacity to use it
  6. Operate at four levels at the same time: individual, community, institutional and policy
  7. Accept that this is long-term, iterative work
  8. Embrace uncertainty, tension and missteps as sources of success
  9. Measure what matters, including the process and experience of the work
  10. Build a vehicle buffered from the constraints of existing systems and able to respond to what happens, as it happens
  11. Build a team capable of working in a collective, iterative way, to include navigating the tensions inherent in this work
  12. Pursue sustainability creatively; it’s as much about narrative, process and relationships as it is about resources

Learn more about how to build health through community agency in this blog post by Pritpal S Tamber, Co-Founder and CEO of Bridging Health & Community, published on the blog of PHI's Build Healthy Places Network.