Lessons for Leaders

Glossary and Resources


The following definitions are tailored for the purposes of this document. They are adapted from multiple definitions used in the field to support the specific context and content in which the terms appear.

Community Capacity: The collective ability of people and community organizations to define and achieve their goals. Communities with capacity have a combination of knowledge and skills, cohesion and commitment, structures and networks, and access to resources that support effective decision making and action over time.

Community Context: Specific community settings and circumstances such as existing leaders and relationships, resources, readiness and capacity, current demand, culture, history, economic conditions, current conflict, local stories, and/or dominant political ideology.

Creative Tension: Creative tension comes from a group clearly seeing a shared vision and telling the truth about their current situation. It is a state in which disagreement or discord ultimately gives rise to better ideas or outcomes.

Diversity: The full range of how people differ. Embracing diversity invites the exploration and understanding of differing experiences and perspectives. In this context, it most often refers to differences across race, class, age, gender, disability, culture, language, citizenship status, health status, political belief and professional discipline.

Equity: Fair inclusion and opportunity for all to reach their full potential. This means learning what people need in order to be included or in order to seize opportunity, and then providing what they need. While it does not mean equality, equity as a directive strategy decreases gaps in outcomes between different social groups.

Frame: A shared and durable cultural principle that people use to organize new information and make sense of their world. Framing is a quality of communication that leads others to accept one meaning over another and act accordingly.

Facilitative Leadership: A style of leadership that inspires and creates the conditions for teams, organizations or communities to effectively and creatively address shared goals and leverage opportunities for greater social impact. This includes making it easy for others to offer their unique perspectives and talents, speak up when they have problems, take initiative, make appropriate decisions, work with others, and share responsibility for the health of the team, organization or community.

Health Equity: The state in which all people have the opportunity to attain their full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of his or her social position or other socially determined circumstance. It is the absence of unjust, unnatural, avoidable, systemic and sustained health status differences in the distribution of disease, illness and mortality rates across population groups.

Language Justice: A commitment to create multilingual spaces where language is used democratically and as a tool of empowerment so that people can communicate, learn and strategize together. Multilingual spaces require both good interpretation (oral) and translation (written) skills as well as a wider commitment from groups to support these spaces.

Learning Network: A group of people who share a commitment and are actively engaged in learning together and from each other, using a variety of communications methods, for the betterment of their common work. Learning networks, in this context, are frequently supported by funders as part of their efforts to provide technical assistance to healthy community partnerships.

Population Health: The health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.

Scaling: A process to extend community-level change through an increase in the number of changes or the number of communities experiencing a given change. For this document, scaling does not address issues such as depth, sustainability or ownership of change. It seeks, but does not guarantee, an increase in impact.

Strategic Communication: The carefully planned synchronization of images, actions and deliberate messages to get the right people to take the right action at the right time to achieve a desired effect. In this context, strategic communication is multidirectional and requires listening and learning to reach both internal and external audiences.


As one might expect from the integrated nature of healthy communities work, the lessons and principles discussed in this document are mutually reinforcing and do not always fall neatly into their respective categories. The following recommended online resources are the same. They provide a range of content related to the lessons, including frameworks, tools and action models; brief articles on key issues of practice; introductory guides for the broader topics of equity advocacy, sustainability and healthy community change; and rich portals to other useful information and resources.

A Practitioner’s Guide for Advancing Health Equity: Community Strategies for Preventing Chronic Disease
Featuring lessons learned from practitioners across the country, this guide focuses on how to enhance capacity to advance healthy equity through a variety of foundational skills and practices. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Collaboration Multiplier
The Collaboration Multiplier is a tool for analyzing collaborative health efforts across disciplines. It helps individuals working in partnerships–both formal and informal–to better understand their partners’ strengths, motivations and desired outcomes. It is designed to help organizations identify potential new collaborators and how to best engage them. (Prevention Institute)

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHR&R) Action Center
The CHR&R Action Center is organized around a multi-step Action Cycle. A guide for each step describes key activities within each step and provides suggested tools, resources and additional reading. There is also a guide for each of the many different types of partners. These guides provide information on the role that each can play in improving the health of communities along with guidance on what they can do during each action step. (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute)

Framing Public Issues Toolkit
This toolkit helps issue advocates learn and apply new communications thinking to frame their work for better public understanding and engagement. It provides an introduction to the Strategic Frames Analysis approach, explains each element of a frame and provides tools. Other important healthy communities topics include rural issues, food systems, government, food and fitness, youth and health disparities. In each of these areas it offers research reports, messaging tips and applied tools. (FrameWorks Institute)

Getting Equity Advocacy Results (GEAR)
GEAR draws from the wisdom and experience of seasoned advocates and action researchers to provide useful benchmarks, frameworks, and tools for measuring progress in equity efforts for policy change across a range of issues. (PolicyLink)

Messaging Guide: A New Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health
This guide shares a way to create more compelling, effective and persuasive messages that resonate across the political spectrum. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Smart Chart
The Smart Chart is an interactive tool for developing, evaluating and reviewing strategic communications plans. It presents a straightforward process that is particularly well suited for nonprofit organizations or coalitions that want to link communications efforts to their goals. (Spitfire Strategies)

Sustainability Planning Guide
The Sustainability Planning Guide is a synthesis of science- and practice-based evidence designed to help coalitions, public health professionals and other community stakeholders develop, implement and evaluate a successful sustainability plan. The Guide provides a process for sustaining policy strategies and related activities, introduces various approaches to sustainability and demonstrates sustainability planning in action with real-life examples. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Tension of Turf
Tension of Turf is a companion tool to Developing Effective Coalitions: An Eight Step Guide. It offers practical support for skillfully managing the dynamic tension that commonly arises when people collaborate. This guide helps coalitions derive authentic, constructive power from their varying perspectives, skills and mandates. (Prevention Institute)

The Art of Facilitative Leadership: Maximizing Others’ Contributions
This brief feature article provides a quick introduction of the basics of facilitative leadership, and why it is important. (The Systems Thinker)

The Community Engagement Guide for Sustainable Communities
Created for the Sustainable Communities Initiative, this guide offers context-sensitive guidelines and strategies for meaningful community engagement. (PolicyLink and Kirwan Institute)

THRIVE: (Tool for Health and Resilience In Vulnerable Environments)
THRIVE is a tool to help people understand and prioritize the factors within their own communities that can help improve health and safety. The tool identifies key factors and allows a user to rate how important that factor might be in the community. It also provides information about how each factor relates to health outcomes, and offers some direction about what to do to address the factor and where to go for more information. (Prevention Institute)

Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory
This free tool is useful for assessing how a collaboration is doing on 20 research-tested success factors. The inventory takes about fifteen minutes to complete. It can be distributed to a small group of leaders in a collaborative, during a general meeting or via mail to all members for the most complete picture. Scores can be tallied manually or online. (Amherst H. Wilder Foundation)