One of three cardinal questions that guide PACE’s strategic focus and collective orientation in the field of philanthropy is this one:

How can investments in civic engagement increase health and safety outcomes for communities?

Consistent with PACE’s core belief — that America will be healthier, more successful, resilient and productive if democracy is strong and the office of citizen is treated as central to how it functions — we launched an exploration with the aim to demonstrate that civic engagement, while a worthy end in itself, is also a critical means to advance outcomes that matter to all Americans.


What We Believe

Our exploration into the intersection of community engagement, health, and safety was inspired by several key understandings:

1.  Community engagement to build healthy spaces helps build healthy communities.

2.  A stronger non-profit sector is associated with reductions in crime.

3.  Civic engagement among marginalized groups can influence policy toward better health    access and improved public health outcomes.


The PACE Health & Safety Working Group

Recognizing that knowledge at the complex intersection of civic engagement, health, and safety is widely held and diffuse, PACE recruited a diverse set of foundations and funders, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and thought leaders to explore the topic. The working group has been active since September 2017, sharing stories of success, raising questions, and advising PACE on research and analysis that could advance our understanding of relationships among civic engagement, community health and public safety. Support for the group is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation.

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The working group has explored a variety of potential project investments.  After consideration, the group to focus particularly on the youth civic engagement and its implications for health and safety outcomes.  Two projects will explore that intersection:

•  A literature review to summarize available evidence on the relationship of youth civic engagement, health and safety outcomes and identifies gaps that might help make the case that youth civic engagement yields health and safety benefits not just for individual participants, but for their communities.

•  Structured interviews and analysis to explore the hypothesis that efforts among nonprofits and funders at the intersection of youth civic engagement, community health, health equity and community safety share many core values and features that are implicit and understood locally, but not always captured and translated for broader application.  Our aim is to articulate core principles shared among promising and successful programs – the “Top 10 Driving Beliefs” and/or “Six Essential Design Features” – in order to advance knowledge and inspire action among others considering civic engagement as a strategy to improve health and safety.

Results will be summarized and disseminated in early 2019.  We hope to paint a well-developed picture of the shared features and values that undergird youth-related civic engagement efforts that lead to better health and safety outcomes.  Integrating an equity lens, we will describe the structural barriers and power dynamics that impede civic engagement and health equity, and we will identify strategies and tactics that address and overcome those obstacles.  We will develop a compelling narrative that frames these topics to encourage philanthropy to pursue civic engagement as a means to advance health and safety goals.

Our hypothesis is that efforts at the intersection of youth civic engagement, community health, health equity and community safety share many core values and features that are implicit and understood locally, but not always translated for broader application.

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We expect that the group’s findings will influence funders concerned with wise investments related to civic engagement, funders working to improve health or safety outcomes, and those committed to both strategies.

Through the Health & Safety Working Group, we are charting new territory, both on these topics and as a model of learning and collaboration for PACE. As with any new pursuit, we are learning as we go. We seek to build a group in which divergent views are welcome, while also advancing a shared purpose greater than the sum of its parts. We want to draw out the creative ideas of working group members even as PACE exerts leadership to maintain focus and urgency. As we explore, we will continue to refine our approach, and look forward to sharing process lessons along the way. Please keep an eye on this space for ongoing updates.

What’s Next?

You can read more about the evolution of this project in the PACE 2018 Annual Reflection.  To date, the group has commissioned a literature review as well as a report on a comprehensive series of interviews from thought leaders and practitioners at the intersection of health and safety and youth civic engagement, both of which we will publish in March of 2019. Please stay tuned, and subscribe for updates.

To learn more about PACE’s Health & Safety Working Group, please contact PACE Fellow, Marian Mulkey: marian(at)