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

Today, we know a few things about the intersection of community engagement, health, and safety:

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.

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.


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 began by recruiting a diverse set of foundations and funders, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and thought leaders to explore the topic. We were delighted to attract about 25 individuals working at many different levels and within different geographic areas around the country who shared a passion for and curiosity about the topic. Support for the group is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The Working Group convened with a two-fold goal:

•  To build new relationships and exchange expertise that span types of organizations, content areas, and approaches; and

•  To identify a particular project or investment that could help demonstrate how civic engagement improves health and safety outcomes.


A guiding hope is that by demonstrating the link between civic engagement and health and safety outcomes, civic engagement will be more widely and more effectively funded.

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.  PACE staff and working group members are currently working to develop approaches that merit the group’s attention and investment in 2018 with the goal of producing a project to advance knowledge and learning at this intersection. Through that work, we intend to demonstrate ways that civic engagement positively affects health and safety outcomes, and to build knowledge and connections that form a compelling narrative to encourage greater and more strategic investments in civic engagement. We also seek to integrate an equity lens into this learning by understanding how race and place influence the intersection of these issues and how we might create more equitable outcomes accordingly.

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.

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