Community leadership is the foundation for successful and sustainable prevention efforts
Community wisdom is the aggregated base of knowledge, intuition, skills, and assets that residents bring to solving their collective challenges. Members representing all populations must be engaged both in defining questions and shaping solutions for their communities. Tapping into this wisdom and strengthening local capacity build leadership, support a positive shift in norms, and are essential for developing appropriate, sustainable strategies that will improve community health and safety equitably. Professionals within public health and other domains bring indispensable expertise in analyzing data and evaluating the evidence base, including successful practices and policies. Prevention strategies that engage a range of community leaders in applying prior achievements to their promising practices will best ensure sustainability.
For example, as a means of reducing and preventing violence, the city of Salinas, California, formed a diverse coalition that included the mayor, grass roots activists, local businesses, the faith community, and major city and county leaders from varying sectors, among which were law enforcement and health. Emphasizing a culture of community compassion, respect, and responsibility, their strategy targeted shifting the social norms through sustained, well designed efforts; fostering resiliency; and minimizing risks in the community. During the course of a year, they developed a framework for reducing violence that comprised twelve areas—from literacy to youth jobs to parental participation in the schools. The city allocated dollars to local projects and groups that worked toward outcomes of this plan. While the plan was in place, violence rates dropped, the city was equipped to apply for, and received, nearly $10 million dollars in grant funds, and local residents noted improved perceptions of safety. Going forward, this plan established an infrastructure to stabilize these gains, encourage further improvements, and support sustainability of these promising practices.