Translating Grand Challenges From Concept to Community: The “Communities in Action” Experience

This article provides an example of how one social work school created a community partnership to translate grand challenges from concept to concrete local projects to meet Grand Challenges for Social Work goals. The Grand Challenge to Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth proposes that we have made sufficient scientific advances to—within a decade—reduce the incidence and prevalence of behavioral health problems among children, adolescents, and young adults by 20%, and to reduce the incidence of racial and socioeconomic disparities in behavioral health problems by 20%. In 2014, faculty and students from the University of Washington School of Social Work began working with a broad coalition of community-based agencies, governmental partners, and funding agencies to tackle this grand challenge at the community level. The coalition adopted Communities That Care, a tested model for developing prevention infrastructure in communities by building the capacity of community coalitions to assess and prioritize local need, match need to evidence-based prevention programs, and support quality implementation with sufficient reach to change behavioral health problems at the community level. The collaboration chose the name Communities in Action for this effort. This article illustrates how Communities in Action exemplifies grand challenges implementation and highlights lessons learned that can be applied to other grand challenges efforts.

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