The Community Commons Origin Story
Our Origin Story
Since the inception of Community Commons over a decade ago, there has been a handful of dedicated partners working behind the scenes to push our work forward. Sitting around the table as The Commons started to take shape were 3 organizations:
Community Initiatives with expertise in group change processes, facilitation and convening;
The Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems at the University of Missouri with expertise in mapping and data analysis; and
The Institute for People, Place, and Possibility (IP3) with expertise in storytelling, capacity building, and giving context to data and tools.
As a team, we were privileged to take part in the many national community improvement efforts sparked by the CDC, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Kellogg Foundation, Y-USA, United Ways, and others. This wave of thinking and collaboration was the beginning of what we now know as the Healthy, Equitable Communities Movement.
At the community level, our team spent time understanding how partners work together with a focus on determining best practices in community collaboration and coalition-building to improve community health and well-being.
We were excited about the organic, grassroots efforts forming around community coalitions -- an authentic collaboration between colleagues, friends, and neighbors. It was only natural that we asked: How could we build capacity within these collaboratives that would live beyond a funding cycle? How could we connect people outside of the vertical relationships that string down from a big funder at the top to an individual community at the bottom? How could we instead, build a horizontal network of people that supported and learned from one another?
And more importantly, how can we scale this work? How do we help change-makers find the information they need? Things like
Who else is doing this work?
What efforts make an impact?
What data help identify the need and make the case?
What successes and failures can we build and learn from?
In 2010 we created the Map of the Movement -- a display of place-based community improvement efforts around the country -- in an effort to build a community-focused technology framework that would support communities and change-makers.
The first map on the site what would later become Community Commons
As time went on and our user base grew, we began to hear the value in the combination of storytelling and complementary data for those who really wanted to dig in around a specific topic area. That became the Community Commons. Over the last decade, access to data, mapping, and reporting tools has increased. We are thrilled, and now find ourselves in the perfect position to build on that momentum of supporting, lifting up, and connecting people to the best available resources to leverage collective impact.