Sustaining your Challenge work to promote health and well-being


July 8, 2021

The constantly changing public health landscape, as demonstrated in the past year by the pandemic, has reminded us that planning for sustainability is especially important for community-led public health initiatives. 

Sustainability refers to:

  • continuing a project to keep meeting its goals and outcomes.
  • finding a way to create a lasting vision for the project’s future, as well as a plan for fulfilling that vision.

But when it comes to maintaining complex community initiatives like the Challenge, what does sustaining the work actually entail?

While the process of developing a sustainability plan can seem daunting, it doesn’t need to be. A wide range of free tools and resources can help you develop a successful strategy to sustain the activities in your projects.

Some small pointers to prime your thinking:

Think about ways to strengthen partnerships.

Building strong relationships between organizations with common goals can be a great way to increase the visibility of a project. Working more fluidly with your partners will also enable you to develop a project that is useful to your community and attract new partners and, potentially, new funders.

Make sure to check our next blog post featuring an interview with HCCC advisory council member and HealthBegins CEO/President Rishi Manchanda to learn more about the role partnerships can play to achieve project sustainability.

Maintain needed skills and knowledge.

To continue improving community health and wellness, think about how skills and knowledge accumulated throughout your project can be shared and retained by your partners and community members. 

For instance, after having received a master training, Greenbrier County staff is planning to have community ambassadors become leaders for chronic pain management courses in their local community to maintain a core aspect of their pilot program. 

Document successes to share with the community and funders.

Communication and messaging can have a long-term impact on raising awareness and pique interest in your work. However, you don’t need to have an entire communications department to begin thinking about ways to share the success of your Challenge project to others. 

Chula Vista, for example, developed a PhotoVoice project to communicate issues in the community through the eyes of community health workers, known as promotoras. This project not only helps visually communicate the intense need for Chula Vista’s HCCC project, but also facilitates engagement/leadership among their promotoras. 

For more examples and information on how to communicate your project’s success, check out our HCCC Communications Planning webinar or the Challenge’s Communications Planning Guide

Identify diverse funding streams to financially sustain the initiative.

Many HCCC project teams used Challenge funding to hire project coordinators to help lead their programs. As a result, some communities are already looking at other funding streams to support these important positions. Starting the process of looking at other funding streams sooner rather than later for short-term grants like the Challenge is important. 

Many great websites delineate new funding opportunities for projects centered around improving access to food and health services. 

Determine which goals and program elements are still relevant. 

Streamlining a program to keep only a few key components still indicates sustainability.  It is important to identify which parts of your project are working in order to continue improving health and wellness in your community versus what can be let go of to make room for new projects. 

In Kerrville, the project team has hired a professional consultant who specializes in capacity building and sustainability to discuss ways to further develop their project to keep their volunteer program running after the end of the grant period.


And finally, remember that sustainability shouldn’t just be an afterthought. Start thinking now about the ways to craft a shared vision among you, your partners and community members to carry you forward in maintaining the wonderful work your communities are doing.

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