Scaling Community-Based Programs

Posted by Sara Cornish

By leveraging their strong local and national networks, nonprofits like the YMCA and OASIS are scaling up community-based service delivery for health interventions. Stanford Social Innovation (SSI) Review describes how these organizations contribute to the national prevention of chronic disease through engaging with their local communities: “The Y is rethinking the role of the national organization in providing more leadership on broad health issues with the aim of capturing and replicating more innovations emerging from local Ys and helping local Ys deliver national programs with greater fidelity than in the past,” SSI Review explains.

National nonprofits like the YMCA were not founded to address chronic disease, but both their public/private partnerships with healthcare providers and their deep community roots present huge potential for localized programming for broad, long-term health outcomes. For example, sites offering the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program partner with private medical practices and community health clinics, which then refer people with pre-diabetes into the Y’s program. This approach can be scaled up thanks to the huge numbers of staff and volunteers (as opposed to healthcare workers) that are part of the YMCA’s network of branches, as well as through its national partnerships with organizations like the Red Cross, NAACP, and even the Department of Defense.

The SSI article also suggests ways that other community-based organizations might scale their own health ventures, starting with ensuring consistency between the health initiative and the mission of the organization, then adapting it for community-based delivery (ie, using volunteers instead of professionals and collaborative group programming instead of one-on-one service). Designers of other community-based services might also consider the distribution capacity of their service design: could your organization’s or agency’s service be leveraged through a national network of nonprofits and still maintain flexibility to address local needs?

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