Community Building Approach

Rural residents taking the lead to build their community's future

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What is a community building approach?

A Community Building Approach puts rural residents and local groups at the center of the process as they build their community’s future in an inclusive and comprehensive way. It is centered on four Community Building Principles:

  • Go to where the people are
  • Start with what you know and build on what you have
  • Be profoundly inclusive
  • Keep the community at the center of the work

And it will engage the following six Community Building Practices:

  1. Listen to Learn
  2. Engage to Mobilize
  3. Skill Up, Branch Out
  4. Plan Together
  5. Create Change
  6. Celebrate and Reflect

Real and lasting change wells up from the community since the community is the best positioned to know its own needs. Community Building Approach Roles are some of the ways the Ford Institute can support you as you increase connections, build capacity and take community-led action. Doing this work takes purpose, passion and persistence. The Ford Institute for Community Building is here to learn and partner with you.

Ford Institute Roles

Support from The Ford Family Foundation will look different based on your community’s needs. There is no cookie-cutter approach to community building. While the specifics of the work vary from place to place, we always follow the Community Building Principles and Practices. The Ford Institute can serve in four basic roles:

•  Participant: Being in the room and providing an outside perspective. Invite us to a community gathering to listen and learn more about your work or project. 

•  Practitioner: Offering experience from the community-building field. Arrange a time to discuss a challenge or opportunity, and to help you make connections. Sign up for our Facebook Group and our monthly e-newsletter, the Community Builder eXchange (CBX). 

•  Learning Partner: Bringing a willingness to listen, learn and innovate. Join (or help us initiate) a group to explore learnings on community-building topics, such as online engagement, community visioning and catalytic community organizations. 

•  Funder: Providing financial resources and due diligence. After a relationship is established between the Ford Institute and a community group, a next step may be funding. Community Building Approach funding supports work in our three focus areas: 

Examples of funding: convenings; group process and engagement; community data collection and listening work; local project coordination; coaching; and facilitation. 

Community Building Grants can range from $500 - $25,000 per year. While there are exceptions, we can fund up to 50% of a proposed budget. We support single and multi-year efforts. 

Next Steps: 

  1. Imagine the best fit for your community’s needs with these roles and funding resources. Remember, Ford Institute resources are focused on a community building approach. Consider resources and grants from other Ford Family Foundation departments: Children, Youth and Families, Postsecondary Success (including scholarships), and Community Economic Development. 
  2. Connect with us. Call Yvette Rhodes (541) 957-2571, or email, or reach out to others you may already know at the Ford Institute. You don’t need to have everything figured out before contacting us.  We are happy to explore ideas and next steps with you through an informal conversation. 
  3. Take the lead in mobilizing your community and moving its priorities forward.



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These graphics help explain the Community Building Approach.