During a two-day Summit on the Early Prevention of Crime in 1991, Colorado citizens, educators, law enforcement officials, business leaders, corrections professionals, politicians and others were introduced to the Communities That Care model, a researched-based, collective impact prevention process that helps communities decrease risk factors for youth problems and increase protective factors for optimal outcomes for youth.

The Communities that Care process was adopted and embraced by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice and became known as Build a Generation in the State of Colorado.

A handful of Colorado communities, including Lake County, were chosen as models to test the Build a Generation process. Community boards from these cities and towns committed themselves to rejecting a “band-aid” approach to prevention. Instead, they pledged to work toward spending community prevention dollars on decreasing or eliminating known risk factors in their community—and building protective factors. They dedicated themselves to a simple principle: “To be effective, prevention approaches must reduce the risks a child is exposed to, and reinforce protection in a child’s life.”

In Lake County, the board analyzed community risk factors, evaluated local resources for building protective factors, reached consensus about the top community problems that affect youth, and developed a long-range plan to address those problems. Initially much of the work focused on substance abuse prevention.

However, around 2010, it became increasingly clear that to really impact youth health outcomes, Lake County would have to broaden its prevention priorities beyond just substance abuse prevention. In 2011, Lake County Build a Generation facilitated Vision Leadville, the planning process behind the Youth Master Plan, to collaboratively develop a broad vision for youth health and well-being and to reassess the community’s long-range plan of action. Once the plan was published in 2012, Lake County Build a Generation became the backbone agency working to implement the plan in the community. With priorities set by the Youth Master Plan Partnership, Lake County Build a Generation has worked to identify funding sources, facilitate community coalitions, and implement various programs to fulfil the Youth Master Plan goals.

Maintaining its Communities that Care roots, Lake County Build a Generation has continued to embrace a Collective Impact model for its work. However, in recent years, it has also merged the Collective Impact model with grassroots community organizing. Using these two models, we mobilize community members and local agencies around a shared vision for a healthy community. Working together, stakeholders prioritize goals, develop a menu of strategies to effect change (from programs to policies), evaluate the impact, and then keep working until we see measurable change.

More recently, our work has expanded beyond the scope of youth health and well-being to include adult health and well-being and health equity. In fact, our initiatives often cross into several of these domains, because all three domains are deeply and complexly connected.