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Comprehensive Community Initiatives, Improving the lives of youth and families through systems change, a toolkit for federal managers
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What is a CCI?

When people talk about Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs), they sometimes have in mind different things. For the purposes of this toolkit:

A Comprehensive Community Initiative is an effort to better the lives of children, youth, and families through systems-change work. People also refer to CCIs as Community Change Initiatives.

Examples of issues addressed by CCIs
  • readiness for school, and high school graduation rates
  • the disproportionate representation of minority and lower socioeconomic-status youth in foster care and the justice system
  • abuse and neglect
  • suicide, substance abuse, underage drinking, and other self-destructive behaviors
  • mental and physical health
  • delinquency and violence

Several characteristics set CCIs apart from conventional service-delivery programs.
  • CCIs take a broad view of community problems. To really understand a community problem, you have to step back to see the problem in its entirety. Planning for a CCI takes into account the range of factors that impact a problem—social, economic, political, and geographic.
  • CCIs engage all sectors of the community. CCIs reach beyond traditional youth-involved agencies in the education, protection, justice, and health systems to engage members of nontraditional and natural networks including community members, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses, and the media.
  • CCIs use long-term strategies. Systems change takes time. CCIs are long-term projects, extending beyond typical Federal funding cycles of 1 to 5 years.
  • CCIs build trust and forge common purpose. Systems change ultimately comes down to collaborative working relationships. These relationships — along with the drive and collective purposes that sustain them — are the bedrock of a CCI.
  • CCIs encourage participatory decision-making. While not often fully consensual, the nature of CCIs requires that all stakeholders--community members, grant staff, evaluators, technical assistance providers, and funders--come together to make decisions and carry out the work in structures that tend toward the nonhierarchical. Over time, those involved in the CCI may form a learning community.

While the emphasis on systems change is what sets a CCI apart from a conventional service-delivery program, it's also what makes a CCI so challenging to plan and implement. Even when funding provides for the time to build collaborative relationships and structures, under pressure to meet the day-to-day client demands, grantees understandably tend to divert energy and focus from the long-term, systems-change work to the immediacy of service delivery. It takes vigilance to maintain the vision of the initiative.

This ToolKit for Federal Staff will help you align funding, management, evaluation, and technical assistance to ensure that the focus on systems change remains front and center as you partner with communities in the work of building healthy and capable children, youth, and families.

Systems-change is a change in the way that a community makes decisions about policies, program services, and the allocation of resources. It enlarges who participates in decision making to include families and others affected by decisions. As a result, decisions reflect a larger, better-informed perspective on family and community needs and priorities. To undertake systems change, a community must build collaborative bridges among multiple agencies, community members, and other stakeholders.