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What are place-based initiatives?

Place-based initiatives draw on the power of collective action to support healthier, more equitable communities.

These collaborative networks bring public, private, and nonprofit organizations together with community members to address systemic challenges and spark positive, population-level change. 


They are designed to address the specific challenges facing a defined region or community—bring together diverse community stakeholders to work across systems like education, health, and economic development, finding new ways to spur opportunity and increase equity.

Image of a teenage boy throwing a frisbee to other boys in a field of grass

Place-based initiatives go beyond single-issue strategies. 

Instead, by confronting the underlying causes of inequality, place-based initiatives can address complex community challenges, like increasing affordable housing, improving education, and strengthening civic engagement. Place-based initiatives can break down barriers to opportunity, offering a path to better outcomes for people, children, and families.

Why are they important?

Systemic inequality continues to affect communities across the country and around the world. Using an innovative, holistic approach, place-based initiatives go beyond stand-alone, single-issue strategies, creating community-led networks to address the underlying causes of inequality. They work to shift the very systems that cause long-standing and intractable challenges—poverty, housing and food insecurity, poor education and health outcomes, and more.

Who leads them?

While place-based initiatives can take a variety of forms, they are collaborative and inclusive in nature, bringing together public, private, and nonprofit organizations and community members in shared leadership.

How do they work?

Although place-based work is inherently context- and community-dependent, Population Change Institute, working in collaboration with leading place-based practitioners across the country, has identified six Collective Capacities needed for initiatives to achieve improved population outcomes.

Group of teens running with locked arms out in a field
Foundational Case Studies

In 2017, the Population Change Learning Community--a group of place-based practitioners from diverse regions in both the US and Canada--came together to explore what defines a high-impact place-based initiative. Their work revealed six core collective capacities needed to support place-based change.

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