Minneapolis Health Department
Blueprint Approved Institute
The Minneapolis Health Department (MHD) is the local public health agency for the City of Minneapolis. We deliver public health interventions directly and in partnership with community and other government entities. MHD provides a range of services as we carry out our mission to improve the quality of life for all people in the city by protecting the environment, preventing disease and injury, promoting healthy behaviors, and creating a city that is a healthy place to live, work, and play.
According to Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) estimates, Minneapolis has 407,207 residents living in the city's 84 neighborhoods. Almost 40% of residents are people of color. About 15% of residents are foreign-born, and Minneapolis is home to the largest population of Somali residents in the US.
While Minneapolis is generally ranked as one of the healthiest cities in the US, there are significant disparities between people of color and white people. In Minneapolis, communities of color disproportionately experience poverty, unemployment, poor educational outcomes, insufficient food system resources, chronic medical conditions, systemic oppression, and other social conditions. Violence is a public health issue that is inextricably linked with many of those social conditions. As such, the communities most disproportionately affected by violence in Minneapolis are frequently the same communities most disproportionately impacted by other negative health outcomes. Therefore, violence in Minneapolis is not only a public health issue impacting the wellbeing of communities, causing injury, disability, and premature death—it's also a critical health equity issue.
Since 2006, MHD has focused on youth violence prevention from a public health perspective. Our work includes many facets that span primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. Our approaches are informed by core public health principles, including clearly defining problems, identifying risk and protective factors, designing and testing interventions, evaluation, and scaling up promising efforts. We emphasize the importance of using City resources and technical expertise to lift the wisdom and expertise already present in the community. Authentically engaging community allows us to pursue a dual focus of identifying effective ways to solve the problem of violence and addressing longstanding health equity issues.
A foundational part of this dual focus is our Blueprint Approved Institute (BPAI). BPAI is a capacity building initiative aimed at strengthening community-based agencies' ability to deliver effective and community-driven violence prevention work and address the goals in the Minneapolis Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence. This is achieved through trainings, demonstration project funding, hands-on technical support, and establishment of a peer network.
The long-term goal of this practice is to reduce rates of violence and decrease existing racial and economic disparities within Minneapolis.
The objectives of the practice are to:
Increase networking opportunities and guide development of strategic plans across organizations serving areas disproportionately experiencing violence.
Improve coordination between organizations working to prevent youth violence.
Increase the number of youth violence prevention programs in Minneapolis.
Increase community engagement and capacity to more effectively prevent violence.
Build internal capacity (e.g. grant writing skills, budget planning, program evaluation) of community-based organizations.
Participation in BPAI lasts for 1 year. Organizations spend 6 months completing training sessions to build capacity around hard and soft skills. Upon completion of the trainings, organizations receive a $6,000 grant and have 4 months to translate their newly acquired capacity into implementing a youth violence prevention program. Following that, they spend 2 months focused on evaluation and reflection. Throughout, they receive hands-on support from MHD staff and are engaged in a peer network with their fellow participants.
Partnering directly with local grassroots agencies has driven the success of BPAI. BPAI has allowed the City to build relationships with nimble agencies that have boots on the ground” and are well-positioned to inform the City on pressing resident needs. Many of the agencies who have completed BPAI have used their acquired capacity to contract with MHD and other City departments.
BPAI has the potential for significant public health impact. First, BPAI is funding organizations to do public health work that reduces violence and saves lives. Second, the capacity-building nature contributes to health equity and builds a network of public health-oriented violence prevention champions. Participants gain knowledge about protective factors that decrease the risk of violence and methods to implement programs. They acquire skills related to the Theory of Change, to support their participants around housing, employment, education, health, and other areas. Finally, participants are better equipped to address the multitude of socioeconomic factors and persisting disparities that predispose youth to the risk of being a victim or perpetrator of violence.
Violence is a public health issue that is a leading cause of injury, disability, and premature death. Exposure to violence increases the risk of other poor health outcomes. While it directly impacts the well-being of all communities, the communities most disproportionately affected by violence in Minneapolis—particularly young people of color and residents of certain neighborhoods—are frequently the same communities most disproportionately impacted by other negative health outcomes. In this way, violence is inextricably linked with other social conditions, and an effective response must consider all levels of the social-ecological model. At MHD, we work to prevent violence within the context of other social conditions such as education, food access, housing, income disparity, culturally-relevant health education and services, and systemic oppression.
In Minneapolis, the part of the city that includes the highest concentrations of people of color and poverty is the North Side. This area, made up of eighteen census tracts, has the highest rates of violent crime and consistent patterns of racial health disparities. While Minneapolis is generally ranked as one of the healthiest cities in the U.S., general measures of well-being obscure some of the City's greatest racial gaps. For example, a Center for Popular Democracy report found that in 2014, Minnesota had the second highest unemployment gap among the 50 states between white and black, with black residents being 3.7 times more likely to be unemployed than whites. A U.S. News and World Report study found that in 2014, the high school graduation rate gap in Minnesota between white and black students was the largest among all states. A 2013 report noted that amongst all states, Minnesota had the highest levels of disparities between whites and blacks in the areas of education and criminal justice. A 2013 Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice Report found that while blacks comprised 5.4% of the population, they comprised 37% of the state's prisoners; black youth comprised 7% of the state's population and 40% of the youth in juvenile detention.
Based on 2010-2014 estimates, approximately 59,000 residents live on the North Side of Minneapolis, where violence is most prevalent. There are an estimated 12,072 area residents that are between the ages of 10 and 24 years. More than one third of residents (37%) live below the Federal Poverty Level. One of five adults (21%) age 25 or older have not completed high school or obtained a GED. The North Side of Minneapolis tends to be the target population of MHD's violence prevention work. The specific target of people we attempt to engage through our violence prevention work not only includes residents of Minneapolis impacted by violence, but also small, community-based agencies doing credible violence prevention work in the community.
Prior to the creation of the BPAI, MHD was administering a grant program called Summer 612” that attempted to target smaller agencies and offered micro-grants to do violence prevention work focused on sports, theater, or arts. Since the funding amounts were low, it was assumed that bigger agencies would not apply. However, this proved not to be the case. The applications of larger agencies often overshadowed the applications from small agencies as large organizations were better positioned to succeed due to stronger organizational capacity and resources around grant writing. This phenomenon played out with other violence prevention funding as well.
An environment in which larger agencies were better equipped and thereby more likely to receive funding was problematic, not only from an equity standpoint but also because smaller, grassroots agencies often have credibility and connections within the community that larger organizations and City governments do not. BPAI was created in response to this problem. BPAI is an attempt to equip small grassroots agencies with the fundraising skills they need to make them competitive alongside larger organizations. The program also increases the number of violence prevention service providers in the city and the pool of potential project partners and contractors. These small organizations are often aware of the needs in their community and can inform a larger system, like the City enterprise, on ways to better collaborate with the community and deliver interventions that are culturally-relevant. Small agencies tend to be nimble and well-positioned to develop relationships and respond in culturally-appropriate ways to the community.
Only small agencies with an operating budget under $100,000 are eligible to apply for the BPAI. Recruitment strategies are intentionally inclusive of agencies who have unsuccessfully attempted to get City funding in the past. A number of such agencies have participated in BPAI. While it has taken time to build those relationships and gain trust of some of the smaller agencies that had been overlooked by the City before, many them have gone on to participate and to use their newly-acquired capacity to enhance their work.
Those accepted into the institute are provided with support and resources to build their capacity to better position themselves for future funding. The organizations access tailored technical assistance and resources to expand the reach of their violence prevention programming, while supporting the community to address health disparities and promote health equity. They gain capacity related to community engagement, grant writing, budget planning, and program evaluation. BPAI also recognizes the importance of centering the voices of people of color and other marginalized communities, and favors a youth-empowerment model.
Capacity building is an essential tool in tackling health inequities and addressing the social determinants of health. In addition to teaching grant writing and evaluation skills through BPAI, the practice also aims to raise awareness and promote advocacy by teaching the social determinants of health, promoting leadership and trust among participants, and developing partnerships between the agencies in the institute to foster collaboration on addressing the public health issue of violence.
Building the capacity of nonprofits is not a new concept. Private and corporate funders have long supported capacity building among their grantees, knowing that investing in capacity building is an effective way to leverage the impact of nonprofit resources. Helping grantees to improve their own capabilities can affect the productivity of local resources. Effective organizations can produce better results with their available resources.
So, while that form of capacity building is a known and established practice, the BPAI is a unique and innovative approach being utilized by MHD. We work specifically with small agencies in the field of violence prevention, who are not yet funded, to better position them to access resources, while simultaneously building a network of likeminded service providers. Additionally, Minneapolis is the only city in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention doing it this type of capacity building work.
BPAI relies in part on the Collective Impact framework. Collective Impact can be used to address social issues by influencing different stakeholders to change their behavior to solve a complex problem like violence. MHD has experience in bringing together and engaging government officials, educators, businesses, nonprofits, and residents to collectively define and create violence prevention strategies. Research shows that large-scale social change happens through cross-sector coordination as opposed to isolated intervention at the individual level.
BPAI follows the principles of practice related to Collective Impact: the strategy is designed and implemented with a focus on equity; community members are included in the process and programming is customized to meet the collaborative organization's needs; focus is placed on developing leadership skills and system strategies; a culture that fosters relationships, trust, and respect across participants is created; programming is customized for local context; and data is used to continuously learn, adapt, and improve.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Collective Impact to be a basic strategy for building a robust public health program. Additionally, a Healthy People 2020 consortium organization has also used the Collective Impact model to implement a public health campaign to prevent drug abuse.
 These 18 census tracts are: 17,22,27,32,33,1004,1008,1009,1013,1016,1018,1021,1023,1028,1029,1034,1041,1257
 25 Happiest, Healthiest Cities In America,” Prevention Magazine. http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/25-happiest-healthiest-cities-america
 http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015-12-15/high-school-graduation-rates-hit-record-high. Note that for both these measures, the District of Columbia had a higher rate than any of the 50 states.
 Council on Crime and Justice. (2012b). African American Males in the Criminal Justice System.
Accessed at http://www.crimeandjustice.org/councilinfo.cfm?pID=72
The Minneapolis Health Department supports the work of community-based organizations and nonprofits working to end violence by providing capacity building services through the Blueprint Approved Institute. The institute addresses issues relevant to violence prevention and general organizational capacity, such as human resource development, institutional organization, networking, and partnerships. Participating organizations also receive a small demonstration grant to implement a youth violence prevention project following the training portion of the institute. The objectives of the practice are to:
Increase networking opportunities and guide development of strategic plan across organizations serving areas disproportionately experiencing violence.
Improve coordination between organizations working to prevent youth violence.
Increase the number of youth violence prevention programs in Minneapolis.
Increase community engagement and capacity to more effectively prevent youth violence.
Build internal capacity (e.g. grant writing skills, budget planning, program evaluation) of community-based
To be eligible to participate in the BPAI, we select agencies with a budget of less than $100,000 a year that would benefit from additional capacity to better meet community needs and access funding. We seek agencies whose work can be categorized as youth violence prevention and who are serving Minneapolis youth at greatest risk of perpetuation or victimization of violence. Each year we release a request for applications and agencies must submit an application answering questions around their agency, how they work to reduce youth violence in Minneapolis, their specific capacity building needs, and an outline of their program plan/budget for what they would do if they were to receive the funding. MHD conducts a review session comprised of City staff and other department partners to review, score, and select the winning applicants.
Before developing and implementing the BPAI, MHD consulted with service providers from local community-based agencies to determine their organizational needs and the needs of the community. This consultation with community included exploration of specific types of violence that needed to be addressed based on neighborhood or geographic area of the city. A needs assessment was done over several months. Through that needs assessment, it was determined that while many organizations had effective programmatic ideas related to preventing violence, they lacked funding, grant writing skills, and additional resources to get their program off the ground. Agencies also needed support in creating evaluation tools to show the effectiveness of their programs to help them secure future funding. Many organizations also needed training related to program development, marketing, board development, and sustainability planning.
The City invited many of the organizations that were part of the initial assessment to be part of the first cohort and used their feedback to improve upon the program the next year. Many of the organizations from the first cohort are still currently partnering with the City on our violence prevention work, and their participation in BPAI has proven to be very valuable for them and for MHD.
The BPAI has an annual operating budget of $45,000 (excluding staff time; project is staffed at 0.5 of a Public Health Specialist's position and a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA). Most of funding goes directly to the organizations for their demonstration grant projects (6 organizations X $6,000 = $36,000). The rest of the funding goes towards outside trainers to facilitate the institute sessions and a final community showcase” that celebrates the end of the institute and highlights the work done by each organization. MHD currently funds this program using City of Minneapolis general funds.
Since the inception of the BPAI in 2015, we have conducted different evaluations using various methods with the help of our internal Research and Evaluation division. We have used varying tools such as surveys, one-on-one interviews, and small focus groups. We recently began receiving support from an AmeriCorps VISTA to conduct an evaluation of all past cohorts from 2015-2018 using one-on-one interviews. All the data that we have collected so far has been qualitative.
With the BPAI, we strive to create a place where the cohort members can network with each other and create long-lasting collaborative relationships. Through evaluation, we found that cohort members value the connections they made during their time in the institute. Some members from past cohorts continue to work together on other programs and projects. For example, after the cohort ended, a few members established a basketball camp for youth together. Other members went on to work on a project called Group Violence Intervention (GVI) together with the City. A GVI team member and former cohort member, said that, …the construct of GVI… utilizes a lot of those strategies, a lot of those resources…it seems to be kinda like a continuation [of BPAI] because we have a couple individuals who actually came through the Blueprint. At the time in the cohort that we was in that we work with now in the capacity of what we was looking to do, we're actually doing it now.” Institute participants make connections, establish a collaboration with other individuals, and apply the things that they learned to other youth violence prevention projects.
One BPAI participant has received federal funding after going through the cohort. He has indicated that his agency would not have received this funding without the skills he learned in BPAI—particularly skills around navigating the complex details required of a federal grant application. Several previous members partnered with other City departments to secure funding to continue their programming after the completion of the BPAI. Other participants have gained skills to move up the ranks in their organizations and been able to take on management level jobs after having been a direct service provider. Cohort members have also stated that BPAI helped them to assess their personal weaknesses and to determine where they would need outside assistance for their organizations to be successful.
BPAI members come together, exchange resources, and learn from each other's expertise. Attendees of the program have valued the space for these conversations with each other. One member felt that, the contact with the different individuals, hearing their stories, hearing some of their difficult times, a lot of that was what I think was really beneficial: the hands on, the communication with the different individuals.” Furthermore, they enjoyed the cohort model of BPAI and felt that it allowed them to have fellowship among other members. It allowed them to support one another through the process as the lived similar experiences. Even if they were not able to collaborate immediately, they felt like they had a list of people they could go to for a future partner or resource.
Along with the networking opportunities that participants received, they have felt that the information provided to them about grant writing, developing a logic model, and community engagement gave them the necessary skillset to better serve their communities. They felt excited to learn the new information being taught to them and loved the conversations sparked by different topics.
In 2018, the Beyond the Bell® curriculum was introduced to the cohort. Beyond the Bell® is a suite of professional development services, products, and practical tools designed to help youth program leaders and staff members create and sustain high-quality, effective afterschool and expanded learning youth programs. Participants greatly appreciated the information that was provided in the Beyond the Bell® curriculum and were especially receptive to the many worksheets and templates that accompany the official training. However, training sessions were continually modified based on the needs of the cohort. Members indicated they preferred a more hands-on, discussion-based class, so we focused the last few trainings on networking, resource sharing, and planning for the final event. Through evaluation of this cohort conducted at the last cohort meeting, we have decided to continue to provide Beyond the Bell® as a resource that the members can refer to, but to build in more time next year for discussions, conversations, and networking around the table.
Throughout the years, we have made changes to BPAI based on the needs of the cohort members and based on our internal capacity to conduct the program. Based on our evaluations and anecdotal response, we found that some members wanted to have check-ins with the City after the cohort had ended. Additionally, we learned that members wanted to have reunion meetings after the cohort ended for a chance to check in with their fellow members. Going forward, we are creating a concrete plan to incorporate this feedback into BPAI. We strive to make sure that everyone within the cohort is having a meaningful experience both during and after the program.
The evaluations that we have done focused more on our short-term goals of increasing the knowledge and capacity of organizations, creating an avenue for networking and fellowship, and providing a space for collaboration. However, we are lacking in measurements of our long-term goals of increasing the organizational and program effectiveness, increasing the number of youth served in Minneapolis, and increasing the number of grants cohort members received after BPAI. Going forward, we plan to place more emphasis on evaluation training and skill building of our cohort members to allow them to evaluate their programs more effectively and to demonstrate their reach to MHD.
BPAI has been implemented four times within in the City of Minneapolis and has shown great promise in that time.
One lesson learned from implementation is that it can be difficult for small community-based agencies to meet the City of Minneapolis contrac