Skip to content

Community Engagement Discussion Guide

Community Engagement Discussion Guide

Watch the Community Engagement Webinar Here
Download the Session Slides Here

Prepared by
James A. Rice, Ph.D.
Brian E. Rice, MHA

Series Preface:

This discussion guide is part of an “ACHD Governance Toolkit” composed of a series of six recorded webinars organized by the Association of California Healthcare District (ACHD) to encourage and support healthcare district boards of directors to further enhance the performance of their governance models and practices. The six topics addressed are:

  1. Community Engagement
  2. Balancing Governance & Management
  3. Board Orientations
  4. Strategic Planning
  5. Board Self-Assessments
  6. Board Education Programming

The six programs consist of an approximately 15-minute video with a downloadable slide deck, and a short discussion guide to stimulate healthy conversations between the CEO and the board about practical ways they can collaborate for more effective and efficient board decision making in each topic. The programs are also intended to help encourage healthcare districts to consider the successful completion of ACHD Certification.

The ACHD Certified Healthcare District Program promotes good governance for healthcare districts by creating a core set of accountability and transparency standards. This core set of ACHD standards is known as Best Practices in Governance and districts that demonstrate compliance are designated by ACHD as a Certified Healthcare District for a period of three years. Find more information on our website.

Each of the six webinars can be optimized when the Board Chair and CEO collaborate to organize a five-step program of education for the coming year.

The five-step process for your board-CEO conversation to address these topics is suggested to be:

  1. The CEO and Board Chair reaffirm their shared commitment to the continuous enhancement of the board’s education and capacity development. Jointly express this commitment at the beginning of each year.
  2. Adopt a board policy of continuous board development that embraces:
    * Periodic CEO briefing materials on topics relevant to the strategic plans and challenges of the healthcare district.
    * A calendar of speakers in routine board meetings on hot topics to help the district’s vitality.
    * Organization of a “Symposium” on board best practices with other community organizations and associations for joint learning and community leader networking.
    * Participation in small groups of district board members at ACHD or other state conferences on strategic issues and trends.
    * Organization of customized educational readings or mentors for each board member based on their unique needs and requests.
  3. Organize a 30-minute educational session during a Spring and Fall board meeting to focus on one or more of the six Webinar topics. Ask one board member to team with a member of management and/or the staff to jointly present, and help guide the discussion around the webinar and this Discussion Guide. This team approach helps build interest, ownership and shared responsibility among the board for its ongoing development.
  4. Encourage all board members to watch to the short video recording of the webinar before the scheduled discussion session. All should come to the discussion session ready to contribute in these ways:
    * Assess how well this topic is being addressed in your healthcare district;
    * Bring questions and ideas about how your district might better address this topic in the future; and
    * Bring some suggested resources that might help your healthcare district enhance its learning and planning for this topic.
  5. Conduct a collegial assessment of each program to see how its value to your district could best be optimized in the coming year. Share your ideas with the ACHD staff.

Thank you again for all you do for the people of your healthcare district, and for the enhanced performance of your healthcare district board work!

Contact ACHD staff at any time with questions, or contact us at

Let’s begin moving though this discussion guide.

Community Engagement


Thank you for your interest in exploring how your healthcare district board might better understand and develop its capacity for enhanced community engagement. We see community engagement as a two-way street that both (a) invites the community into the work of your district’s board, and (b) encourages your board to engage more effectively in the community through partnerships focused on community health gains and population health.

This discussion guide is not a stand-alone document. The guide is to be used in conjunction with the corresponding recorded webinar and slide deck. We encourage your board and CEO to collaborate for shared strategic thinking and planning to support your board members, individually and collectively, to be more effective in establishing and nurturing community partnerships by new strategies and structures of engagement.

This Discussion Guide is organized to answer these questions:

  1. What is “Community Engagement”?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. Common issues or challenges?
  4. What can boards do to be more successful?
  5. Where to secure resources for further educational insights on this topic?

Within each of these five sections, we pose a series of questions to guide your conversations about how to best enhance your work in developing and managing community engagement as a means to accomplish the mission of your healthcare district.

1. What is “Community Engagement”?

We have found that community engagement is a structured process to build and nurture partnership(s) with diverse players, such as:

  1. Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) partners
  2. Provider partners
  3. Payer partners
  4. Government, Civic and Business leaders
  5. Supply Chain partners
  6. Donor partners

Partnerships that deliver meaningful value resulting in health gain and health care in a resource constrained environment!

To strengthen your thinking and actions in this sphere of interest, please try to ask and answer these questions within a board retreat or board meeting:

  • What do you mean by “community”? In addition to the above players in your region, what are the various segments in the population that make up your diverse community (ethnicity, race, gender, religions, age sub-groupings)? What do they need from you? What would you like from them? What actions should you consider taking to optimize the chance for your needs and theirs to best be met in the coming months?
  • When we say “engagement” what does that mean? As both a noun (look the word up in the dictionary here and talk about how it applies to your healthcare district), and as a verb, found here.
  • If we are to build and nurture “partnerships” as an output of community engagement, what are the outcomes we desire from these partnerships? We partner to achieve what strategic goals or objectives?

2. Why is it important?

Our work in many communities and countries suggest there are many reasons to better master Community Engagement. First, as a healthcare district in California, we have no real choice as a community organization formed for and from the community! Other dimensions of its importance to us can be:

  • The health care environment and landscape are more complex, riskier, and expensive than ever before.
  • Because we cannot possibly have all the answers to most successfully engage or partner with the population segments in our district, it is not wise to do it alone; we need wisdom, leverage and resources of others in our journey to achieve our healthcare district’s mission.
  • Collaboration more than competition is now more likely to be an expected model from key stakeholders: payers, media, community leaders, providers, employees, donors, policy makers.
  • Our journey to our mission needs intentional “mapping” rather than “drifting” for our sustained vitality.

How would you address these questions to improve your ability to leverage the importance of community engagement?

  • What are 2-3 examples of the value of better community engagement for your healthcare district?
  • You might ask your community partners how they measure the value of, or importance of better community partnering?

3. Common issues or challenges?

While many see the value of better community engagement and partnerships, it is not easy to accomplish and maintain these collaborative partnerships. Our work indicates these are some of the most important obstacles that constrain or frustrate good partnership opportunities:

  • We must find new revenues to help us protect and promote community health compared to restoring health via acute care.
  • New partnerships require new people, personalities, processes, priorities, and professions.
  • Many distractions and competing priorities as U.S. and California policy constraints pull us from populations compared to patients.
  • Lack of experience and tools in community-based planning and “Collaborative Governance”.
  • Lack of resources to walk-the-talk.

What do you see as the key challenges to build enduring cooperation with these potential populations in your community?

  • Physicians and other providers?
  • Other community and civic organizations interested in health status and health care?
  • Payers?
  • Hispanic, African American, and other minority populations?
  • Disabled populations?
  • Homeless populations?
  • Young families?
  • Frail seniors?
  • The younger generation?
  • Others in your region?

4. What can Boards do to be more successful?

While your healthcare district board cannot do everything for every segment of the community, there is much you can do with careful study, listening and planning, such as:

  • Invite education from community leaders on needs, barriers, and new strategies within new models of cooperation, and new sources of funds to catalyze and support collaboration and engagement.
  • Study successful models of “Collective Impact” and “Collaborative Governance” across California, across the U.S., and in other countries.
  • Experiment with “Community Plunges”

Please discuss how you can best answer these related questions:

  • What examples of community engagement and partnering have you already been using in your healthcare district? Why are they working well, or why not?
  • How might you organize a community focus group or roundtable to listen to the needs the people and partners you wish/need to engage with, and then how would you use “sincere inquiry” to ask them how they might best engage with you to address their needs (and yours)?
  • Pick one of the tough challenges in section 3 above. How should your board and executive team best remove, reduce or work around that obstacle?

5. Where to secure resources for further educational insights on this topic?

We encourage you to have a conversation about where you can turn for ideas and resources to build and sustain healthy community partnerships, and the processes of collaboration and engagement to build them. Our suggested sources are shown here:

What do you find as suggested resources to use in your community engagement efforts?

Thank You

Thank you again for all you are doing to build community engagement.

Please reach out to ACHD staff for comments or suggestions to improve this board development discussion guide and webinar.

And thank you for all you do for the people you exist to serve in your healthcare district!



Scroll To Top