January 20, 2015
The context for optimal human development includes healthy families, flourishing communities, and the events and systems that shape these. Community capacity is found to be significantly correlated with positive trends in the rates of child safety and school completion (Laverack, 2006; Hall, 2012). Community capacity is described as the empowerment of communities to come together, share responsibility for alleviating crises, improve services, and build healthy environments for families and children (Chatskin, 1999).
This study provides information about the community context for child and family life in Washington, including the degree to which systems of the community operate effectively as a whole to improve outcomes. Using information from Key Informants in nine Washington communities, we consider processes that communities use to develop a sense of belonging and shared identity, come together in celebration or problem solving, reflect on past efforts, agree upon and collaboratively generate solutions, and weave a stronger social fabric as a part of considering community capacity development. Key Informant interviews and community capacity scoring of those interviews are designed to provide insight into the community contextual environment and the capacities of that environment.
Qualitative data from key informants in nine randomly selected Washington communities are considered in this report. Processes and tools used for analysis of the interviews and rating of community capacities are consistent with those used in over a decade of systematic observations of community capacity in Washington State. This includes both capacity index scores (Longhi & Porter, 2009), and correlations between interview content and descriptions of characteristics of five distinct phases of community capacity building (Flaspohler et al., 2012).
Forty-seven interviews with Key Informants in nine Washington communities, reveal common themes, as well as, significant community variation in practices that help communities to flourish. Since the instruments to assess community capacity have been consistently used from 1998 through this 2014-15 interview process, community capacity trends over time are also considered. The names of persons interviewed and the names of the communities where interviews were conducted are not used in this report in order to preserve confidentiality and optimize reporting of most promising and most challenging community capacity building stories.