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While it is now widely accepted that community engagement is key to responsive and impactful planning, Community Solutions has incorporated community engagement strategies into our work since our start in 2000. By incorporating the wisdom of diverse stakeholders – often including people who are most impacted by the programs, policies, and systems that are being addressed in the work – our clients often find more creative and impactful solutions to complex, persistent challenges than they could arrive at on their own. In convening groups, we consider how to create the space needed for groups to have important and sometimes challenging discussions, facilitate important dialogue, document and synthesize information, and use the information gathered to inform strategy development.

Some examples of the ways we have engaged communities include:

  • Convening and facilitating groups to develop a plan for addressing food insecurity in a community.

  • Gathering input on priorities and interests for HIV prevention and treatment supports from people living with HIV and others who work in the field to guide public investment in programs and services.

  • Convening re-entry providers and individuals who have experienced incarceration in a World Café to discuss gaps and solutions in re-entry services.

  • Redesigning funding decision-making processes to incorporate  community residents and other stakeholders into the grant review process of a community foundation.


Project Example: 

Zero is Possible: Indiana's Plan to End HIV 

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Zero is Possible: Indiana’s Plan to End HIV and Hepatitis C, 2021-2030 (the ZIP-IN Plan) presents an approach to collectively address HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV)—due to the shared risk factors, barriers to treatment, healthcare providers and community support networks, and opportunities to develop a comprehensive, whole-person approach to patient care, counseling, and treatment.

Community Solutions was engaged by the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) Division of HIV/STI/Viral Hepatitis in 2020 to assist in the development and implementation of the ZIP-IN Plan. As the centerpiece of the ZIP-IN Plan, IDOH created the ZIP Coalition program. The ten ZIP Coalitions are made up of diverse, cross-sector individuals (individuals from multiple sectors - housing, public health, philanthropy, education, etc., who will bring their knowledge and experience to the ZIP Coalitions) from across the regions and are designed to help organizations develop and coordinate around priorities at the local level. As part of the planning process, Community Solutions convened a diverse array of partners to inform the development of the plan, including:


  • Regional Listening Sessions—Conducted ten sessions in partnership with regional ZIP Coalitions across the state to hear from more than 130 individuals working in HIV and HCV, and people with lived experience around the state about best practices, resources, and service gaps.

  • IDOH Listening Sessions—Led three sessions with 46 staff members to gain IDOH perspectives on what should be done by IDOH around each of the four pillars included in the ZIP-IN Plan.

  • Community Voice Project—Gathered input from seven organizations in nine Zip Coalition regions who shared feedback, in partnership with community-based organizations, from people with lived experience across the state.

  • Pillar Strategy Workgroups—Worked with more than 70 stakeholders who served as subject-matter experts to aid in the drafting and revising of the objectives and strategies included in each pillar of the ZIP-IN Plan.


Community Solutions believes that through collaboration, we can harness and leverage the wisdom in the communities we serve—showing the alignment of this initiative with our own Theory of Change. 

Through continued engagement with IDOH, Community Solutions developed resources to support the work of the ZIP Coalitions. As the ZIP Coalitions gained momentum, one of the challenges they highlighted was engaging people with lived experience to participate, which led Community Solutions to develop the coaching program. Each ZIP Coalition is paired with a coach who works with them to develop specific strategies to engage people with lived experience in Coalition activities and leadership. The coaches reflect underrepresented groups—people living with HIV/HCV, people of color, and people with a history of drug use—and bring perspective and experience to ZIP Coalitions that is often lacking to help them determine how to increase engagement and representation of people with lived experience.

"With our shared goal of bringing more people with lived experience to the table, we are helping to build community." – ZIP Coalition Coach

Through implementation of the ZIP-IN Plan, Indiana will see fewer HIV and HCV diagnoses while increasing access to high-quality and compassionate care and treatment for people living with HIV/HCV by 2030. The ZIP-IN Plan is a dynamic, actionable guide that will be monitored, evaluated, and adjusted, in response to changing contexts, official guidelines, and lessons learned.


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