Collaborative Approaches to Well-Being in Rural Communities

The proposal period for this RFP has closed and the initiative began in July 2018. See below for a list of grantees. 

The Collaborative Approaches to Well-Being in Rural Communities initiative aims to support rural* communities in their efforts to inclusively and collaboratively transform the environments where people live, learn, work, play and pray to support resilience, mental health, and well-being. The foundation awarded five, three-year grants totaling $2 million.

*For the purposes of this project, the foundation defines rural as counties of 250,000 people or less.

Project Description

The Collaborative Approaches to Well-Being in Rural Communities project aligns with the foundation’s new strategic direction. Through this project, we seek to address a lack of understanding of how communities support resilience and mental health, the significant inequities that exist in Texas, the community conditions that contribute to mental health disparities, and how people come together to create and implement community-driven solutions.

Grantees are developing or building on a community collaborative to assess, plan and implement strategies to become a healthier community that supports resilience, mental health and well-being. Using a population health approach to address specific conditions that contribute to mental health disparities, each community will determine their path toward mental health equity and community wellness. In addition, we also funded a separate coordinator grant to facilitate technical assistance and evaluation for the grantees, and to assist the foundation in thoughtfully partnering with and learning alongside the grantees.

Grantees are facilitating collaboration in their communities in which all partners contribute expertise, share decision-making and ownership of project outcomes, increase understanding of community conditions, and integrate knowledge gained with the goal of improved community well-being. Ultimately, the result we seek is that all people in Texas thrive in communities that value and support their resilience, mental health and well-being.


Selected grantees demonstrate a commitment to:
  • Shared learning through partnership with the foundation and other grantees
  • Creating learning environments in collaboration with the technical assistance and evaluation coordinator, foundation staff and other key stakeholders
  • Meaningful inclusion of traditionally excluded groups in planning, program and policy development, and change implementation
  • Collective impact and systems change through strategic partnerships
  • Engaging in community-based participatory research (CBPR) for continuous quality improvement and ongoing evaluation
  • Engaging in local and state-level policy development and advocacy
  • Prioritizing mental health as equally important to well-being as physical health
  • A sustainable community collaborative invested in developing and maintaining resilience, mental health and well-being of all community members
Project Activities

The first phase of the grant project includes substantial time for community development activities (like community assessments, community building, relationship development, education and training) as identified by the collaborative. In phase two, grantees will submit an implementation plan outlining strategies to improve community resilience, mental health and well-being.


Activities communities might engage in:
  • Assessment of community strengths, challenges and opportunities to better support resilience, mental health and well-being, and development of recommendations and a timeline for change
  • Development of metrics to measure progress and community outcomes
  • Professionally-facilitated meetings that convene and encourage engagement from various community stakeholders and groups who are traditionally excluded due to disability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, etc.
  • Trainings that build a shared understanding of the impact of social inequities and trauma, educate about prevention and early intervention strategies, challenge assumptions, highlight stories of recovery, and more
  • Educational activities that increase the community’s ability to participate in policy discussions at the state, regional and local level, including policy development, analysis, implementation and evaluation
  • Advocacy planning to identify necessary system-level changes (such as funding gaps, policy barriers, etc.), including strategy development and timeline, and a work plan to influence those changes

We believe mental health is not solely an individual responsibility, but also a product of community conditions, and the potential for change is greater when we focus our efforts on diverse, historically excluded or underserved populations. By working together, we can positively influence individuals’ well-being, and change the patterns of mental illness across Texas.

Nationwide, there is growing momentum to address health disparities and inequities, and a number of philanthropic efforts to improve health outcomes in communities. With this project, we join these efforts by partnering with rural communities as they work with diverse and historically excluded groups, facilitate courageous conversations, and implement improvements to support resilience, mental health and well-being.

Our country is experiencing a political and cultural climate that poses both challenges and opportunities to address longstanding cultural, social and economic inequities. As our population evolves to be more ethnically diverse, we must address mental health needs in ways that recognize and are sensitive to individual cultural experiences. For example, there are groups of people in Texas who experience higher rates of mental health challenges as a result of community conditions that influence their health and well-being. These conditions include social, environmental and economic factors, often stemming from structural differences in power and resources. The root causes of these differences include racism, sexism, classism, and other institutional and historic ways resources, opportunity and power are distributed. Further, misperceptions persist about associations between mental health and violence. Opportunities exist to address these stigmas in community settings. Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2017)

Definitions and Resources

“Collaboration is a process of participation through which people, groups, and organizations work together to achieve desired results. Collaborations accomplish a shared vision, achieve positive outcomes for the audiences they serve, and build an interdependent system to address issues and opportunities.” A collaborative is a group that comes together “to share vision, mission, power, resources and goals” to “jointly plan, implement and evaluate programs to achieve common goals” for collective impact. Learn more

Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” We believe the concepts of mental health and well-being should be promoted beyond the walls of health clinics and integrated into everyday life. Community members, leaders and professionals–-from teachers and preachers, to police officers and judges-–should understand the importance of well-being and the factors that influence it, and its relationship to resilience. Learn more

Rural Community

For the purposes of this project, the foundation defines rural as counties of 250,000 people or less, with a preference for smaller communities. Multiple counties who share an interest in building a resilient, mentally healthy and well community may collaborate as long as each county in the collaboration has 250,000 people or less.

View additional definitions and resources related to:

  • Collective impact
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Diversity
  • Equity versus equality
  • Historically excluded or underserved populations
  • Health disparities
  • Health equity
  • Relationship between health equity and health disparities
  • House Bill 13 (85th Texas Legislative Session, 2017)
  • Inclusion
  • Integrated health care
  • Mental/behavioral health disparities
  • Population health
  • Population mental health
  • Power and resources
  • Resilience
  • Social determinants of health
  • Social determinants of mental health
  • Stakeholders
  • Wellness