About the reports

Lead Local was a collaborative research project bringing together well-respected local power-building leaders in the fields of community organizing, advocacy, and research. From 2018 to 2020, Lead Local sought to answer the question: How does community power catalyze, create and sustain conditions for healthy communities?

Story of Place report cover featuring photos of diverse advocates calling for racial and economic justice

Story of Place: Community Power and Healthy Communities

By Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Madeline Wander

September 2020

Download executive summary

Leading Locally report cover featuring photos of diverse advocates from BASTA, the Tenants Union of Washington State, and The New Georgia ProjectLeading Locally: A Community Power-Building Approach to Structural Change

By Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Madeline Wander
September 2020

This report will look at community-led structural reforms as well as to investigate the story of community power building in place—in particular, 16 places across the country. Indeed, we know that individual and community health is shaped by the conditions of a given locality—and we set out to explore such conditions as well as the capacities and power-building strategies that are needed to catalyze, create, and sustain healthy communities.

Download full report with 16 place profiles

A Primer on Community Power, Place, and Structural Change


By Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Madeline Wander


September 2020

This brief examines how health equity can be achieved through a community power-building approach to structural change. While traditional health service providers treat people as patients, clients, or consumers, the field of community power treats people as agents of change.

Community power building is about building the ability of communities most impacted by structural oppression to set the agenda toward changing systems to create and sustain healthy communities—and the ability to achieve that agenda.

In short, a community power-building approach to health equity addresses structural issues and does so in ways that address powerlessness both in the process and as an end-goal.


Key Findings

  • There is a tendency to focus on narrow investments in immediate policy victories or short-term initiatives, rather than on long-term power. At the end of the campaign, groups retreat back to their issue or constituency siloes and the momentum and opportunities are lost to focus on the implementation of the hard-fought policy or to pivot to new issues.
  • A related problem is an emphasis on government—rather than governance. Traditional foundation-funded strategies are usually about winning government priorities and policies. We are challenging the field to think beyond policy wins and to consider changes in the broader institutional and community contexts that facilitate conditions for an equitable society.
  • Lastly, there is a lack of data-driven, systematic, and action-oriented tools that provide a comprehensive and shared understanding of the full terrain on which social change efforts are fought and victories secured and protected—and, relatedly, what capacities are needed.

Download Primer

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

    a view of the Los Angeles skyline