Empowering Communities


Ohio boasts a strong reputation for innovation combined with heart. The diverse nature of the state includes eight urban centers, sprawling Appalachian counties, countless suburban towns, and rural communities. As a result, Ohio serves as an economic, cultural, and political microcosm of the United States. That translates into being a hotbed of activity for test markets and pilots of all kinds.

Social issues and solutions are the key to economic growth and community stability. We are eager to leverage more than 200 outstanding Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) community development organizations to accelerate and implement next-generation social innovation.


The CareSource Foundation awards OCDCA funds for Empowering Communities at its 33rd Annual Conference in Toledo in 2017.

The CareSource Foundation awards OCDCA funds for Empowering Communities at its 33rd Annual Conference in Toledo in 2017.

OCDCA and the CareSource Foundation are tackling this head-on by launching the Empowering Communities Grant Challenge.
The Empowering Communities Grant Challenge opportunity provides funding for innovative solutions to unique community challenges that involve the social determinants of health. The process consists of three stages:

  • Request for Proposal (RFP) process

  • Concept Presentation including Q&A

  • Implementation Phase

Watch the March 20, 2018 webinar called, "What is Empowering Communities?" This webinar covered more information about this brand, new funding opportunity.


The CareSource Foundation invested in nonprofit organizations that focus on the social determinants of health—those conditions that have significant positive or negative impact on overall quality of life. They define it in terms of the broad areas of:

  • Eliminating poverty/economic stability

  • Access to health care services

  • Addressing critical health trends to build or rebuild healthy communities

  • Positive birth outcomes

  • Domestic violence/child abuse

  • Access to economic and job opportunities

  • Sustainable housing solutions

  • Population health issues

  • Transportation disparities

  • Mental and behavioral health

  • Health and cultural literacy


The Empowering Communities project must contain elements that meet community needs including:

  • Innovative approach to a pressing community need

  • Engaged community with proven support of direction

  • Optional partnerships that will help drive the solution to fruition and/or ensure its success

  • Connect directly to the Social Determinants of Health focus

  • Requesting organization must be a nonprofit member in good standing of OCDCA

  • Financial integrity that meets the standards of the OCDCA review team

  • Applicant’s past performance with OCDCA opportunities may be taken into consideration.

The Process

Ashtabula County Community Action Agency receives Empowering Communities funding at OCDCA’s 34th Annual Conference in Columbus in October 2018.

Ashtabula County Community Action Agency receives Empowering Communities funding at OCDCA’s 34th Annual Conference in Columbus in October 2018.

Applications for the first cohort of Empowering Communities were due on May 4, 2018. From this RFP process, 47 organizations applied. Through this highly competitive process, six organizations were invited back for a Concept Presentation with Q&A in August 2018.

At OCDCA’s 34th Annual Conference in Columbus, October 5, 2018, CareSource Foundation and Ohio CDC Association announced that all six of these finalists would receive funding for their innovative concept. Five received funding through the Empowering Communities program, one received funding directly from the CareSource Foundation.

These six organizations are:

  • Miami Valley Housing Opportunities was funded $37,000 to continue the SLATE programs that address and reduce youth homelessness and chronic homelessness with a focus on increasing access to housing, employment, behavioral health care, recovery support, and income benefits.

  • Historic South Initiative was funded $50,000 to beta-test a potential Universal Pre-K program delivered in the home via internet and Chromebooks so transportation and attendance are not an issue for low-income, inner-city children.

  • Rural Action was funded $61,000 to launch the Empowering Rural Communities for a Culture of Health proposal, which aims to improve local community leadership across the county and networking capacity to affect desired change within the Social Determinants of Health related to environment, safety, isolation, healthy food access, and economic opportunity.

  • Ashtabula County Community Action Agency was funded $58,000 and will collaborate with the Ashtabula Area City School (AACS) District and local community leaders and partners to create a Community Learning Center (CLC) within the district. The purpose of the CLC is to address the non-academic conditions that negatively affect a student’s ability to come to school “ready-to-learn.”

  • Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation was funded $80,0000 to reorient its organization, partnerships, and service delivery around root causes of community health: the social determinants of health.

  • Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance was funded $150,000 directly from the CareSource Foundation to create the Kenmore Culinary JOBS Collaborate that will empower single mothers in the neighborhood by providing job skills and placement into area restaurants, starting with the Lil’ Bit Cafe.

These six organizations are now in the implementation phase, where they can test these programs. During this phase, OCDCA provides ample, wrap-around technical assistance and works to ensure quality, comprehensive evaluation occurs to measure effectiveness of these new ideas. These organizations have the entirety of 2019 to try these ideas, with the implementation phase concluding in December 2019.