Justice System Reform for Health Equity: A Mixed Methods Examination of Collaborating for Equity and Justice Principles in a Grassroots Organizing Coalition.Health Educ Behav. 2019 10; 46(1_suppl):62S-70S.HE
Recent critiques of collective impact have provided a conceptual alternative that emphasizes the necessity of community organizing, and more explicit emphasis on advancing equitable systems and policy changes. This article reports results from a study of a citywide coalition in Chicago, IL that espoused many of these same principles. The coalition focused on justice system reform-systems and policy change that would dismantle punitive policies disproportionately affecting people of color-but also sought to connect these efforts with broader social determinants of health. The organizations that comprised the coalition were a pairing of those traditionally involved in restorative justice practice, and those traditionally involved in grassroots organizing. An action research partnership provided an opportunity to investigate processes and outcomes of a coalition created to advance equitable systems and policy changes. This analysis of the coalition's functioning employs a mixed methods approach. We utilize two waves of interorganizational social network data and qualitative data including participant observation, in-depth interviews, and archival document review to examine the coalition's successes and challenges related to each of the six core principles of Collaborating for Equity and Justice. This analysis provides practical insights into the benefits and challenges of implementing deeply participatory processes to address policy and systemic drivers of social determinants of health. Findings show that fully integrating all six principles is challenging, especially when a coalition represents broad constituencies across race, geography, and organizational philosophy. In such diverse settings, considerable time must be spent to build relationships and a strong foundation for sustainable processes.