Collaborative Action Network 101


North Sound ACH has launched a learning, advocacy, and action network, open to all community members and organizations seeking to advance a just and inclusive culture and the necessary conditions required for all community members to thrive. Together we will provide the assets, influence, and leadership for the new Collaborative Action Network (the Network).

We are using a frame that will result in Network members co-designing and co-creating projects that North Sound ACH will support to advance the work in the region. Trusting partners in planning, design, and implementation decisions is one way to advance equity, well-being, and belonging in the region. We trust in your guidance and judgment as we build partnerships, strength, and capacity across the North Sound region.

This collection introduces foundational concepts you will see across the Network, including cohort activities and network-wide learning sessions.


Before we can achieve our goal of thriving people and places, we must first step back and see the systems that can support or diminish our freedom to thrive. These systems are our collective legacy.

Many of those legacies confer extraordinary benefits. But some are rooted in unjust, unwise, unsustainable, or racist ideas that are manifestly harmful. Those legacies, which greatly hinder our ability to thrive, can’t be erased. But they can be reckoned with and replaced – not in some distant future, but now. The work at hand is to define the imperatives that will shape legacies for the next generation—the legacies that will prepare us for future crises and determine our identity as a people.

–Adapted from Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery and Resilience in Communities Across America

Belonging & Inclusion

Belonging is based on the recognition of our full humanity, without having to become something different or pretend we’re all the same. Belonging provides the privileges of membership in a community, including the care and concern of other members. Belonging requires both agency and the power to co-create structures and institutions together (john powell). To build belonging, organizations must elevate community voice, acknowledge power dynamics, work to dismantle inequities, and value diversity and representation.

Cultivating belonging can lead to cultural transformation and preservation. For example, Children of the Setting Sun Productions Inc. is a multi-media, film, and theater arts production company that aims to make the culture and history of Native American people more accessible. They promote a strong sense of belonging through storytelling, and emphasize that “When hearts and minds are one, we’re able to learn and work together.”

Belonging, along with civic muscle, are necessary for expanding the vital conditions that all people need to thrive and for creating new legacies for well-being and justice. Belonging and Civic Muscle is one of seven interrelated “vital conditions” for well-being and justice.


Stewardship is the responsibility to oversee and protect something we care for and want to preserve, working together across differences to expand the vital conditions that all people and places need to thrive. It requires connecting across geographies, roles, departments, sectors, or cultural divides and being informed by place-based, interdisciplinary, multisector, multiracial, and multicultural perspectives. Stewardship is centered in equity by encouraging alignment, inclusiveness, knowledge sharing, and connecting across differences. Stewards can be lived experts (e.g., residents, family members and caregivers, faith-based leaders, neighborhood champions and influencers) and learned experts (e.g., health professionals, nonprofit agencies, local government, educational institutions, system leaders and funders).

Stewards understand that purpose must be larger than one individual or organization and power must be co-created and distributed with others. To be a steward is to celebrate diverse personal, cultural, and professional backgrounds, actively integrating and infusing these perspectives into work. Progress depends on stewards actively breaking from the status quo by continually creating opportunities for a different future to take hold.

Vital Conditions

Vital conditions are the properties of places and institutions that we all depend on to reach our full potential. Vital conditions shape the exposures, choices, opportunities, and adversities that we each encounter throughout our lives. Each vital condition is distinct and indispensable. Together, they form an interdependent system that shapes opportunities for people and places to thrive. (Thriving Together)

The seven vital conditions for well-being and justice are: Thriving Natural World; Basic Needs for Health & Safety; Humane Housing; Meaningful Work & Wealth; Lifelong Learning; Reliable Transportation; and Belonging & Civic Muscle.

Vital conditions align with the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), turning our attention to the policies, systems, and environments that shape our lives and influence our health. We know health happens where we live, learn, work, and play–not in the doctor’s office. Vital conditions also build on the SDOH by offering us guidance and direction. For example, housing alone isn’t enough to ensure our community members thrive. We need more than shelter. We need housing that is affordable, safe, and connected to our schools and jobs.

Belonging and Civic Muscle is a special vital condition: it is both a condition itself and necessary for all other vital conditions to expand. At a personal level, people need fulfilling relationships and social supports to thrive. People need to feel part of a community, contributing to its vibrancy, and developing the power to co-create a common world. Social support from friends, family, and other networks helps us navigate challenges and reinforces healthy behaviors. People who feel connected tend to live healthier, happier lives.

At the community level, we need to feel like an important part of a larger community, with strong social ties, trust, and cooperation—making it easier to work and learn together. This connection builds a virtuous cycle: When people feel valued and cared for within the community, they are more likely to contribute and participate in creating healthy, equitable places.

Targeted Universalism

The practice of targeted universalism sets universal goals for the general population that are accomplished through targeted approaches based on the needs of different groups. When we understand how we are each situated in relation to the vital conditions we all need to thrive, we are better able to meet the unique needs of our friends and neighbors—and move toward shared outcomes. Universal policies, like Social Security or minimum wage, are widely accepted but they often overlook marginalized groups. Targeted policies, like affirmative action for students of color or Medicaid, are more cost efficient and effective, but they may be viewed as unfairly helping one group at the expense of another. Targeted universalism combines the best of both approaches, targeting based upon how different groups are situated within structures, culture, and across geographies to obtain the universal goal.

Advancing equity, well-being and a sense of belonging are fundamental elements of the North Sound ACH’s work, using the framework of targeted universalism to shape and inform planning, actions, decision making, and investment. One of the key tenets of the Collaborative Action Network is sharing staffing, leadership, and funding for targeted investments, especially for those often left out of traditional investment strategies.