ARISE Initiative
ARISE (Activating Relationships in Illinois for Systemic Equity) is an opportunity for motivated urban and rural communities outside of Cook County that have experienced historic and present-day inequities in the context of COVID-19 to advance community resilience, sustainability, well-being, and equity.

ARISE supports communities to build a strategy to:

Improve the mental, physical, social and spiritual health and well-being of communities experiencing equity gaps in the context of COVID-19.

Address underlying vital community conditions, such as access to meaningful work and wealth, humane housing, and reliable transportation, that perpetuate health inequities.

Address root causes of health inequities, such as racism and an inequitable economy.

Building civic capacity and infrastructure for long-term systemic change.

Who Came Together?

WE in the World convened a partnership of 18 organizations across the state of Illinois who brought deep relationships and lived experience with communities experiencing inequities to bend the trend toward well-being and justice. Heluna Health stepped forward to act as the fiscal sponsor for the effort.

Together, we bent a $3.7 million pipeline of state funding toward communities experiencing inequities and created a response that created jobs and met people’s need for food, health and well-being. Together, we’re investing in building civic capacity to change the system so that these communities do not remain vulnerable to future pandemics.

The Role of WE in the World

Convener, partner, facilitator

What Is Changing?

Funding pipeline to make it possible for those most proximate to the problems to lead the strategy in their communities

Real-time data systems in communities

Community Civic Capacity


  • People connected to COVID vaccinations
  • People connected to well-being needs
  • Progress and improvement in underlying community conditions and root causes of health inequities
  • Strengthening of civic capacity within communities
  • Strengthening of health department capacity

How We Are Doing It

Approach & Building Blocks

These ARISE community collaborations have begun to engage in a 10-month intensive “learning-and-doing” program designed to assist communities to achieve unprecedented results in improving the health and well-being of people and the community-at-large, closing equity gaps in adult vaccinations, and building the civic capacity and infrastructure for more systemic change.

Assess collaboration practices

Build civic capacity

Work toward systemic change

Key Insights

Key Insight

Local organizations know best how to reach their neighbors and friends. With support, they can help to chart a path toward longer-term healing and resilience in areas that have been hit hardest.

Key Insight

People from very diverse racial and political backgrounds and lived experience can come together on a foundation of relationship and shared commitment to improving life in the community for everyone.

Key Insight

It is possible to build civic capacity and plan for long-term change even in the midst of a crisis--but it takes strength and discipline to organize ourselves for long-term change.

Key Insight

Relationships, process, results-trust is efficient.

“Public health has a distinct role in walking alongside our communities to tackle and address the root causes of health inequity, While these inequities have been brought into stark contrast by the impacts of COVID-19 on our communities, we know that there are solutions that can be applied. The heart of this project is to uplift local voices and develop local solutions in a way that will provide sustainable improvements to health and well-being for our Illinois communities.”

— Dr. Amaal Tokars


Short assessment about the functioning of your community coalition to advance health and equity