Communities RISE Together to Advance Health Equity in the Context of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic and the shifts in life that came from it (shutdown, essential workers, etc) revealed the fault lines of inequity across the world. Communities of color, people in poverty, LGBTQ+ youth and older adults were disproportionately affected in terms of their health, wealth and well-being.

Resources to alleviate challenges disproportionately went to communities that were wealthier. In an unfair playing field, those with advantage are able to better access resources. In addition, hundreds of years of mistrust and a system of misinformation and disinformation meant that communities that most needed life-saving vaccines didn’t trust them.

We knew our response to the pandemic would lead to poor outcomes in health and well-being over generations.

Why Does this Challenge Exist?

Communities of color and communities in poverty were already affected by chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease from living in places of concentrated poverty and from experiences of racism, poverty, and other forms of exclusion.  In addition, these same groups didn’t have the freedom to work from home, didn’t have generational wealth to ride out the pandemic and were more exposed to the financial and health impacts of the pandemic.  This meant they lost access to all their vital conditions–food, housing, meaningful work, and more.

Learn more

Who Came Together?

WE in the World convened a national partnership of organizations who brought deep relationships and lived experience with communities experiencing inequities in 2400+ communities across the nation to bend the trend toward well-being and justice.  The Public Health Institute stepped forward to act as the fiscal sponsor for the effort.

Together, we bent a $27 million pipeline of federal 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 Changed

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

Strategic partnerships across organizations that represent Black, indigenous, Latinx, migrant, and older adult communities.


  • 100+ million people reached in communities experiences inequities

  • 372,344 people connected to vaccinations and social needs

  • 190,207 people vaccinated

How We Did It

Approach & Building Blocks

Building trust

Strengthening civic capacity

Transforming systems

Key Insight

There is strength and power in community to build equity and transform systems when we all work together and can learn from each other.


And Failings Forward

It took a lot of time and trust for those experiencing inequities to trust in the vaccine. It helped to honestly acknowledge reasons for mistrust, to be in relationship as questions arose, to be able to say when we don’t know and think together about how we can approach change in a way that builds long term trust.

We needed to build workaround systems to make sure money could get to communities that had the greatest trust and assets to lead. This required building equitable intermediary processes to shift the balance of power. In the long term, the rules that prevent these groups from accessing funds directly need to be changed.

Communities often experienced data requirements from funding sources that were not aligned with their strategies or priorities. We had to build data systems that worked for them.


Framework and tools to strategically advance health equity for public health change agents

A detailed case study of the RISE approach to creating an equitable COVID response by building trust, civic capacity and transforming systems, filled with stories and interviews from partners and communities.

A 3-page overview of how to create an equitable response to the intertwined aspects of the COVID “syndemic” by building a team to work closely with the impacted communities.

A 14-page report advocating three key steps: 1) Providing impacted people with needed resources through trusted networks; 2) Build resilient communities to change systems and policies; 3) Build a support system for an equitable response at scale.

Our Mission And Approach

Advance intergenerational well-being and equity on a foundation of racial and economic justice.

Our Team

We are change agents passionate about igniting transformation for well-being and equity.

Our Partners

No one changes the world alone. Meet the broader “WE” that we’re building together.

Our Funders

Real change is only possible when we have the support of funders and investors who care about well-being and equity as much as we do.


Looking for community? Get plugged into resources and networks through WE.

  • WE in the World Changemakers
  • Communities RISE Together
  • The Wellbeing in the Nation (WIN) Network
  • Leading Causes of Life


A world of mutual abundance unshackled from systemic injustice is within reach, but it will take all of our contributions to get there.

WE in the World is a non-profit supporting changemakers globally to change the system.


Investing in a better world for our grandchildren.

Stewarding natural resources. Creating space for all races and voices.

Invest in changing the system.

Join Our Team

Explore opportunities to become part of the broader WE in the World team!
  • Job opportunities
  • Consultants corner
  • WE changemakers


No event found!

Latest News

MLK Day: 5 women who played a vital role in the civil rights movement

MLK Day: 5 women who played a vital role in the civil rights movement

Today we celebrate the legendary civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the many women who also played integral roles in the fight against racial, economic and gender inequalities in America. From lunch counter sit-ins to nonviolent marches, those...


Civil rights and genuine equity

Civil rights and genuine equity

photo by Steven Walker l Unsplash Two Americas In 1967, during the height of the fight for Civil Rights and equity for all, Dr. Malcom...

Making an Equitable Economy Real

Making an Equitable Economy Real

What is a restorative well-being economy? A well-being economy is built on the basic goal of all people and places thriving together. It is an economy that is just, regenerative, and multiracial.  A well-being economy  rebalances power to provide what everyone needs...

Organizing Across Differences

Organizing Across Differences

Our ability to organize across differences is a unique superpower in which we exercise curiosity and share values, goals, and purpose. These superpowers consist of the ability to engage and foster relationships with a mindset and narrative change focused on...