Resident Engagement

The Rippel Foundation, home of the ReThink Health Initiative, funded this research and development project to examine why working with residents is integral to regional health system transformation, and how stewards can be successful in their resident engagement efforts. Rippel defines "residents" as people who live and work in the community who are not professionally involved in regional stewardship, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The resident engagement work concluded in 2018 and what follows was written that same year.

Why should stewards working to transform the health and well-being of their regions care about the way they engage residents?

First, sustained resident engagement can result in more effective and equitable policies and practices—and increase residents’ support for them.

Second, engagement—especially when sustained over time—strengthens the regional networks that have direct, positive effects on residents’ physical and mental health and well-being.

Third, sustained resident engagement builds relationships between people, organizations, and sectors so that they can understand and support one another better.

Ensuring active resident engagement and leadership—in which residents have a respected voice and real power in decision-making—is essential to creating the kind of effective cross-sector collaboration that can transform regional health and well-being.

How do we know?

To understand what kind of resident engagement stewards need to pursue when they are interested in transformation, ReThink Health conducted an extensive review of the literature and more than 50 interviews with stewards across the nation, examining the role of ordinary people in shaping big cultural shifts from the past. We wondered: how did resident engagement play (or not play) a role in the anti-smoking or recycling movements, for example?

We discovered that the critical moment in various movements’ successes occurred when the lead organizations started creating conditions for large numbers of local residents to act in new and different ways.

Stewards learned how to:

  • influence and create conditions for residents to act collectively and build power with the purpose of creating health;
  • support and develop the capacity of local residents to lead some of the transformational efforts; and
  • partner with residents to accomplish what they see as the goals, even if those goals seem to go beyond the scope of their immediate agenda.

That means no more stale, rote exercises conducted to meet a regulatory requirement or to check a box on a funding application. No more design without paying attention to historical context or critical analysis of existing power dynamics. And forget siloed and inconsistent efforts that are treated as side shows needing only limited implementation.

Stewards interested in learning more about how to meaningfully engage residents can start with our planning curriculum tool for developing a resident engagement strategy, and dig into the blogs and resources below. The kit evolved out of the research above, as well as our direct engagement with Way to Wellville, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CACHI: California Accountable Communities for Health Initiative, New York State Foundation, and many other communities and residents across the United States.

Meet Our Project Team


Anna Creegan

Project Director

Katherine Wright

Associate Director, Stewardship Practice



Let’s Help Professionals Become Active Agents in Their Health Ecosystems

To bridge the gap between institutions and the people they serve, stewards are fostering the rise of new professions, such as community health workers and peer educators. Imagine if professionals—both these new ones, and existing ones like medical doctors—were trained to become active agents in transforming their health ecosystems.


Public Narrative Toolkit

We designed this toolkit to help stewards working together to transform health and well-being use the power of storytelling to motivate action, draw out emotion, and build alignment. This toolkit includes short videos, worksheets, workshop agendas, and coaching tips.


Exploring Resident Engagement for Health System Transformation

Many think of resident engagement as raising residents’ awareness of the services an organization offers, or gathering feedback on decisions already made. We’ve learned with stewards that the most effective form of resident engagement is to support active resident leadership, by creating the conditions for large groups of residents to lead and be involved in system transformation work.


Resident Engagement Practices Typology

We lay out the three outcomes those engaging in regional resident engagement practices seek to pursue, and the common practices they use to achieve those outcomes. The three are: Resident Awareness and Participation, Feedback and Input from Residents, and Active Resident Leadership. Transforming a region’s system for health requires a balance between practices of across all three outcomes.


Keep Three Approaches in Balance for Successful Resident Engagement

Learn about our Resident Engagement Practices Typology, the highly concentrated result of combining ReThink Health’s past findings with the results from interviews with over 50 stakeholders (representatives from hospital systems, philanthropies, community-based organizations, public health departments, insurers, and resident leaders) from across the country. The Typology outlines the three main types of engagement outcomes and examples of ways stewards could reach those outcomes.


The Importance of Residents’ Sense of Belonging, Trust, and Power

We know that health and well-being are about more than just treatment of illness—they are influenced by many things, including our sense of belonging, trust, and power. Here, we use illustrations and real-life examples to explore how and why stewards should apply this knowledge to resident engagement efforts.


When Designing Resident Engagement Practices, Local Context Matters

Stewards can’t just walk into a community and expect residents to engage with them their way—they need to understand local context and build credibility and trust. We draw on experience and surveys to start stewards down the path toward authentic resident engagement that works in harmony with local history.


Resident Engagement: A Toolkit

Exercises, meeting guides, videos, and more to help stewards lead their groups to plan resident engagement efforts. Among other things, they can help stewards accurately assess their resident engagement efforts, get on the same page about their goals, and figure out how to close the gap between the two.


Developing a Value Proposition Narrative: A Toolkit

ReThink Health designed this tool to walk stewards through developing a shared vision for health and well-being (based on a clear understanding of their current reality) and a value proposition (that articulates their unique ability to work toward that vision), then combining those into a value proposition narrative that can guide future action.