Our North Star Amidst Uncertainty: Announcing the HIP 2020–2024 Strategic Plan

By Lili Farhang and Solange Gould

When HIP’s Board of Directors adopted our new 5-year strategic plan on March 13, we had no idea that we were facing a global pandemic, and a renewed nationwide movement to defend Black Lives and reimagine community safety. We had no idea that life and public discourse would change in innumerable ways. It’s been almost 5 months since that day, and we feel confident (and relieved!) that our new plan 100% holds up in this rapidly changing context. It’s just what we need to guide our work at this moment, and we hope you’ll agree.

Over the course of the past year, HIP’s Board and staff engaged in a collaborative process to reflect on our mission, vision, and values, and to evaluate our work. We received feedback from stakeholders on what we were doing right and what we needed to improve. These conversations invited us to consider our work with fresh eyes and articulate anew the why of HIP.

Here’s what we heard: HIP’s theory of change and strategies were spot on, valuable, and filled a unique role in public health. But it was clear we needed to update our mission to match the breadth and depth of our work, be more explicit about our guiding values, and double down on our social movement approach — all while getting more clear about the impacts we seek to have.

The plan that emerged is the result of many long, thoughtful, and sometimes challenging discussions among HIP staff and Board, informed by the input of our beloved community organizing partners, public health colleagues, health equity fellows, research collaborators, and funders. We are indebted to all of you for being on this journey with us.

Photo of the HIP staff together on zoom call
Photo of the HIP staff together on zoom call
The Human Impact Partners staff staying connected while sheltering in place, August 2020.

Human Impact Partners transforms the field of public health to center equity and builds collective power with social justice movements.

This new mission statement is ambitious and plainly states what we see as our role in the public health landscape. And as the health impacts of stark racial, income, and occupational inequities become all the more evident with COVID-19, we take this role more seriously than ever.

We named a set of values to guide our approach and relationships:

  • Structural transformation
  • Centering the heart
  • Racial Justice
  • Authentic democracy
  • Partnership
  • Emergent practice

We have renewed our commitment to our theory of change. We can only advance equity by confronting the unequal distribution of power in society and dismantling the systems of advantage and oppression — namely, structural racism — that maintain these injustices. We achieve sustainable, long-term change through a social movement approach, where grassroots organizers and people closest to harm are identifying transformative solutions. And public health — particularly governmental public health — is deeply allied with these movements, engaged in pursuit of structural solutions that target our policies, systems, institutions, and narratives.

Last, while the what of HIP is not changing greatly, we’ve refined our strategies based on what we learned in the past 5 years, to be better grounded in our theory of change. We will continue to support public health and social justice allies with advocacy, organizing, capacity building, and policy-focused research. And we’ll continue to focus on the knowledge and direction of those most directly impacted by inequity.

We stretched ourselves to more clearly state the impacts we seek to have as an organization and staff. We aim to meaningfully contribute to the following impacts:

  • Impacted communities and community organizing groups have power to transform systems and policies to advance health equity and racial justice.
  • Health equity is the explicit goal of public health institutions — particularly governmental public health — with systems change at the center of the work.
  • Public health practitioners are agents of change for health equity and racial justice.

Over the past several months, grassroots and governmental partners alike have been reaching out to HIP for support. Their stories paint a picture that more bridges between our worlds are needed to enact structural transformations to center health equity and racial justice..

Grassroots organizing groups are asking us to help them gain access to, and build stronger relationships with, governmental public health. They want public health officials to use their voice and authority to: respond to COVID-19-exacerbated inequities unfolding in jails, prisons and detention centers, and among frontline and service sector workers; to support long-term wellbeing by ensuring people can stay in their homes and be economically secure as we move into recovery; and to name and address racism as a public health crisis. Check out our policy platform for more on their demands.

While public health departments are engulfed in COVID-19 response and containment, they are also being called on by movement leaders and people across the country to lead with race. They are responding by asking for support in how to center racial and health equity in their emergency response; for examples of policy and systems change that center people most at risk; and for help in developing narratives that highlight the value of effective government. They are looking for resources to unpack and address the public health harms of policing and structural racism. They want to support and respond to grassroots organizers — yet need help navigating complex political environments, while facing targeting and harassment, and a perceived lack of power. We encourage them to be courageous and to take the strategic risks necessary to address the deep inequities we all face.

And we have a long way to go. To truly transform public health, we must address a pandemic unfolding against a backdrop of the long and continued legacy of structural racism and disinvestment in our communities. As we continue to mourn Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and the countless others who have been killed by the police, we follow the leadership of the Movement for Black Lives in calls for an end to policing, surveillance, and incarceration, and investment in systems to support a world where all have what they need to thrive.

Getting through these compounding crises will take creativity, courage, the willingness to part with what is known. It will take us working outside of our lanes, comfort zones, and traditional training and funding constraints. It will take us working in deep partnership with one another, and leading with our hearts.

Arundati Roy said it best:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

During the formation of our new strategic plan, we created a container that allowed us to imagine what our future would look like when we achieved health equity and racial justice. We were forced to let go of those parts of HIP that weren’t leading us actively towards that future. Let’s continue to imagine and create a powerfully-transformed future, and join together across movements to build our power for the long fight ahead.

In love and solidarity,
Lili + Solange

HIP Staff and Board at our retreat, October 2019

Lili Farhang is Co-Director at Human Impact Partners. For nearly 20 years, she has visioned, developed, and implemented policy and systems change to advance health equity in the government and nonprofit sectors, and she’s feeling energized by people’s willingness to talk about race, power and the other root drivers of health.

Solange Gould is Co-Director at Human Impact Partners. She has been in public health practice for over 20 years, advancing progressive policy and systems change to improve health, equity, and sustainability with government partners, advocates and organizers, and communities most impacted.

Bringing the power of public health to campaigns and movements for a just society