Community Capacity Building: What To Know

At a Glance


Recent funding opportunities, particularly at the federal level, offer communities a chance to make themselves more resilient, add to their infrastructure, and make other changes that will impact the quality of life for years to come. Community capacity building ensures that everyone affected understands the changes and has a voice in the proceedings.

What is community capacity building?

Community capacity building involves engaging diverse members and groups to evaluate, plan, fund, design, build and maintain effective solutions to problems including social equity, environmental justice, public safety and resiliency. Community outreach and engagement is increased to enable communities to influence and positively impact their physical, social, economic, and cultural environments. Increased capacity results from engaging the underserved populations who are often disproportionately impacted by extreme temperatures, flooding, high energy cost burden, and air pollution from vehicle emissions.

Why is community capacity building important?

Many communities are struggling with the legacy of decisions made decades ago, when everyone did not have equal input into these decisions. Community capacity building fosters inclusive and meaningful input from members, enables better decision-making by benefitting from diverse perspectives, and can result in more effective solutions and a healthier and more resilient place to live and work.

What impacts will community capacity building have on IIJA-funded projects?

The IIJA is written with a focus on communities that have been historically excluded from design decisions. The Justice40 initiative, for example, has made it a funding goal that 40 percent of overall benefits from IIJA-funded programs and projects go to communities facing higher burdens from pollution, or are otherwise marginalized or underserved.

Justice40 has changed the makeup of a broad range of federal programs and introduced new considerations for eligible entities applying for grants or using formula funding. Similarly, many states, tribes and municipalities are working on improving capacity building to benefit underserved or overburdened communities.

The goal of any project is to improve daily life for everyone who lives, works, or spends time there. With community capacity building, the design, outcome and value of a project benefits everyone in the community.