Building Trust: Leadership Reflections on Community Empowerment and Engagement in a Large Urban Initiative

Amy E. Lansing
Natalie J. Romero
Elizabeth Siantz
Vivianne Silva
Kimberly Center
Danielle Casteel
Todd Gilmer
Peer-Reviewed Article
June 2023
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Leaders of community-based partnerships that offer trauma-informed programming highlight strategies for building trust with communities.


Trust has been identified as a key component of authentic and effective community engagement efforts to advance health equity, both to improve the direct outputs of community engagement initiatives and as part of broader efforts to bridge gaps in trust between health care organizations and historically marginalized communities. This study draws on longitudinal interviews with representatives of community-based organizations implementing trauma-informed initiatives to enhance community resiliency and promote community health — a program designed by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.  


Interviewees identified three overarching themes related to building trust within communities: (1) building relationships and engagement; (2) embodying core values of trustworthiness; and (3) sharing decision-making, championing autonomy, and addressing barriers of trust. The authors identified several trust-building activities aligned with each theme, such as making time and space to listen to community members and hiring staff with lived experience. Visual representation of the study's findings can be found in the "Community Circle of Trust-Building" within the article, illustrating 14 trust-building activities categorized under the three primary themes.


Based on firsthand perspectives, this study provides both theoretical and practical guidance for building trust within community-based partnerships to advance public health priorities. The longitudinal nature of the interviews, conducted at the programs’ implementation, midpoint, and final year, enhance the findings’ significance and reflect the evolving nature of trust-building actions as programs progress.

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