A community leadership approach to gun violence prevention

A community leadership approach to gun violence prevention

CFLeads is planning to launch a second cohort of the Gun Violence Prevention Network in fall 2023. If you are a community foundation interested in participating in this network, please contact Caroline Merenda at cmerenda@cfleads.org or 617-854-3547 to learn more.

Between the fall of 2021 and 2022, four community foundations across the country came together to advance local gun violence prevention by learning about and adapting best practices through CFLeads’ Gun Violence Prevention Network.

Taking A Community-Driven Approach

Community-driven approaches that treat gun violence as a public health issue have shown a sustained reduction in gun violence in cities and regions across the country. Many advocates and others concerned about gun violence in the U.S. are proponents of this approach, in addition to focusing on public safety policies and tools that can help reduce death and physical harm. As local leaders and conveners, community foundations are uniquely positioned to support the complex work of gun violence prevention.

Through the CFLeads Gun Violence Prevention cohort, I learned the value of a public health approach to reducing future gun violence.”
Ventura County Community Foundation

To support the Gun Violence Prevention Network participants, CFLeads worked with Reggie Moore, Director of Violence Prevention Policy and Engagement for the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Injury Center.

Moore led the creation of Milwaukee’s Blueprint for Peace, a community-driven agenda that took a public health approach to address the complex factors that drive violence in Milwaukee. The original Blueprint was shaped by more than 1,500 individuals, elevating the voices of youth, community residents, and key stakeholders to call for strategic, aligned, and sustained investments and action to prevent violence, build resilience, and create a safer, healthier city.

By addressing the socio/economic/public health conditions that may result in gun violence, we have the best opportunity to not only reduce gun violence but to improve the living conditions and life experience of our community members most at risk (either as perpetrators or as victims).”
Ventura County Community Foundation

Community Leadership Highlights

All four community foundations that participated in the Network employed the five competencies of community leadership to advance their local gun violence prevention efforts. Below are highlights from each community foundation and how they employed one of the competencies in their work.

A) Using data

Each community foundation team conducted a local analysis of their communities’ gun violence data and trends with support from Shani Buggs, PhD, MPH, Violence Prevention Research Program at University of California, Davis. These findings helped inform each community foundation’s gun violence prevention work. 

Highlight: Ventura County Community Foundation found that their local violent crime statistics did not always provide the details necessary to reach conclusions. This analysis helped the foundation identify the need to conduct detailed crime report reviews to better understand the circumstances surrounding the crimes, and led it to prioritize further data collection and broaden its focus to include all kinds of community violence.

B) Working across sectors

Network participants are working across sectors to advance gun violence prevention tactics in their communities.

Highlight:  The Community Foundation of Greater Flint has established a local Gun Violence Prevention Network comprised of 16 organizations representing multiple sectors. The local network’s goal is to utilize data, resident support, and a public health approach to address this issue.

Flint’s network has engaged the broader community by hosting a Zoom presentation with Reggie Moore titled “No Single Solution: Building a Comprehensive System for Community Safety and Violence Prevention.” The group is currently seeking additional stakeholder partners to participate in a strategic planning committee that will outline the best use of federal funds the city is receiving from the Department of Justice.

C) Engaging residents

As demonstrated by Milwaukee’s Blueprint for Peace, resident engagement is an integral aspect of gun violence prevention.

Highlight: The Kalamazoo Community Foundation has hosted more than 20 community listening sessions, presentations, and focus groups as an essential part of their gun violence prevention plan. To date, they have engaged governmental officials, juvenile homes, the NAACP, youth groups, parental networks and many more in these conversations.

Kalamazoo’s work was recently featured in the news, highlighting both their health-based approach to gun violence prevention and their efforts to weave resident voice into their gun violence prevention blueprint. The foundation also recently hosted a talk with Moore about what Kalamazoo’s own Blueprint for Peace could look like, using a community-driven approach.

Our gun violence prevention work is constantly evolving in partnership with our community– there is no “one-size fits all” solution. It requires communities to heal across generations and to move at the speed of trust.”
Kalamazoo Community Foundation

D) Marshalling resources

By taking a community-based approach to addressing gun violence, community foundations have the opportunity to marshal additional resources to support this work.

Highlight: In October 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded Cleveland a $2 million grant under the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative for a community-wide, long-term violence intervention plan and program. In preparation for utilizing this funding, the Cleveland Foundation and its partners sent a delegation to Milwaukee, hosted by Reggie Moore, to learn about their Blueprint for Peace efforts and work together to find a better solution to the same problem.

The community foundations learned about this funding opportunity at a Gun Violence Prevention Network meeting. The City of Flint also received a grant of $1.5 million and will be partnering with the community foundation and their local Gun Violence Prevention Network to help plan the grant spending.

Learn More

To learn more about the work of our Gun Violence Prevention Network participants, visit their websites:

Visit these CFLeads resources for more information about how community foundations can engage in gun violence prevention work:

Lastly, we encourage you to read Milwaukee’s Blueprint for Peace for an example of a community-driven agenda to addressing gun violence.

The first cohort of the Gun Violence Prevention Network was generously supported by the California Wellness Foundation.


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A recording of the Gun Violence Prevention Network info session.