Healthy Communities Leadership Academy

2019 will be the final cohort of local leaders selected into the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy.

Since its inception, the academy has empowered leaders working within and across their communities to advocate for policy and environmental change in order to create healthy communities for those most in need. Health Forward has been pleased with the success of the academy.

Health Forward will support the network of past participants who will continue to deepen their individual and collective capacity, enhance connections, and serve as experts in the region.

Health Forward Foundation has a long history of funding activities related to healthy eating, active living, and tobacco use prevention and will continue to explore new leadership opportunities for all our community partners.

 Program Purpose

The leadership academy will develop a critical mass of change agents, local expertise, and field capacity to affect policy and community environment changes that result in improved health choices for the underserved. It also helps develop sustained relationships for strategic alignment and to further health equity.

 Program Description

The leadership academy is a yearlong program for up to 15 individuals currently working on (or interested in working on) policy and community environment change related to healthy eating, active living, and tobacco use prevention. Participants will represent the greater Kansas City area and focus on uninsured and underserved populations.

Although the focus of the program is on the individual, participants will be expected to bring what they learn back to their organization and community.

 What You Can Expect

The leadership academy will help participants deepen their knowledge, understanding, and practice in the following three competency areas:

  • Civic leadership
  • Healthy communities policy and system change
  • Community collaboration

To the extent possible, information regarding promising and best practices in the healthy communities fields of healthy eating, active living, and tobacco use prevention will be provided.

Once selected into the program, each participant will develop a learning plan that guides his or her learning in the three competency areas. This plan is a work in progress and will likely change over the life of the program. The plan provides participants with an opportunity to set goals and direct their learning from the beginning of the program.

The leadership academy will provide the following learning and networking opportunities:

  • Oct. 24, 2019 – Opening session and reception
  • Nov. 6 – 8, 2019 – Workshop 1
  • Jan. 15 – 16, 2020 – Workshop 2
  • April 2 – 3, 2020 – Workshop 3
  • June 4, 2020 – Workshop 4
  • June 18, 2020 – Graduation ceremony
  • Five small group action learning sessions
  • Seven individual coaching sessions


The program will begin with a brief introduction session and reception followed by a three-day workshop. This workshop, which takes place two weeks after the introduction session, will lay the foundation of the entire program. Participants will engage with local and regional experts and have opportunities to develop and deepen relationships with each other.

The full group will come together at least three other times throughout the year, for a total of five additional days of workshops.

 Action Learning Sessions

In addition to the workshops, the participants will engage in action learning groups that will bring people together to gain knowledge, learn together, tackle real world issues, and reflect on their actions. Research shows that people learn best when they are working on real-world challenges and when they share feedback.

  • Each participant will be part of a small action learning group that will meet a total of five times throughout the year.
  • The action learning groups will focus on individual and collective capacity development.
  • The small group will be a place that participants can explore and reflect how they bring their learning back to their organization and community.

 Individual Coaching Sessions

Each participant will be paired with a civic leader in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their potential to exercise leadership in professional and civic life. Research shows that when individual coaching is added to leadership development programs, individuals deepen their learning and can more quickly put their learning into action.

  • Participant will get an individual coach where they will focus on their own personal development related to making progress on system and policy change.
  • Individual coaching will primarily focus on building civic leadership capacities in participants.
  • Participants will get seven, 45 – 60 minute sessions over an eight-month period.

 What Is Expected from Participants

The following are the expectations of participants:

  • Participation in all components of the leadership academy, including the reception, workshops, action learning team meetings, coaching sessions and graduation, is required. Exceptions or emergencies must be approved by Gina Maree, the program director. Individuals and organizational leadership will need to make this commitment.
  • Focus on healthy eating, active living, and tobacco use prevention field work for uninsured and underserved populations.
  • Willingness to engage in a participatory learning process and share observations with a group.
  • Engage their organization in the learning.
  • Scan their community environments, potential partners, and population they serve and explore ways to mobilize policy and environment change.
  • Share their learning in their communities.

 How Participants will Benefit

  • Become an integral part of a local network of change agents (approximately 85 alumni)
  • Improve their ability to create lasting change and impact.
  • Inspire creativity and innovation in the community.
  • Tap into and mobilize hidden potential.
  • Experience group process approaches that are transferable in other settings.
  • Enhanced civic leadership capacity and practice.
  • Expand knowledge of promising and best practices in healthy communities field work.
  • Develop lasting relationships in the community that can benefit collaborative work.
  • Increase ability to leverage resources in the community.

 How Organizations will Benefit

  • Increase internal capacity for systems and policy change.
  • Strengthen organizational partnerships.
  • Increase capacity to leverage resources.
  • Increase healthy communities field content knowledge expertise.
  • Create a supportive environment where participants can explore potential organizational strategies and approaches.


Application deadline has passed. Note: 2019 was the final cohort of local leaders selected into the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy.

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006