From Partnership to Policy

The Evolution of Active Living by Design in Portland, Oregon

Focusing on two communities with different active living challenges, Portland, Oregon’s Active Living by Design (ALbD) partnership worked to incorporate active living concerns into the efforts of other community and government partners. According to a local assessment, many of the partnership’s collaborative efforts have been successful and can serve as models for future intervention to encourage change.

Portland’s support of active lifestyles is well regarded and its ALbD partnership was founded by joining two established, closely linked active living networks. Consequently, the partners had a good base of experience with each other and with other actors in Portland’s community. The partnership piloted projects in two very different communities. Lents is a low-income, multiethnic neighborhood that suffers from bad planning and years of disinvestment. Damascus is a rural community outside the city. However, a government action to annex 12,000 acres to Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary means the area will now undergo rapid development, offering a unique opportunity for active living principals to be incorporated from the ground-up.

Key Findings:

  • Portland’s ALbD partnership has leveraged the assets of community and government partners by defining collaborative goals. These goals include: sustaining a network of public health, planning, community and policy-making partners; affecting urban planning and policy decisions at the city, county and regional level; achieving built-environment changes and increasing access to active living opportunities for underserved populations; and supporting partners whose community-based activities complement the partnership’s policy and planning efforts.
  • The partnership has been effective at getting active living language and goals incorporated into regional and statewide plans and policies and, more generally, increasing the influence of active living concerns in development, transportation and land-use. This will have significant impact in the new development of Damascus.
  • During the five-year ALbD grant, partnership staff helped Lents community-based organizations secure more than $1 million in funding for bike and pedestrian safety, community gardening/health eating programs, and trails, parks and built-environment improvements. But economic and safety worries understandably overshadow active living concerns for many residents.

The partnership grappled with how much its staff of public health experts should know about other disciplines, such as transportation and land-use planning, to be effective advocates for active living. But the ALbD community-action model was a valuable tool for organizing the efforts of others and the partnership’s successful collaborative efforts can serve as a model for other communities.

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