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Action Model Toolkit

Section 1

What is the Action Model?

Learn what the Action Model is and how it can help you redevelop your community. Find out how people around the country have used the Action Model to increase safety, lower crime, boost the economy, and improve the health of the people in their neighborhoods.

Identifying Community Problems

What are the problems in your community?

What’s having a negative impact on the health, safety, or happiness of people in your neighborhood, town, or city?

“We don’t have a park, so there’s no place for kids to play.”

“The sidewalks are all broken up, so older people can’t walk anywhere.”

“We have 3 abandoned buildings on my block, and I don’t feel safe anymore.”

“I don’t spend any time downtown, I just walk through it. There’s nothing to do and nothing to see.”

Lloyd DeGrane, 2013, with Permission

Make a difference.

Since you’re reading this, you probably want to do something about problems like these. You want to make real, lasting changes in your community.

The Action Model will help. And this toolkit will teach you how to use it.

Action Model Basics

Who is the Action Model for?

The Action Model is a grassroots tool for people like you.

You can use it to form a plan to improve health and quality of life, reduce risks, and boost pride in your community.

“We turned an abandoned lot into a community center and a park.”

“We were in a food desert, so we started our first community garden.”

“We rebuilt some crumbling buildings and brought in new businesses and jobs.”

“We moved a waste transfer center out of our downtown — and away from our homes and the riverfront.”

Who made the Action Model?

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, created the Action Model. ATSDR works to make communities healthier and protect people from harmful substances around them, like chemicals in old factories.

ATSDR experts designed the Action Model as a tool that anybody can use to improve their community. You don’t need a special educational background or past experience to make it work for you.

The Action Model is simple.

It has 4 steps. They’re all questions that you and your team can ask and answer. Select each one to learn more.

1 + What are the environmental and health issues affecting our community? You may already know this answer. But specifically, what are the problems you want to tackle?
2 + How can redevelopment address these issues? Redevelopment means making changes to an area, like fixing up old buildings, building new ones, or adding improvements like sidewalks or parks. You need to figure out what changes would best fix your problem.
3 + What are the corresponding community health benefits? How will these changes benefit your community? What’s the goal? If you build a playground, will kids exercise more? Will fixing up an abandoned lot reduce crime?
4 + What data do you need to measure change? This part is key. It's a way of making sure that once you've finished your project, your changes are working. For example, you might measure success by tracking a drop in crime rates, or lower levels of sickness or injuries.

Your answers to these questions are the basis of your Action Model. Once you have your ideas down, you’re ready to start planning.

Here’s a video clip of an ATSDR expert talking about the 4 steps of the Action Model.

Action Model Benefits

How will the Action Model help?

The Action Model can help your community with:

  • Health. Improving physical health (like forming walking clubs or building trails to boost physical activity) and mental health (like offering services to lower stress).
  • Environment. Getting rid of harmful substances and cleaning up the air, water, and land around you.
  • Education and economy. Bringing in new businesses, building schools, and improving the community’s economy.
  • Safety and security. Preventing accidents, raising confidence, and lowering crime.

“We’re using the Action Model for our project because it works.” — Participant in Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative.

Why use the Action Model?

The Action Model has a proven track record. It’s helped people across the country make big changes in their communities. People have used the Action Model to:

  • Plant community gardens and train new gardeners to grow and sell food in Utica, New York
  • Stop factories from polluting in Detroit, Michigan
  • Transform the riverfront in Baraboo, Wisconsin by removing old buildings and creating a walking trail, dog park, and collection pond to protect the Baraboo River

Lloyd DeGrane, 2013, with Permission

Here’s a video clip about the Baraboo Action Model project.

Take control of redevelopment.

Sometimes, redevelopment (which can mean tearing down old buildings and putting up new ones) can have a bad effect on a neighborhood if the people who live there don’t get a say in the process.

If new construction splits up your neighborhood or offers your community something you don’t want, that’s not an improvement.

Using the Action Model will give you a voice in redevelopment. You can make sure any changes will really benefit your community.

Lloyd DeGrane, 2013, with Permission

Take next steps.

Now that you know what the Action Model is, you can start using it. Here’s an overview of what to expect in the next sections of the toolkit.

  • In section 2, you’ll learn how to build a Development Community — a team of people who share your passion to improve your community.
  • In section 3, you’ll get tips on how to prepare for an Action Model workshop, where you and your team will actually create your Action Model.
  • In section 4, you’ll learn how to finalize your Action Model and keep the project moving.
  • In section 5, you’ll learn more about funding your project.

Next: Build a Development Community

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