KU resource for community change expands to offer online courses

An online resource based at the University of Kansas and accessed by more than 6 million people annually has expanded to offer a group of online courses focused on leadership, communication, advocacy and much more.

The courses are a part of the Community Tool Box, a project of the Center for Community Health and Development.

"A group of people sit in a circle, connected by lines and circles in the center"

While the majority of the website’s thousands of pages of information are free to access, the online learning courses target 16 core competencies for driving community change with lessons, activities and video lectures.

Each module costs $99, which grants users access to the materials over the next six months. Individuals who have a .edu email address can access each course for $50. Discounts of 10% off are available with groups of five or more and for those who purchase all 16 modules at once.

Group enrollment also allows a leader within the group to manage users, with access to administrative tools, including their team’s progress on courses and quiz data and a group email feature.

“People can join courses at any time and complete them on their own schedule,” said Christina Holt, Community Tool Box director and assistant director for the Center for Community Health and Development at the Life Span Institute. “These courses help people develop skill sets to improve the conditions in which they live, learn, work, play, and pray.”

The modules are self-paced but are estimated to take an average of 2-3 hours each. 

Courses include:

  • Creating and maintaining coalitions and partnerships
  • Assessing community needs and resources
  • Analyzing problems and goals
  • Developing a framework of change
  • Planning strategic action 
  • Building effective leadership
  • Developing an intervention
  • Increasing participation and membership
  • Enhancing cultural competence
  • Advocating for change 
  • Influencing policy development
  • Evaluating the initiative
  • Implementing social marketing
  • Applying for grants
  • Improving organizational management and development
  • Sustaining the work

The online learning courses build on a goal of the Community Tool Box, which is to empower people with a field guide for creating change. 

“Local community members are the experts in their own situation,” Holt said. “They're in the best position to be able to advocate and bring about needed change.”

Stephen Fawcett was among the team of psychologists who developed the Community Tool Box in 1994. Fawcett envisioned it as a way to provide evidence-based tools for “people we would never meet, in places we would never be."

“It's stunning, the number of people around the world who figured out how to apply this to their purposes, in vastly different contexts than we could have imagined,” Fawcett said.

The Community Tool Box has noted some significant milestones since it was first created. 

In 2004, the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development was designated as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Community Health and Development, helping further develop the Community Tool Box’s global presence. 

Dozens of translators have helped develop the Community Tool Box into a Spanish-language version, and additional languages and cultural adaptations in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese ad Russian have been underway since 2013.

Between 2011 and 2012, the total number of unique users went from nearly 307,000 to more than 1.5 million. The year after that, 4.5 million unique users accessed the site. Today more than 6 million users access the site each year, from 230 countries.

To learn more about the community-building courses or to register, visit the Community Tool Box online course site.