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Universal Community Planning Tool

Entered in Public Health


The Universal Community Planning Tool was developed by the Garrett County Health Department in Garrett County, Maryland (Appalachia) with support from the Public Health National Center for Innovations, a division of the Public Health Accreditation Board, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as an open source, innovative model to increase transparency and representation in community health improvement planning processes.

Strategy and Execution

The Universal Community Planning Tool, located at, was piloted in the central Appalachian community of Garrett County, Maryland to determine whether or not a digital collaborative could be successfully deployed to increase community participation in health improvement planning processes. The innovation pilot project initially set out with two main objectives: increase transparency through the reporting of hyper local data sourced from multisectoral community stakeholders and improve equity practices through increasing community representation by allowing any stakeholder, regardless of background or status, to contribute to existing or create new community health improvement solutions and action groups.

The initial implementation of the Universal Community Planning Tool pilot project included a variety of media development and communications ranging from traditional and emerging social media campaigns that consisted primarily of video and community-sourced testimonials, as well as elements of gamification to encourage the community to become invested in the process and receive recognition for their contributions to improve health in Garrett County.

Since the Universal Community Planning Tool itself is a form of social media developed upon the open source WordPress and BuddyPress frameworks, the pilot team decided to embark upon tightly woven integrations with existing platforms to increase participation and reduce barriers to access through integrating Facebook log-ins and encouraging community members to develop user-generated content across a wide spectrum of social media platforms using GC2020 selfie signs that illustrated their commitment to a better future and improved public health by the year 2020.

A key component that is unique to the Universal Community Planning Tool is that it seeks to transform linear community improvement processes into ongoing and continuous threads that can co-occur and facilitate each others' successes. By opening this process to any stakeholder, we've onboarding ambassadors from the most unlikely of places to become champions for transparency and equity within our community.

Through the synergistic flow from marketing funnels on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we're empowering our community to take charge of their health and develop an unrivaled culture of collaboration.


Over the Last 18 Months, Our Community Has Collectively Achieved:

1,900+ Planning Partners vs. 50 Partners (at best) in the Traditional Model

20,000+ Application Users vs. Approximately 150 Individuals Who Were Aware of Previous Plans

$225,000+ in Nontraditional, External Community Investment for Innovative Models in Public Health

130+ (and growing) Action Groups Consisting of Agencies, Businesses, and Community Stakeholders

400+ Hyper Local Data Points Indexed by a Variety of Multisectoral Community Stakeholders

Increased Representation Among Key Demographics (Including Youth and Economically Disadvantaged Stakeholders)

Replication of Our Pilot Project in 5 Communities Across the United States, Including: The District of Columbia, Clackamas County, Oregon, Medina County, Ohio, Flathead City & County, Montana, and Allegany County, Maryland

And Most Importantly, Community Health Improvement Planning Processes Built Around Those Most Impacted by the Results of Our Work


Video for Universal Community Planning Tool

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Garrett County Health Department


Entry Credits