PSE Simplified: Determining if your project is a PSE change or program

PSE Simplified: Determining if your project is a PSE change or program

Wholespire provides grant opportunities to communities across South Carolina for implementing a policy, system or environmental (PSE) change project. It’s a concept that can be challenging to explain and understand. To prepare you for any upcoming grant opportunities from Wholespire, we want to help you determine if your project is a PSE change or a program. We also want to help you save time before applying for a grant that will not get funded because it is considered to be a program.

What is a Program?

Programs typically occur over a short period of time and only focus on individual behavior change. They are often considered health education rather than community health improvement. Hospitals and health centers often provide programs that teach people living with chronic diseases how to manage their condition through diet and exercise.

What is PSE Change?

Policy, systems and environmental change make healthier choices more practical and readily available to all members of a community and influence community health and well-being. They are often part of an ongoing project or plan. PSE change reaches more people and leads to more impactful, long-term changes in community health.

Characteristics of PSE and Programs

PSE Change + Programs = Greater Success

Wholespire focuses on whole community health through PSE change, while other organizations focus on individual behavior change through programs. We support the use of programs to reach individuals because programs and PSE change complement each other and can lead to even greater success than a stand-alone program.

Scenario 1: One-time Event

A municipality receives a Wholespire mini-grant to create a paved walking trail in a local park. They host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on opening day that features exhibitors offering health education information and giveaways for community members. The one-time event is a tactic to get community members to the new trail.

Scenario 2: Traditional Program

A community health needs assessment shows eating fruits and vegetables is important to community members, and they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables because they don’t know how to prepare and cook with them. The local health coalition chooses to host a free Cooking Matters program to teach individuals how to cook with fresh produce. To supplement the classes, the coalition partners with the local community garden. Garden organizers donate produce from the garden for the cooking demonstrations and give free produce boxes to participants.

Why do we use the mini-grant model?

Why do we use the mini-grant model?

Depending on how long you’ve been keeping up with Wholespire, you may be aware that we award mini-grants to community coalitions and organizations periodically. Our application process is competitive, meaning we weigh various health outcomes, population, and demographic data to help determine the most need. However, what you may not know is why we offer mini-grants, rather than large chunks of money. In this post, we’ll explain the history of our mini-grants and the reason we use this model.

What is the Mini-Grant Model?

Mini-grants are grant awards that are relatively small amounts of money and typically have short implementation periods.

Since 2018, Wholespire has been offering mini-grants of up to $5,000 to community coalitions, schools, local government, faith-based groups, and other non-profit organizations. These mini-grants can be used to implement a policy, systems, or environmental change that addresses healthy eating and/or active living. To date, 45 mini-grants have been awarded for projects like:

  • Add signage to an existing walking loop,
  • Add fitness stations to parks,
  • Create community gardens,
  • Include bilingual signage at farmers’ markets, and
  • Start new HYPE teams to lead civic action projects similar to the ones just listed.

Why Wholespire Adopted the Mini-Grant Model

Before 2018, Wholespire awarded large grants with a longer implementation period to help a small number of communities work on multiple improvement projects. Our hope was there would be a greater health impact. But that didn’t happen with all of the communities we funded.

Some communities experienced challenges, while others didn’t. Receiving a large amount of money can be overwhelming. It isn’t always easy to choose how to spend the money and what areas to tackle first. Sometimes it’s difficult to reach a consensus, while other times, you get so bogged down in a couple of strategies that the other strategies and the money get lost.

After evaluating these instances, Wholespire noticed that even when coalitions have large amounts of grant funding, they tend to spend their money in smaller increments like $5-$10,000 rather than spending large amounts of money at one time. We concluded that change needed to happen. We needed to look internally and adopt a different approach to grantmaking. So, we began using the mini-grant model to help grantees manage their awards better.

Successes Related to the Mini-Grant Model

We found that the smaller mini-grant investments led to a domino effect of momentum in communities. Oftentimes, the mini-grants led to investments by community partners as well as in-kind donations. Adopting this model meant we would be able to give more coalitions and organizations the opportunity to apply for these small grants.

In addition to being able to reach more coalitions, it gives community coalitions and organizations a chance to implement a project without the burden of managing large amounts of funding or committing to a long period of time. Coalitions can organize and work on community action plans without the time constraints of a grant and then apply for a mini-grant when they are ready to carry out their plan of action.

why the mini-grant model works

Our experiences have shown that many community coalitions and organizations are looking for a few hundred dollars to complete a project that fits our mission, while others need seed money to get a project moving. Wholespire provides funding opportunities, when available, for not only these reasons but ultimately to reduce health disparities, improve health equity, and increase access to healthy choices.

Are you interested in learning more about our funding opportunities? Visit the Community Action page on our website or contact us.