Community mobilization is a strategy that organizes a community across sectors for long-term change, and is one way for communities to provide supports for young people to make healthy sexual choices. In the context of teen pregnancy, community mobilization can address the interconnected web of factors that influence teen sexual attitudes by bringing together parents, educators, health care practitioners, young people, and other key community stakeholders to address the issue jointly. From 2014 to 2016, Advocates for Youth, through a cooperative agreement with the US Office of Adolescent Health, provided financial support and capacity-building assistance to three communities to address teen pregnancy prevention using a community mobilization approach. In this article, we define community mobilization, describe key benefits, provide an overview of the process used by the three communities to mobilize key constituents, and share key lessons learned from the project. These lessons learned support the central importance of investing time, energy, and resources in a community mobilization process. Funders should consider that the life cycle of community mobilization requires a significant up-front investment of time and resources to ensure a sufficient foundation of relationship cultivation, team building, and planning.

Key Take Away Points

  • Definition and key benefits of community mobilization
  • Overview of the community mobilization process
  • Key lessons learned from community mobilization experiences in three communities seeking to improve adolescent sexual health

Author Biography

Sam E. Greenberg is a social science researcher with a special interest in human sexuality and social power dynamics. Her recent projects include collaboration with the American Psychological Association on a parent engagement resource kit for improving teen sexual health and evaluation of a place-based collective impact project with the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Laura Davis is Director of Advocates for Youth’s Adolescent Sexual Health Services Division and is responsible for overseeing the organization’s teen pregnancy prevention department and contraceptive access initiatives. Ms. Davis has both international and domestic experience, including more than twenty-five years of program planning, project coordination, teaching, training, and long-range organizational development in the field of reproductive health. Cheryl Tutt, MSW, has more than 10 years in management/administration, training, education, federal consulting, human resources, and project management in the child welfare arena. As the Program Manager, Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Ms. Tutt provided capacity-building training and technical assistance on a wide range of issues including community mobilization, leadership development, strategic planning, and project sustainability. As a child welfare advocate and former senior probation officer, Ms. Tutt has provided intensive case management, court mediation, crisis intervention and rehabilitative services to youth and families. As a consultant to the federal government, Ms. Tutt revised the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Title V training grant curriculum; assisted with a national anti-bullying initiative, and conducted needs assessments and research to document trends and inform for future juvenile justice initiatives. Ms. Tutt graduated with a Bachelor’s of Social Work from James Madison University and a Master’s of Social Work from George Mason University. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Leadership and Management from Argosy University. Tonya Katcher, MD, MPH, is the Program Manager for Clinical Services and Contraceptive Access at Advocates for Youth, a DC-based nonprofit that works to support young people’s rights to accurate sexual health information and accessible sexual health services. She is also a practicing pediatrician at the Adolescent Health Center at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.


This article was developed with support from the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health (Grant Number 1-TP2AH000022). Contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Office of Adolescent Health. The article summarizes key lessons learned from Advocates for Youth’s project titled Building the Capacity of Local Communities to Develop a Community Prevention Framework for Teen Pregnancy Prevention: The Community Collaborative Approach. A special thanks to the many people who contributed their vision, wisdom, and passion: Cassandra Chess, U.S. Office of Adolescent Health; Barbara Huberman, Amber Powell, Suzette Brann, and Ann Rodrigues (former project staff with Advocates for Youth); Jana Sharp, Sharp Insight, LLC., Mia Humphreys, Maria Sipin, Arlene Schneir, and Mona Desai of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Sergio Morales and Lily Owens of Youth Policy Institute; Kathryn Zenger and Ariel Simpson-Logan of New Morning Foundation; Charles Weathers, Weathers Group; Merle Weitz, Lori Tesauro, Ann Rojas, Victoria Terry, and Daffonie Moore of the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Consortium, and Brenda Goins, Salem Wellness Foundation. Thanks also to Duane House, Trisha Mueller, and Alison Spitz, with the Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for their many years of support of Advocates for Youth’s teen pregnancy prevention and community mobilization efforts.