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COMPASS Initiative® Leading through Education, Advocacy & Resistance with our Neighbors (LEARN):Harm Reduction

Program Description
Leading with Education, Advocacy & Resistance with our Neighbors (LEARN) is SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center’s shared learning opportunities to build organizational leadership and support organizational transformation. The primary goal of LEARN is to build knowledge, capacity, expertise and leadership in a particular topic area. A second important goal of LEARN is to strengthen community networks through enhanced collaboration between participating organizations. Each cohort of LEARN is centered on a different content area. SUSTAIN is excited to announce the launch of our fourth cohort of LEARN Harm Reduction (HR), which will be developed and facilitated in collaboration with Sandra Chavez! Sandra is an expert community-based consultant who has 15+ years of experience working at the intersections of HIV, housing and harm reduction in the SOuthern U.S., and is thrilled to facilitate another cohort of LEARN HR! No prior knowledge around harm reduction is required to participate.

About Harm Reduction
Harm reduction is defined as both a movement for social justice, as well as policies, practices, and programs that center the rights and autonomy of people who use drugs. Additionally, harm reduction recognizes the role of structural oppression and social inequities that impact individuals, and aims to reduce the negative consequences associated with drug use at the individual, community and systemic levels. Harm reduction is person-centered and not a one-size-fits-all model, thus there is no prescribed way of practicing harm reduction. Instead, harm reduction is guided by a set of eight core principles which are made available by the National Harm Reduction Coalition. Though harm reduction emerged from the context of injection drug use in the 1980’s, harm reduction has been implemented across a range of settings (i.e., interventions that promote strategies to reduce potential risks for people who exchange money, drugs or goods for sex; programs that reduce tobacco use). A goal of LEARN HR is to educate and equip HIV service leadership and providers throughout the South with knowledge and skills needed to implement harm reduction in their organizations.

After LEARN Harm Reduction, participants will be able to:
●    Recognize the realities of structural oppression (ex: racism, poverty, past trauma) and other social inequalities that affect people’s vulnerability and capacity for dealing with harm.
●    Practice non-judgmental, non-coercive service provision with communities they serve.
●    Apply new harm reduction knowledge by creating and implementing a harm reduction-centered project.

LEARN HR has 3 different but intersecting components: 1)Meetings, 2)Project and 3)Deliverables/Reporting. 

1. Meetings
LEARN Harm Reduction consists of the following over the course of 6 months:

  • Bi-weekly (2 times a month) virtual cohort sessions
  • Monthly one-on-one virtual coaching sessions 
  • A virtual convening (in place of the in-person convening) 

Four to six organizations will be selected for each cohort. Organizations can expect to contribute up to 6-8 hours a month to LEARN HR meetings & activities. 

2. Project
Organizations should be prepared to initiate and complete a project centered around harm reduction that they would like to address in a collaborative, shared learning environment. Organizations will receive a $10,000 stipend to support the implementation of their project. 

  • Tracks - Because LEARN is centered around transforming organizational practice, projects should focus on organizational change. All organizations are expected to collaborate with people living with HIV and/or people who use drugs in the design, implementation and evaluation phases of their project.


Deliverables and Reporting
Applicants do not need to have a project plan at this stage. Selected organizations will design and implement their project with the support of the cohort and coach. Selected organizations will design their project plan in the first 1-2 months (May & June) of LEARN, and implement their projects in the remaining 3-7 months (July-November). Selected organizations should expect to complete and submit a product/deliverable, as well as a Project Report in the final month of LEARN (November). The product/deliverable will vary by the selected project and decided in partnership between the organization and coach.   


Organizations interested in participating in LEARN Harm Reduction must have a primary organizational purpose of serving people living with HIV. Organizations that demonstrate a commitment to cultivating leadership of Trans, Women, Latinx, Black, Immigrant and Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual communities will be prioritized, along with those who serve rural communities and communities most impacted by the HIV epidemic (see Ending the HIV Epidemic jurisdictions). Organizations of all sizes are encouraged to apply, but for those that have more than 30-40 staff members, please specify your application to a particular department of your organization. No prior knowledge around harm reduction is required to participate. 


Organizations eligible to participate in LEARN Harm Reduction must:

  • Aim to increase engagement of people who receive services (i.e., people who use drugs, people living with HIV, etc.) in a more meaningful way;
  • Have a primary organizational purpose of reducing new HIV infections and/or improving the health of people living with HIV by utilizing a harm reduction approach;
  • Have an idea for a project centered around harm reduction that they would like to work on throughout LEARN HR;
  • Be a non-profit, tax-exempt organization as set forth in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Applicants that do not hold 501(c)(3) status must have a fiscal sponsor to apply;
  • Be located in one of the twelve Southern states (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX); an
  • Identify and commit 2-3 people within the organization (1 decision-maker and 1-2 program staff) that agree to participate fully in all LEARN HR meetings/activities.

Organizations will receive a $10,000 stipend to support costs related to implementing their harm reduction project.

Allowable Expenses
It is appropriate to use LEARN funds to pay for things like materials, meeting expenses, printing, graphic design services, etc. However, there are prohibited expenses. You cannot use the funds to pay for or offset the cost of any of the following:

  • Medications or purchasing of medications
  • Direct medical expenses, including lab expenses
  • Existing deficits of organization 
  • Biomedical research or clinical trials
  • Projects that directly influence or advance Gilead Science’s business, including purchase, utilization, prescribing, formulary position, pricing, reimbursement, referral, recommendation or payment for products
  • Individuals, individual health care providers, or physician group practices
  • Events or programs that have already occurred 
  • Government lobbying activities

Please Note: Reimbursement for items/services purchased or initiated prior to the submission of this funding request will not be supported. Organizations that do not complete final assessments and/or reports, or utilize funds for the intended purpose will not be eligible to receive any additional funding from the SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center. 

Accessibility Statement 
If the written application process is inaccessible and you would like to apply through a virtual interview, please email our Program Coordinator, Katie McCormick (she/her), at kamccor5@central.uh.edu before Friday, March 4, 2022 to schedule an interview.

LEARN Harm Reduction consists of multiple sessions over 6 months in 2021 with all participating organizations. Specific details of each component are listed below:

  • Virtual Cohort Session Dates: Cohort sessions will take place for 2 hours twice a month (Wednesdays from 1-3pm CST/2-4pm EST) beginning in May through November on the following dates: 
                       - May 4 & May 18               
                   -June 1, June 15 & June 29

                      -July 13 & July 27
                       -August 10 & August 24
                       -September 7 & September 21 
                       -October 5 & October 19
                       -Nov 2 & Nov 16
  • Coaching Session Dates: Each organization selected to participate will receive individualized coaching from LEARN facilitators over the course of 7 months (one hour long session per month, 7 sessions total). These will be scheduled according to the availability of both the organization and facilitator. 
  • In Person Convening Date and Location: LEARN typically consists of an in-person gathering in which the cohort and facilitators get to be with one another for more training and community building. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in an effort to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our partners, we will NOT host an in-person gathering this year. We will instead host a virtual alternative with details in December, dates and times to be collectively decided by the selected cohort. 
  • Application Deadline: March 15th, 2022 at 11:59pm EST (10:59 CST)

How to Apply
Please return to the Home Page to apply for this funding.

View the PDF version of the application HERE.