Shared Use Initiative

Shared Use Initiative

Shared use agreements are an affordable way of increasing opportunities for physical activity in low-resource communities where there may not many obvious places to play or exercise.

The PRCHN established the Shared Use Initiative in Cleveland was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Initiative. This local grant was in partnership with HIP-Cuyahoga, where the PRCHN serves as the anchor institution for the Healthy Eating and Active Living Sub-Committee. Six neighborhoods in Cleveland and the City of East Cleveland were identified as predominantly African American with considerable health disparities linked to poor nutrition, physical inactivity and disjointed links to quality health services.

From 2015-2018, our team increased access points for physical activity by working with resident teams to identify  22 facilities and outdoor spaces within their community and then assisting those organizations with the development of shared use agreements and marketing resources to assist them with programming. 

Why It Matters?

Access to opportunities for physical activity is important for everyone to be in good health. However, there is an unfair burden of poor health in under- resourced, low-income communities. These neighborhoods often lack adequate opportunities for physical activity which can contributes to poor health outcomes. Existing facilities, open green spaces, and community recreation areas are often locked or poorly maintained due to concerns of cost, vandalism, or security. Facilities such as churches and schools often sit empty during non-program hours and spaces can be re-utilized through shared use.

Cuyahoga County neighborhoods suffer from systematic oppression and other social determinants that create poverty and discrepancies of access and resources, which promote poor community health. These very same communities that are at greater risk for overweight and obesity have far fewer parks and open spaces — it’s not an issue of choice but accessibility.

The Shared Use Initiative in Cleveland is one innovative way to improve access to physical activity opportunities. By working within existing community resources, this initiative helps to improve the health for residents in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Why Shared use?

Shared Use recognizes health disparities and addresses health inequities through implementing policies for recreational use in primarily disadvantaged communities. Shared Use partnerships offer innovative ways to improve physical activity opportunities in schools, community centers, worksites, faith based organizations, and other entities. Through utilizing existing structures and resources, shared use is a cost-effective and time saving strategy. By creating an environment of accessibility, shared use policies mediate residents’ limited access to physical activity and improve their ability to make healthier choices.

Shared Use allows public and private property owners to open their underutilized facilities for community use. It allows community access to property by permitting the partners to share the costs and risks associated with opening the property for after-hours use. Although often used as a strategy to increase opportunities for physical activity, shared use has many wide-ranging benefits such as, community health, affordability, equity, and education. Shared Use builds stronger community relations through informal interaction, organized activities and becoming healthier together.

Ready to Get Started?

The adoption of shared use policies in safe community sites can increase resident access to facilities and opportunities for physical activity. We propose strategies that not only facilitate development of new shared use policies through training and technical assistance, but also promote the agreements currently in place, employing community leaders to ensure programming matches needs of local residents. For a full detail about how to implement a shared use initiative, please review “Shared Use Policy Implementation: A guide to improve access and opportunity for physical activity in your community. “

  • Community Engagement

    Before getting started with your shared use initiative, it is critical to understand the unique needs and characteristics of the community that you will serve and to establish a strategy that fits. In order to do this, helpful planning steps focus around community engagement. It will be very helpful to identifying a community network, create a community dialogue, and host informational workshops around shared use.

  • Site Identification

    Identification of potential facilities for your shared use initiative should be done in a collaborative process. Utilizing input from residents, community partners and other stakeholders, creating a list of sites to approach can be quite easy. By now, you should already have an idea of facilities to approach from community conversations and partner meetings. Additionally, you may also have a database of sites such as churches, recreation centers, schools, parks and other facilities in your area that can be complimentary to community input. We recommend taking both of those sources of valuable information and ground-truth each site.

  • Site Assessment

    Now that you have completed ground-truthing the sites that were identified in your planning process, it is time to arrange meetings with facility owners or managers! It is important to remember that many community sites are quite busy and getting in contact with them can be challenging. It is important to be transparent with your partners and build off relationships they may have with potential shared use policy holders.

  • Policy Implementation

    For this piece of your initiative it is important to the tailor the policy to your community. Traditionally, shared use policies or agreements are between two entities that outline terms and conditions for sharing the use of their facilities. However, they do not have to be extensive legally-binding agreements. During your community engagement process, allot time to decide what type of policy your stakeholders prefer. Representatives from business, non-profits, faith-based communities, school districts, and residents must work together and determine which type of agreement will best fit the needs of all those involved. Your shared use arrangement, whether an agreement or policy, becomes your best communication tool. It’s a record of all your negotiations and mutual agreements.

  • Programming & Promotion

    Now that you have planned for you shared use initiative, it’s time to take action! As you work to improve access to physical activity opportunities in your community, it is important to remember to keep resident’s integration a priority. As you saw in the planning phase, residents and community partners are key to identifying, assessing, and securing signed policies. Once a policy is implemented, those same community members may be physical activity instructors, aid with marketing and promotion, and sustainability of your shared use initiative!


The PRCHN REACH staff developed a series of resource guides to help community and neighborhood groups navigate all of the potential pitfalls and requirements of developing, implementing, promoting shared use agreements in their neighborhoods. Click each graphic to download or view detailed descriptions here

For questions or more information, please contact Briana McIntosh at