Doña Ana Communities United


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Based in the border county of Doña Ana, New Mexico, Doña Ana Communities United aims to create environments where community members develop genuine relationships across cultural divides. DACU emphasizes inclusivity and accessibility for community members, addresses a range of community issues through legislative advocacy, and building bridges using creative structures like the timebank.

151 S Walnut St. Unit B13
Las Cruces, NM 87105


Doña Ana Communities United (DACU) advances health equity in Doña Ana County. We create welcoming spaces for all people, especially those whose voices go unheard. DACU community members from all backgrounds build genuine relationships with each other, utilize their gifts to carry out uplifting projects, and engage in novel public participation practices that impact policies and programs.


DACU had its genesis in 2013 with PLACE MATTERS, a nationwide initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities by undoing racism and its consequences. DACU’s accomplishments since include authoring a health impact assessment on parks and multi-use trails; founding and running a diverse timebank; developing and implementing the concept of social equity mapping; working with youth to map their border community; and partnering with staff at the City of Las Cruces to lead internal conversations about the City’s role in perpetuating inequities.

The Issues:

DACU’s community faces inequities and difficulties that include substance use, sexual assault and employment discrimination, and recognizes the need for a new approach that puts people first. Another political challenge is the city’s wholesale embracing of a corporate governance model, using the language of “customers” to describe community members.

Constituency and Leadership:

DACU works in three geographic areas: the Community of Hope campus that serves poor residents, Las Cruces infill district, and colonias. DACU is guided by a full-time director and is governed/advised by the DACU steering committee. The timebank is advised by the timebank steering committee. Contractors, volunteers and interns coordinate DACU’s programs.

Tackling Oppressive Structures:

DACU was founded to address health inequities, particularly those related to race. DACU notes that unlike many timebanks, theirs doesn’t charge an annual fee or conduct background checks, meaning undocumented residents and formerly incarcerated individuals can exchange services with retirees and students. They are also working to extend their timebank into prisons. DACU’s social equity mapping initiative pays stipends to recently housed individuals who observe neighborhoods, visit with people rarely consulted by government, and develop and implement solutions to inequities. In the summer 2018, DACU partnered with ACLU and the Empowerment Congress to involve a dozen DACU members in their five-week course, Cultivating Leadership for Social Justice.

Movement Building:

DACU’s organizing partners are: Empowerment Congress of Doña Ana County and the local ACLU office (regarding social justice training); Strong Families NM (regarding New Mexico legislative advocacy); and NM CAFé (regarding public safety/policing). DACU also collaborates with La Semilla Food Center, in the past on an urban agriculture ordinance, and currently on an Integrated Pest Management policy with the City of Las Cruces.


With their timebank initiative, DACU gauges members’ involvement, and has used this data to focus their outreach and support efforts on groups that are underrepresented in the timebank, particularly young adults and people of color. They integrate evaluation into their mapping projects by conducting before-and-after observations of the built environment. DACU builds reflection into their staff meetings, the meetings of their two steering committees, and large, team meetings.

Long-term Vision for Change:

By fostering an organizational culture that values everyone, promotes dialogue and reflection, and encourages people to pursue their own equity projects, DACU sees their vision for change being realized: humans existing in webs of relationship, working from within and without to change oppressive systems.

Organization Budget:  $101,317
Request: $10,000

Raised to date this week:  $5,525

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