Project Overview

The Changing the Culture of Substance Use (CCSU) project launched in 2012 as a special focus within the CoP, with funding provided by the BC Ministry of Health. The goal was to build local capacity among stakeholders at BC’s post-secondary institutions, and collectively develop new sustained mechanisms of change to promote healthier relationships with substances.

Over the course of five years, this focused learning community constructed a learning agenda that helped drive collaborative thinking and interactive and engaging activities related to campus substance use. Participating campus members worked within the local realities of their respective campuses to address current challenges and opportunities, while considering the collective impact of individual behaviours, social cultures, and environmental cultures in the project’s tools and resources.

Although dedicated funding for CCSU ended in 2016, it continues as an active sub-CoP within HM|HC.

View the Tools and Resources section to download the CCSU Snapshot Report, the Logic of Change Model or an example of Capacity Building and Knowledge Exchange and Sharing in the project to learn more.


Changing the Culture of Substance Use was a project under Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses that was made to develop capacity in BC’s campuses and a provincial support infrastructure towards changing the culture of substance use.  The lead partners of the project were the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division (CMHA BC) and the former Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC), now the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR).  

The project was based on a socio-ecological model that encouraged a multi-component approach with attention to individual behaviours, social cultures and environmental conditions.  In Phase I and Phase II of the project, 11 post-secondary institutions were actively involved.  Through consultations, knowledge exchange between campuses, and co-creation of evidence-based resources, the project was designed to facilitate action by campus change agents and a provincial infrastructure of support.  Additional funds were provided by the Ministry of Health to pursue the third and final phase.  Collectively, changes on campuses across the province will contribute to the goals of the Ten Year Plan to Address Mental Health and Substance Use in British Columbia.  

This collaborative initiative was guided by several working assumptions, including:

  • Bio-psycho-socio-cultural understandings of substance use that recognize a complex range of relational contributors to use and outcomes
  • A socio-ecological model of health promotion that develops capacity at both individual and collective levels to enhance settings as well as support people within those environments
  • Participatory processes that encourage interdisciplinary engagement to contribute to deliberation on challenges and to determination and implementation of appropriate solutions
  • Social-learning theories whereupon members of the community of practice engage with one another to enhance knowledge exchange
  • Recognition that different settings require different solutions involving appropriate selection and adaptations of sound, evidence-informed practices to address local factors influencing wellness
  • Consolidation of mechanisms that ensure sustained development and impact beyond the life of the project, encouraging integrative rather than additive actions

Alcohol and other substance use present an important challenge for many BC post-secondary institutions in their aim to promote health and well-being among members of the campus community.  Evidence shows that changing the culture of substance use is a complex but worthwhile undertaking that supports–and often involves–efforts around a broad array of goals such as policy development, individual intervention and community health promotion. 

Campuses involved in this project benefited from an enhanced ability to deal not only with substance use concerns, but also an expansive range of issues that are often associated with substance use and students’ mental and physical health in general.

Get Involved

Eleven campuses across B.C. actively participated in the project, which can be viewed on the map below.  Learn more about how the project involves campuses in images from the CCSU Infographic.

ccsu campuses map

Why Campuses Participated

Involvement in a Focused Learning Community

Participating campus community members experienced a range of interactive and engaging activities designed to support learning around the identified focus for this project – substance use. Nested within the broader Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses Community of Practice, this focused learning community constructed a learning agenda that helped drive collaborative thinking and work related to campus substance use. The activities of this group aligned with the local realities of each participating campus, helping to ensure that the identified challenges and opportunities for change map closely on to the contexts of the campuses involved. Campus community members participated in face-to-face and virtual activities, learning from one other, while moving forward together in designing strategies and implementing the best thinking related to substance use.

Access to Consultation and Facilitation

This project was resourced by a team of six from CMHA and CARBC (now CISUR). Each team member brought knowledge and experience in the areas of substance use, mental health, health promotion, and learning. This team played an integral role in moving the project forward, providing content and resources, while helping to facilitate capacity development amongst participating campuses. There were also opportunities for tailored consultation and facilitation processes at the individual campus level, as well as opportunities for campuses to experience consultation and facilitated processes among one another.

Co-Development of Approaches and Resources

A key area of this project was the development of approaches and resources that campuses could draw from in the area of substance use. Based on specific activity areas, the project team helped co-develop approaches and resources with campuses, making them available for the learning community to pilot and use. These products were shared in a curated and online resource area that was also made available to the broader Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses Community of Practice. Participating campuses continue to co-develop resources that are responsive to the unique campus contexts involved in their development, while simultaneously being useful to other campus communities throughout British Columbia. For example, a campus might co-develop healthy policy in the area of availability and pricing of alcohol on campus. A product that might emerge from this process could include the policy itself, as well as a description of how to engage relevant stakeholders in a process that researches and produces effective policy in this area.


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