Purpose: This is a description of a model demonstration project called Project Shake-It-Up. This project promotes the health and empowerment of people with spinal cord injuries and related neurological disabilities. It also builds the capacity of community organizations that provide services to this population. Methods: Participants are involved in interactive seminars concerning health and advocacy on topics like nutrition and being assertive with healthcare providers. They take part in physical and recreational activities such as sea kayaking, kite-flying and hand cycling. Case coordinators support their project participation and personal goal attainment. Results: Community organizations and university researchers developed a successful partnership. Individual members of the first cohort supported one another and benefited physically and psychologically. Conclusions: Project-Shake-It-Up provides positive initial signs of the value of combining the resources of universities and community agencies. Working together, these organizations can develop distinctive, multi-faceted programmes to support the health and empowerment of people with spinal cord injuries and other related neurological disabilities. © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.