Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs) are designed as purposeful systems to empower communities for self development. There is a dearth on the number of empirical evaluative studies that interrogate the design of such systems; rather, focus has been on evaluating programmatic impacts. Understanding and enhancing the design of such systems is fundamental in enhancing their empowerment and emancipatory objectives. This study addresses three questions; firstly, what are the critical design factors for CCIs? Secondly, what are the potential distributive, ethical and social consequences of CCI designs? And thirdly what are the fundamental components of a framework for evaluating CCI designs? The Mhakwe CCI in Zimbabwe is used as a case study. The paper identified the critical design factors to include; enhancing interconnectivity of institutions, development actors and community; incorporating mechanisms for capacity development; enhancing collective purpose; developing measures for community empowerment; addressing power imbalances and incorporating perceived risks. Social consequences of the design impinged on the willingness to share knowledge and participation in dialogue by the affected. The paper recommends key components of a framework for evaluating CCI design to; incorporate perceptions of both the affected and the involved; view CCIs as purposeful systems; be based on boundary critique and apply multi methodological approaches. The paper ends by suggesting important factors in ensuring sustainability of CCIs and recommends the integration of sustainability factors in designing CCIs.