I have been to several meetings as of late that have encouraged my heart about the power of an intentional community united by a common purpose. In the days following the closing of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle, representatives from over 25 agencies gathered at the United Way to offer support and resources to help meet the needs of those vulnerable individuals and families left without services formerly provided by the YWCA. The YWCA which had served Raleigh for 110 years with the mission of empowering women and eliminating racism was forced to cease operations on February 29 due to the insurmountable financial challenges exacerbated by a prolonged difficult economy.
In the meeting held in response to the YWCA closing, community providers from both the non-profit and government sectors expressed authentic concern for the loss of this community “center” and desire to fill the gaps in services needed in that historically impoverished neighborhood. In the process of defining the scope of the need and identifying options for families, the providers found themselves learning more about other services in the area and made connections that led to conversations about possibilities for collaborative work to weave that safety net even tighter. Some of those agencies have already stepped in to provide immediate aid and others are ready and willing to be available for those children needing afterschool care, seniors needing nutrition and wellness programs and teen mothers needing guidance.
As a representative of the United Way for Wake County, I have also taken part in recent community discussions emphasizing the importance of collective impact. In Stan Holt’s previous blog, he described this national movement toward broad cross-sector coordination that goes beyond the “spray and pray” method of funding and service provision to tackle long term community conditions with targeted impact. Of course our community providers are impacting many lives, but they reach a limited number of individuals. We need to go further to create sustained systemic coordination that affects lasting larger scale community change.
Through a John Rex Endowment grant, The United Way is participating in a collaborative called Youth Thrive which strives to support all Wake County youth so they can become productive adults. And the United Way is at the table with the Wake Education Partnership which is pulling community educators together to create a common agenda and measurements to gauge and guide success from ‘Cradle to Career’ through Wake Smart Start, the Youth Thrive Collaborative and Raleigh College and Community Collaborative. They are moving in the direction of work similar to STRIVE, a framework for creating a Cradle to Career Civic Infrastructure which is spreading in communities across the country.
I attended a United Way conference recently where I had the fortunate opportunity to hear a presentation from Jeff Edmondson of STRIVE Network. In this session he commented on the fact United Way is in a unique position to help facilitate this kind of collective work. United Way brings people and organizations together across the private, non-profit and government sectors.
I believe in the power of community partnerships formed through and with United Way and the thought leadership and resources generated together to promote action and solutions. We can be better together.