BY Robin Murchison, Community Engagement Fellow
Before moving to the Triangle, I had the privilege of working for more than ten years in the nonprofit field in Florida. One aspect that I most enjoyed from that work was being deeply connected and involved with my local community. I’m driven by knowing the work that I do is making a positive impact. Being a Community Engagement Fellow was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up as I knew it would fast-track my learning about the needs and challenges in my new hometown, as well as those working to make a difference.
During my time as a CE Fellow, I’m also working full-time for a company called The Redwoods Group, a values-driven insurer of YMCAs and other youth-serving organizations that has service to others as central to its mission and business model. Within my first hour of working at Redwoods I was sitting in a meeting hearing about zone-based solutions and collective impact. I was intrigued, but despite my experience in the nonprofit field, I had very little idea what these terms actually meant as an approach to dealing with complex social problems.
The CE Fellow training was a deep dive into the incredible work being done by United Way of the Greater Triangle. I quickly came to realize that the bold new strategic direction of this United Way – from the framework of a two-generational approach to tackling poverty, to organizing collaboratives, to work toward collective impact – was on the forefront of work being done to address social issues across the country. But beyond simply a different way of funding, United Way is also supporting and mobilizing local agencies in this new way of working collaboratively. For local employers and their employees, I see a great opportunity for people to engage with United Way in very different ways. More than simply sharing their financial capital, this community will also need the intellectual capital to inform and support our work, as we all learn to think and act in new ways, developing a shared and common vocabulary as we go. There are so many ways to engage meaningfully in transforming our community.
My experience so far as a CE Fellow has been much richer and more rewarding that I expected. I hoped to gain an in-depth knowledge of the issues facing the Triangle, which I’m certainly doing. What has surprised me was the equal focus during training and work on my own professional development, skills that I can hopefully bring to my work in supporting this year’s United Way campaign goals, but also into my work at Redwoods.