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Editor's note: CultureMap Austin partners with Leadership Austin — the region's premier provider of civic and community leadership development — in this on-going series of editorial columns meant to inform Austinites about issues facing our city.
By Stacey Knight
The health and wellness of others impact us all. When individuals have the opportunity for better health, the full potential of our young people is realized; business productivity increases, health care costs are lowered, and we all win. More and more people have begun engaging in the conversation and making a difference. After decades of obesity rates going up, we are finally hearing some good news. According to an article in the New York Times and a report from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates in multiple cities across America are going down. Over the past few years, this topic has gotten significant attention. From the White House to houses across America, people have begun to change the conversation from one of weight to one of health and the importance of every individual having access to healthful food and a safe place to be active.
America has answered this epidemic with innovative ideas and a lot of passion and hard work. The community of Santa Cruz, CA decided that its children would get the opportunity to be healthy and live longer and more fulfilling lives. United Way of Santa Cruz County convened more than 150 agencies, parents, schools, health care professionals, media, local business leaders and policy makers to work together to increase access to health and wellness. The coalition has already improved school wellness plans, implemented healthier restaurants standards, and worked with the city to adopt recommendations for safe, walkable, and bikeable streets.
Community members of Birmingham are also moving towards a healthier community. United Way of Central Alabama and YMCA are working with dedicated community members and multi-sector partners to improve the policies that reshape neighborhoods and support active living and healthy eating. Together, they are promoting bike lanes and sidewalks, improving vending machine policies to offer nutritious foods, and building or expanding community gardens in areas where healthful food is limited. The community is also working with child care centers and out-of-school programs to provide healthful food and physical activity, which is a win-win for health and education. In fact, healthy eating and being physically activity are both key to academic performance and graduation.
These lowering rates seem to be due to the bold actions of individuals, government, nonprofits, and businesses, to create environments in which the healthy choice is the default or easier choice. We can all make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others. Start a walking school bus in your neighborhood. Plant a community garden. Invite a high school or college athlete to play with and inspire children to be more active. Teach a kid’s culinary class. There are so many ways we can make a difference in our own home and neighborhood and have a good time doing it. Although it might not be time to throw a victory party, it is a time to celebrate the accomplishments we have made and be inspired to do more -- much more.
Good news! Santa Fe's Children's Project realizing great results from their early childhood development initiative. Check it out on United Way of Santa Fe County's web site: http://www.uwsfc.org/evaluations
In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doubled-down on Brownsville with a $1.5 million grant, not because they saw a community with alarming social/educational indicators – we have that, but those challenges that can be found throughout Texas and the U.S. – but rather because they saw a community that was ready to take action for change. They saw this readiness demonstrated in the depth of our community-wide partnerships and the collaboration of the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan.
THE GATES FOUNDATION WAS WILLING TO BET ON BROWNSVILLE — ARE WE?
As the Brownsville Partners for Postsecondary Success began to systematically improve various gaps along Brownsville’s educational pipeline, it quickly became evident that a change of this size would truly take a community- wide effort – it would take an ALLIN effort. This is the movement the ALLIN posters and billboards you are seeing around the community, and now this video, is asking you to join by visiting http://allinbrownsville.org/all-in/
WHY JOIN THE MOVEMENT?
As you read this, 34% of Brownsville households live in poverty, compared to 11% for the U.S. Our, median income is $30,454, compared to $50,046 for the nation. U.S. Improving these and other negative community indicators will not be the result of any one big decision, but will happen because of thousands of students, parents, educators, and employers aligning their efforts under a shared agenda around education.
Together we can build a better Brownsville. Visit http://allinbrownsville.org/allin/ to find out how.
BROWNSVILLE PARTNERS FOR POST SECONDARY SUCCESS: Brownsville Chamber of Commerce Brownsville Economic Development Council Brownsville ISD Cardenas Development Co. Inc. Community Development Corporation of Brownsville Project VIDA Texas Southmost College United Brownsville United Way of Southern Cameron County University of Texas at Brownsville Wells Fargo Advisers Workforce Solutions Cameron
Thursday, November 15, 2012
GolocalWorcester News Team
The United Way of Central Massachusetts partnered with the American Diabetes Association, MassBio, Novo Nordisk, and Joslin Diabetes Center on Wednesday to bring Changing Diabetes Day to the State House for World Diabetes Day.
Local Senators and Representatives, including Senate President Therese Murray and Representative Aaron Michlewitz, participated in an important informational briefing on the diabetes epidemic in Massachusetts. Diabetes poses a serious threat to individuals and families across the Commonwealth. The morning event consisted of a speaking program highlighting the impact of diabetes and provided an opportunity to share critical information with legislators.
November 14th is also recognized as World Diabetes Day by events around the globe to highlight the importance of diabetes awareness and increase education about diabetes worldwide. The State House was lit blue on Wednesday as a shining example of diabetes awareness. The goal is to raise awareness of the disease to policy makers and the general public.
"We need to close the gap—in order to prevent future cases of diabetes, and to ensure that the public makes this health issue a priority," said the organization.
Approximately, 557,200 Massachusetts adults, or a staggering 8.38 percent of the state’s population, are estimated to have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the Institute for Alternative Futures. 280 million people nationally have pre-diabetes – including 1,693,600 Massachusetts residents – a condition that puts them at the highest risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
For more information on the United Way of Central Massachusetts click here.
While an increasing number of afterschool providers have made quality improvement a priority, addressing quality in a systemic way is complicated: It requires research, planning, building consensus, developing resources, managing new processes and sometimes redefining old relationships. Building Citywide Systems for Quality is a how-to guide designed to support the development of quality improvement systems (QIS) in afterschool settings.
The guide can help those working to create better, more coordinated afterschool programming start building a QIS, or further develop existing efforts. It describes what constitutes an effective QIS and the tasks involved in building one, and includes examples and resources from communities whose work is blazing a trail for others.
Includes work by United Ways.
October 24, 2012,
To the editor:
United Way of Northern Arizona's Board of Directors recently endorsed the Arizona Sales Tax Renewal Amendment, Proposition 204, and the Flagstaff Unified School District bond request, as part of United Way's ongoing efforts to support the three important "building blocks for a good life": Education, Income and Health.
Investing in education is important to the future of our state and the success of our children. Arizona continuously ranks as one of the worst states for education and that's a clear indication that we need to do something differently. Proposition 204 is our opportunity for change that will strengthen Arizona's economy by providing children with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. The FUSD Bond measure funds books, technology and facilities required for our students to succeed.
In addition to investing more resources to help schoolchildren and their classrooms at a critical time, Prop. 204 will prevent the Legislature from making any further cuts to K-12 education. The approximate $1 billion in Arizona's operating account to be provided by Prop 204 essentially equates to what was defunded from Arizona education since 2008. The sales tax rate will not increase as a result of Prop. 204, the rate is a continuation of the one-cent sales tax overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2010.
Your vote for education is very important this year, and on behalf of UWNA I'd like to urge you to vote "YES" on Proposition 204 and "YES" on the FUSD Bond. We all win when the education of our children is our top priority.
President and CEO
United Way of Northern Arizona
Hospitals interested in providing more than clinical services see the value of connecting with United Ways to go “upstream.” United Ways can assist their hospital partners with addressing the social determinants of health—housing, employment, income and education—in a comprehensive way. The work of the Community Health Initiative at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and their relationship with United Way of Greater Cincinnati is just one example.
Hospitals and Community Organizing: Q&A with Robert Kahn Robert Kahn, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (photo courtesy of the hospital)
The Community Health Initiative (CHI), a program of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, includes work with nontraditional community partners to support community organizing and address critical children’s health issues in the community. For example, using geocoding technology to identify areas of greatest need—“hotspots”—by mapping clusters of readmitted asthma patients to substandard housing units owned by the same landlord. CHI partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, which helped tenants form an association and compel the property owner to make repairs. CHI also makes referrals to Legal Aid for patients who need help with Medicaid benefits or require other legal assistance. CHI has developed specific health metrics with which it evaluates the effectiveness of its programs and shares these data with local community organizations and CHI’s community partners.
The CHI work was featured in a new community benefit issue brief from The Hilltop Institute at UMBC, “Community Building and the Root Causes of Poor Health.”
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Robert Kahn, MD, MPH, who is the Director of Research in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
NewPublicHealth: What are the goals of the Community Health Initiative?
Robert Kahn: The Cincinnati Children's Hospital board established in its strategic plan for 2015 four goals that relate to the health of all 190,000 children in our county. The goals relate to: infant mortality, unintentional injuries, asthma, and obesity rates as they relate to hospital readmissions. Our plan is to build a strategy and an infrastructure to cover the ground between a more traditional clinical approach and a truly public and social wellbeing approach to these conditions.
NPH: Why are partners so critical?
Robert Kahn: The hospital realized it can't possibly do this on its own. We need community collaborators to work with. The strategy we've taken is to think about how quality improvement approaches that we've used internally, say, to reduce central line infections, could be applied in a more public health kind of a way. So, how can we pick a small geographic area, think about rates of asthma or unintentional injury in that geographic area, begin to identify partners who would like to work on it with us, develop a shared understanding of the need and the drivers of the problem, and then begin to try to move at least the intermediate measures and eventually the final outcome measures.
NPH: Using unintentional injury as an example, how did the collaborations happen?
Robert Kahn: The hospital’s head of trauma surgery is leading our unintentional injury initiative. He used hospital discharge data to find the rates of unintentional injury between ages 1 and 4 in over 90 neighborhoods. Using one neighborhood, Norwood, as an example, he sat down with the mayor, the head of the fire department, EMS, and the public health department to begin thinking collectively about what we could do. They tried a few strategies that didn't work to get into homes to install safety equipment, and now they’ve shifted to community-wide safety days to attract parent attention and interest.
They’ve had two safety days in which they’ve gotten tremendous numbers of volunteers and they've actually installed safety equipment in about 20 percent of all the homes in that community with children under age 5, with equipment such as smoke alarms and safety gates. But the hospital soon realized that we can't be in the business of doing this in every community ourselves. Now we’re looking at how we can develop a cadre of community leaders so that it can eventually be scalable to other neighborhoods. And we are able to share with communities the rates of unintentional injuries in children in their community, because we take care of 90 percent of the emergency room visits and hospitalizations for kids in the county. So, essentially we are a population-based provider and can almost take on a more public health frame because we have all that discharge data.
NPH: How do you crystalize the hospital’s role in community organizing?
Robert Kahn: I see our role as bringing the health data and our strength in methodology to the community, and in some sense helping be a catalyst or an instigator for creating change on the ground. For the actual organizing, I would much rather find an existing child health consortium on the ground. A community has to own this in the long run for it to be sustainable.
NPH: Who are the partners that are so critical to get perspective beyond health care?
Robert Kahn: I think the goal, from my standpoint, is to get upstream of the health problems and actually think about the social determinants of health and help address issues like housing, employment, income and education. As we think about that, we've tried to consciously identify who are the very high leverage organizations that can help county-wide, as well as local organizations that can do more of the grassroots work. We're really trying to develop collaboration, for example, with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. They have bold education and income goals and increasingly are developing bold health goals. So, how can we partner with an organization like United Way that distributes funding to agencies in the community, and use that as a high leverage point for action. Similarly, the Cincinnati public schools play a pivotal role in the lives of tens of thousands of children. How can we work at the highest levels with them as well to develop an agenda around good nutrition and physical activity?
NPH: Tell us about the asthma hot spotting project.
Robert Kahn: With the hospital discharge data for asthma, we can look at uncontrolled asthma practically in real-time, and then geocode those events to neighborhoods. We have maps now of the counties where we know where the asthma hotspots are, for example. We can give feedback on a monthly basis to see if things are changing. That drives a sense of urgency for us and also hopefully for the community partners to create change as quickly as possible, or to create improvements as quickly as possible.
NPH: And what is an example of an innovative partnership the hospital engaged in to tackle issues that span beyond clinical care?
Robert Kahn: An absolutely amazing collaboration is one between physicians taking care of low income kids and lawyers committed to low income families through the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. We've built a partnership in which there's a legal advocate in our clinic five days a week. We now send over 700 referrals a year to the legal aid advocate. In that clinic, we have 15,000 children and over 35,000 visits a year and physicians ask about housing conditions, but this partnership with legal aid has uncovered really important patterns. Three separate physicians referred a family to legal aid where the family reported that the landlord told them, in the heat of summer, that they'd be evicted if they put in a portable air conditioner into the unit.
Legal aid asked the simple question that a physician never would have asked—who's your landlord? They discovered there was a single developer who owned 19 buildings in Cincinnati who had gone into foreclosure, and all 19 buildings, with over 600 units, were falling into disrepair. They went in and formed tenant associations, worked with Fannie Mae and the property management company for the buildings to institute systemic repairs in about eleven of the buildings including new roofs, cooling and heating. By physicians working hand in glove with a great organization like legal aid, whose mission is stabilizing housing, stabilizing income, we together achieved sort the broader aim of addressing social determinants.
>>Read a brand new study published in Pediatrics describing the outcomes of this medical-legal partnership.
NPH: Have you seen any progress so far, on any of these issues?
Robert Kahn: That's always the hard question. We think we're beginning to see a signal, especially with the injury work in Norwood. It's very early and we still have a lot of mistakes to make and learn from. For asthma, there's a team that's been working on the issue for a while, and we see a reduction in readmissions among children on Medicaid. And they've done that by trying to move more of the care out into the communities, such as a home health program where they're working on self-management of asthma in the home, as well as home delivery of asthma medication to improve adherence.
One of the huge wins for me was when I saw some of the hospitals' approach to goal setting and data-informed approaches appearing in grants that community organizations are submitting, independent of us. They’ve now put in a couple of grants to support their own neighborhood work where they’ve asked to borrow our key driver diagram or asked us to suggest quality improvement approaches. They’re finding value in what we’ve offered to put into proposals of their own, which creates a more sustainable model for change.
Can "movement marketing"—a means for companies to connect with consumers through social media—really lead to positive social change?
Reviewed By Peter Manzo | Fall 2012
Uprising: How to Build a Brand—and Change the World—by Sparking Cultural Movements
256 pages, McGraw-Hill, 2012
Buy the book »
Scott Goodson is a co-founder of the global marketing firm StrawberryFrog, and he has worked with leading worldwide brands, including Ikea, Pfizer, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Mitsubishi, Smart, and Microsoft. In Uprising, he argues that“movement marketing” is the best—and perhaps only—way for companies to connect with consumers in the age of social media, and when done effectively the interaction between companies and consumers can lead to positive social change.
Goodson has written two books: one on how marketers can engage groups with shared passions, beliefs, and ideas to sell products and develop brands; and one on how marketers can help foster cultural and social movements “to build a better, fairer, more sustainable, and more interesting world.” Goodson avoids the contradictions inherent in this argument—i.e., can corporate branding and consumption really lead to sustainability?—but he does provide strong, practical tips for how corporate and nonprofit brands can connect with people in an increasingly global, technologically connected age.
Goodson cites Clay Shirky, Seth Godin, and other marketing and communications experts in declaring that the old way of marketing—pitching a product to the largest possible audience through mass media—is dying. He argues that the best way to reach people is to look for topics and causes around which they are already gathering and align one’s brand with those topics or causes. This inverts the old marketing process; companies need to start with what is going on in the culture, rather than focus on their product or service. Goodson lays out his thesis in the first and last chapters of the book and provides a persuasive and entertaining history of the shift from the old marketing model to the new one in Chapter 2. In Chapters 3 to 7 he details the changes driving this new model and how to put it into practice. Throughout, Goodson provides dozens of short case studies about for-profit and nonprofit campaigns he offers as examples of movement marketing.
Goodson distinguishes the new movement marketing model from the old model:“Instead of marketing and advertising being focused on the individual, marketers must learn to understand and relate to people in interconnected groups; instead of convincing people to believe an ad message, marketers must try to tap into what it is that people already believe and care about; instead of being focused on selling, the way to connect with movements is to be dedicated to sharing; instead of controlling the message, marketers must learn to relinquish control and let the movement do what it will with that message; perhaps most radical of all, companies and brands must learn to stop talking about themselves and to join in a conversation that is about anything and everythingbut their product.”
Goodson’s concept of “movement”could be tighter. He anchors his definition in people gathering around what Shirky calls “shared endeavors.” Goodson notes that not all movements are culturally or politically momentous, like the civil rights, women’s, and environmental movements, but he often discusses cultural movements, social movements, and “purposeful” movements without clearly distinguishing among them.
Though Goodson’s aim seems primarily to revolutionize corporate marketing, social sector enterprises may benefit the most from Uprising. Ironically, the most compelling examples of movement marketing Goodson offers are nonprofits and social enterprises, for which the cause, the movement itself, is the brand—for example, Charity: Water, Aging in Place, and DIY.
When Goodson turns to corporate marketing, he is not as persuasive that branding campaigns add up to movements. Pepsi’s Refresh campaign, one of Goodson’s most cited cases, attracted more than 76 million votes for community improvement ideas submitted by consumers, but the campaign seems more cause marketingand prize philanthropy than a movement. Jim Beam’s Bold Choice campaign and Microsoft’s IdeaWins campaign appeal to individual dreams of growing a small business or finding fulfillment in an encore career, but likewise lack a movement’s shared endeavor. Toms Shoes is a more complicated case. The company’s marketing strategy for selling its product is to tap people’s interests in being, or feeling, philanthropic. (Every pair of shoes sold leads to a pair donated.) Toms’ distribution of shoes and eyeglasses to people in need is a great contribution—but again, is it a movement?
Corporate engagement marketing of the kind shown in most of Goodson’s examples is certainly an improvement over the old marketing model, and it may be valuable in itself. But I could not escape the feeling that for something to be more than niche marketing, there must be an appeal to some shared goal as well as to social change.
Still, Goodson is undeniably right in observing the rise in the number of people seeking connection to shared passions through, and perhaps because of, technology.Uprising will help both corporate and social sector leaders seeking to connect their brand or cause to people who share a mutual passion, and we all will benefit if Goodson succeeds in persuading more companies to support movements for good.Peter Manzo is president and CEO of United Ways of California, which advocates policy change and community impact to improve health, education, and financial stability for low-income families; he contributes to the SSIR blog.
"From the just-released Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, edited by Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D., is a groundbreaking compendium of studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders including community leaders, elected officials, educators, researchers, advocates and other prominent authors.
This powerful collection of nearly 70 articles presents bold and persuasive evidence—as well as examples of effective practices, programs and partnerships—that demonstrate how opportunities after school and during the summer are yielding positive outcomes for authentic student, community and family engagement in learning."
Learn about the creation and distribution of TED nominated video “Statisticks” from Upic member United Way of Lake County (IL).
Many United Ways are focusing on preparing children for school and life through a variety of educational partnerships and collaborations like Success by Six.
Last fall, Upic member United Way of Lake County produced an animated campaign video which tells the story of how small interventions in early in a child’s life can fundamentally change the direction of their life. The video not only received the attention of their community, but was recently nominated as a finalist for a TED award.
In this podcast episode, UWLC staff members, Jennifer Yohan and Valerie Peterson share the journey of creating and sharing this informative and educational viral video which is perfectly aligned with their educational agenda.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
What is VITA? VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. It is a nationwide program operated by volunteers from January 15 - April 15. Volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS, and then prepare tax returns for FREE for individuals & families earning less than $57,000.
In 2011, more than 10,000 individuals & families across the state received free tax preparation at one of the multiple VITA sites. Although tax season is still a few months away, United Way is recruiting VITA volunteers now and we need your help!
•Tax preparation volunteer: Training required, walk clients through tax return filing on a one-on-one basis (Training Commitment: 6-12 hours; Volunteer Commitment: 5hrs a week for 14 weeks. Volunteers can choose the site and hours for which they want to volunteer.)
•Cash coach volunteer: Training required. Work on-site with clients with basic financial needs such as: opening a bank account, tips for saving, filing a FAFSA for college scholarships, etc. (Training Commitment: 1hr; Volunteer Commitment: 2-3 hrs a week)
•Greeter: No training required. Greet clients as they arrive on-site to file their taxes. Assist with signing clients in and any other needs that site coordinator may have. (Volunteer Commitment: 2-3 hours per week)
•Tax Site Assistant: Training required, assists site coordinator in daily activities and acts as a Quality Reviewer of returns prepared at the tax sites. (Training Commitment: 6-12 hours for VITA certification; Volunteer Commitment: 10+ hours per week)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - City Manager Greg Sundstrom said he respects and appreciates the bold leadership of Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal in putting forth a transformation plan focused on kids being college and career ready.
On Monday, Oct. 29, Neal introduced a proposal to the school board that would close 10 school buildings, consolidates schools and programs, and closes and reopens more innovative, appealing programs on the same sites. The building plan is meant to support her new academic plan, funneling money saved into improving teaching and learning.
RELATED: Grand Rapids superintendent unveils plans to close Creston, other schools as part of consolidation, reinvention plan
"I agree with Superintendent Neal that Grand Rapids Public Schools has a significant impact on the entire community. After all, they are training the workforce of tomorrow," Sundstrom said. "It is important for this community to have a well-trained workforce."
"A transformation plan means rethinking everything you do, not incremental change but bold change that can have significant impact."
Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, said she thinks Neal is on the right track with her focus on putting dollars into improving achievement.
"The focus really needs to be on raising the graduation rate, reducing the dropout rate and preparing kids to be college and career ready," said Sieger. "When you are faced with financial challenges, you have to make some difficult choices."
The foundation is a key district partner, funneling a half-million dollars to Grand Rapids schools already to keep Northwest Side students on track to colleges or training for certification. Plans are to invest as much as $4.5 million this decade. Students at Harrison Park and teachers are receiving academic support through the Challenge Scholars Program, which expands to Westwood Middle next year and includes Union High School support. The group is also offering college scholarships to Harrison students graduating in Union's Class of 2020.
The district has a graduation rate of 47.6 percent, a dropout rate of nearly 20 percent, and less than 1 percent of comprehensive high school students are college ready based on Michigan Merit Exam and ACT. And 17 of its 43 buildings are at or below 60 percent capacity.
Neal says she can't run a district operating at a loss.
"I think the overall plan makes a lot of sense because No. 1, it's strategic, which is critically important," said Brian Cloyd, board chair of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy and a district public-private partnership, and vice president of global corporate relations for Steelcase.
"I know that the lighting rod will be around individual schools closing, reopening, and where is my child going to school, but I think parents should be asking themselves two questions: Do I want a quality education for my child? Do I want my child to have the opportunity to be successful in life?"
He said funds going into operating and maintaining half-empty buildings can be focused on every child being successful.
"I think it’s a very gutsy plan," said Joe Jones, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Urban League. "I think there is a need to be bold. This seems to be well thought and most importantly, puts the district on the path to being competitive during a time when true choice in education is available in our community.".
Fritz Crabb, director of literacy initiatives for the Heart of West Michigan United Way, which partners with GRPS on its Schools of Hope program, said it is important the district concentrates on its academic challenges.
"We are happy to see the bold steps proposed by the superintendent to improve academics," said Crabb, who said they will work for the success of the plan ultimately adopted.
At Monday's school board work session, Neal told the board she thought the transformation plan was "thoughtful and creative" and asked they not pick it apart but vote it up or down.
The board is scheduled to vote Dec. 17. Five meetings are planned with the community beginning Thursday at Creston High School, 1720 Plainfield Ave. NE, one of the schools recommended for closure because its low-enroll and high operating cost. The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
To read the plan, visit the district website.
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @Twitter.com/GRPScotty.
By Michele Danno Courtesy of United Way
One million may not seem like much to some folks with seven-figure salaries. It’s a paycheck, a game day audience or a Twitter following. But in the eyes of students working to recruit one million people to join a cause, that number means a lot.
It means a lot to all of the people who are teaming with United Way to cut the high school dropout rate in half by recruiting one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. To help spread the word, United Way leveraged its esteemed partnership with America’s most popular major league sport by launching United Way TEAM NFL — a core group of college-educated, civic-minded NFL players from across the country committed to representing the initiative and motivating volunteers to sign up.
But as eager as they are to help, they cannot do it alone and no one knows how to reach out to students in need better than students themselves.
Cue Student United Way, a student-led initiative that aligns with the core values of its parent organization and is dedicated to sharing their mission of advancing the common good by empowering individuals and their communities. That empowerment targets America’s troubled youth, who are dropping out of school at unprecedented rates. Daunting statistics, such as one in four students today won’t graduate high school or a student drops out every 26 seconds, fuel the “One Million Goal” and drive Student United Way advocates to pay their educations forward.
That’s not to say it’s an easy feat. Juggling classes, sports, friends and work, most college kids rarely find time for themselves – let alone anybody else. But those involved in Student United Way, like 22-year-old Elizabeth Collins, willingly spare what little free time they have to help their communities.
Ironically, Collins calls her actions “selfish,” as she sees charity as more beneficial for her than those she volunteers for. As the president of Student United Way at Montana State University Billings, she described her satisfaction from volunteering as “addictive,” and has since made it her goal to get others hooked.
Her chapter of Student United Way is just one of 79 others, which are located in four different countries around the world. While chapters have participated in various independent initiatives since the group’s founding in 2008, this year they decided to rally behind one common goal set fourth by United Way — the One Million Goal.
Edwin Goutier, the manager of Student United Way, called these Student United Way participants his “worker bees,” saying they’re a great complement to the NFL players who are using their relationships and reach to help spread the word about the need and the opportunity to get involved.
Collins agreed, saying that the brunt of her group’s work is low-profile, but yields high success both in the lives of disadvantaged students and their volunteers.
To promote the cause for education, Collins’ Student United Way chapter is hosting everything from pen-pal programs to book drives, tutoring programs and other awareness-raising events that serve as a platform to recruit more volunteers.
Inching towards one million, these types of initiatives make the number that much more attainable. Goutier, who supports all Student United Ways, said the chapters are getting creative with how to spread the word, and every tactic is getting them closer to the ultimate goal.
“We know it’s going to take all of us working together to make it happen,” he said. “Students are an untapped resource, and this gives them the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of other students.”
Michele Danno is a United Way TEAM NFL intern and a student at the University of Iowa.
APHA 2012: A Q&A with Stacey Stewart, President of United Way USA Stacey Stewart, United Way USA President
As thousands of people who are striving to improve health and health care convene in San Francisco, Calif., for the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, RWJF is hosting brief interviews with thought leaders from across sectors. Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide, provided his thoughts on partnerships.
NewPublicHealth also spoke with Stacey Stewart, who was recently named to the new position of president of United Way USA. She was previously the executive Vice President, Community Impact Leadership and Learning at United Way Worldwide. Stewart shared her goals for UnitedWay USA, as well as what she's learned about the integral connections between education, income and health.
NewPublicHealth: What are your goals as the new president of United Way of America?
Stacey Stewart: At United Way we’re celebrating 125 years of history this year, and it’s kind of interesting to take on the kind of leadership role for an organization that has been around this long and been known in communities for so long. But, also to do it in ways that lead us to how we want to be known and how we want our work to be defined, not just in how it’s usually been defined, but how it needs to be defined as we move forward based on what communities really need. I mean, part of how United Way was started was really much more as an organization that was absolutely focused on improving social conditions for people.
We got started in Denver in the midst of the gold rush when Denver was really seeing a lot of people come into the town and thinking they would hit it really big and obviously really didn’t, and a lot of state leaders came together to ask how could we work collectively to address some of the challenges we’re seeing with people in poverty and homelessness and all of that. And they found then that it wasn’t possible for any one organization or state institution to address the problems on their own, that they actually needed to do it together, and that kind of memory still defines United Way in terms of who we are and how we need to go about doing the work.
Obviously, a lot of our history—in terms of thinking about the collective pooling of resources to some extent—is how we galvanize resources to apply to a challenge. But, the reality is that any attempt building on what even financial resources can deal with, it takes a range of different resources—volunteerism, advocates, in addition to the financial resources—to really apply to the issue. So, for me the number one thing is to really reenergize our roots, things that can really help United Way to understand the full breadth of their role in communities as a real convener, and galvanize it toward improving social conditions, especially in the areas of education. And building our capacity as a network to do that and building our relevance in trust as an organization that is focused on that is really critical.
The other thing that we’re really focused on is how are we then seen as a real go-to organization for these issues, a real beacon of leadership in these issues. Not that we’re starting a think tank on these issues, but if we’re a convener on community change, how can we also be a convener on the best thinking and the best practices around this work so that if anybody, whether you’re a policymaker or practitioner, if you’re just looking for who knows the most or who has some of the best ideas around education that I can tap into? How do we create that source of being a repository or that source of information that helps accelerate the work across communities, whether it’s done by our United Way or other partners? It’s just how can we be seen as that beacon or that go-to organization that’s both a thought leader and a real resource to practitioners all around the country? And, I think for a lot of us, obviously, maintaining the strength and health of our network overall has got to be critical.
I mean everyone, especially in tough economic times, is very much focused on resources to do the work and we’re no different in that respect. So continuing to be able to support the resources that are required to make tangible progress on the ground and maintain a real thriving network is something that’s always important to us. To do that so we’ve got to be great partners with people and great partners with our corporate partners, traditional partners…with a range of stakeholders, foundations and think tanks and nonprofit organizations and state and local and federal government partners. Stakeholders all across the board who have focused on these issues and anyone and everyone that cares about the issues of education. We want to be the best kind of partner we can possibly be with them and for them and with them. So those are the big priorities for me.
NPH: What did you learn in your former role as the head of the Community Impact Division of UW about the connection between health, education and income
Stacey Stewart: When you ask people what will help them get on a better path for an opportunity for better life, they raise challenges and opportunities that typically fall into one of what we call the building blocks for a great life -- education, income and health. We also know that people don’t necessarily think about them as separate silos. They’re all related to each other. People in their everyday lives understand that in order for me to get a great job, I’ve got to get a great education, and if I don’t have good health, then I’m not going to be able to get any of that.
We at United Way have always tried to think about integration of these things together and have those ultimately drive community outcomes and individual improvement in an individual's life opportunities as well.
So, when I’ve gone to Denver and seen pediatricians at the table in the discussion on early grade reading levels, for example, that is exactly what a United Way can do. It’s pulling all of these nontraditional players together. On an issue like education, pediatricians can play a huge role in informing and educating the parents to help support their kids in school as well as making sure that the kids themselves are healthy and have an opportunity show up to school ready to learn. I get really excited about that, about United Way, because I think we bring a unique skill set to people to convene and galvanize multi-sector approaches to the work.
NPH: Where do you see the most potential to make a difference when it comes to cross-sector partnerships to improve the wellbeing of the community? What are the kinds of partnerships that you think need to be at the table beyond what you’ve already discussed?
Stacey Stewart: Well, for us, I think obviously the kinds of partnerships with the best thought leaders in this state or in any of the areas that we’re in are really helpful to us because we see ourselves as the conveners and the galvanizers. We want to look to others who have been the best thinkers and researchers on the issues to learn from them, and just basically take those learnings and apply them in classical ways that can ultimately help communities execute on the work that they try to do. For us, we’re an organization that at our roots, we’re very much local—a set of local organizations with local relationships and local partners all across the community.
The opportunity for us, though, is that to the extent that in most of our work we’re dealing with issues that aren’t just isolated or contained in any one particular community—kind of across multiple communities—the opportunity for us is to think about where partnerships can get traction locally as well as how we can build that partnership across an entire country, across the whole national footprint of the United Way. And, so when we think about, for example, our partnership with the corporate center, we’re thinking about companies and how companies get involved in this work in their own backyards, like in their headquarters community, and how they can make a difference there.
But, many of our biggest corporate partners have a national footprint and increasingly a global footprint, and so we’re always thinking about how we can leverage our partnership with that particular entity that meets them at all the levels of where they’d like to play a role—locally, nationally and globally, if that makes sense for them. We have real examples of where that is really working well, especially at the local level. We’ve got United Ways, for example, in Charleston, South Carolina. They have a Link to Success initiative that’s working on reducing the drop-out rate in high-poverty, low-performing Title I schools, and they do it by thinking about integration of background support that supports both academic and life skills—supports that are needed for children to be able to succeed. So they are involving all of the members of the health community to make sure kids have the right insurance coverage. There’s how our United Ways think holistically about these issues and wants to invite all the right partners to the table so we can dig up solutions together.
What we try to do is, where there are beacons of success in a local community, our role is to try to share that information across our network and across communities so that people don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. They can actually learn what’s working and replicate those practices. That’s an important role we play, but our role is—in particular, my role—to both serve and lead. There are times that we have to lead on some of these issues, lead our network and lead the country in some areas, and then there are times we serve. We serve the needs of communities to try to develop these solutions and come up with the right solutions that they think meet their communities’ needs the best, and we’re always really inspired by when these kinds of successes come up because we learn so much as well about what’s working and what’s not.
NPH: I didn’t have this on the list, but it’s something that you mentioned that I would love to explore a little bit more and that’s around partnerships with the corporate world and how companies can get involved. What is sort of your message point on that, as you’re going to talk to a company about this? What’s the value of companies being a part of these kinds of efforts?
Stacey Stewart: Well, the way that we think about it is that United Way is really positioned to be one of the most effective strategic partners to a company that’s really interested in making a difference in a community. Traditionally, how companies have known us is through operating a workplace campaign and by encouraging employee giving in the workplace. And that really is a core piece of that, and we know that employee engagement drives loyalty. It drives retention, and it drives resources and engagement of those employees into the community issues that are really most pressing, but we also know that companies have broader corporate strategic priorities with respect to their involvement in communities and how they see their role in communities.
We see ourselves at United Way as being able to deliver on a very robust strategic partnership with those companies on their leading corporate social responsibility priorities, and really being a shared value partner with those companies so that the bottom line of improving communities and improving the company’s bottom line can be all achieved. That’s really a win/win situation for everyone involved. What we want to really explore with our companies today isn’t just how much can we expand…it’s how much can the work on education, income and housing be integrated with the company’s priorities to the extent that they want to engage their consumer base in some of this work through volunteerism, through giving, as a result of marketing efforts.
We’re actively exploring those opportunities. We want to lift up corporate leaders as having an important voice on these issues and do whatever we can at United Way to provide those corporate leaders an opportunity to be heard on some of these issues. I think when the business community is seen as a leader in thinking about how to improve communities, I think that’s a win/win for all of us. I used to be chief diversity officer for a Fortune 100 company, and I know for a fact how much diversity and CSR are tied together. To the extent that we could have a company meet its diversity and inclusion goals while also meeting its community goals, there’s a big opportunity for that as well, engaging women, people of color and the LGBT community.
People from all walks of life want to feel connected to a company’s vision, not only in terms of the overall business but in terms of their role in improving community. So there’s a real opportunity for that as well. We think very holistically about our corporate partners. We think about all of their priorities and we think of United Way as a very strategic partner.
Tags: APHA, Health disparities
United Way Establishes Education Network: Volunteers Can Search Web Site for Opportunities
For Release: October 31, 2012 Contact: Molly Link, United Way, 260.422.4776 (work), 260.418.7218 (cell)
United Way Establishes Education Network: Volunteers Can Search Web Site for Opportunities October 31, 2012 (Fort Wayne, Ind.) –
United Way of Allen County’s Education Network consists of 16 local early childhood and youth serving agencies who work together to recruit volunteers and share resources. The purpose of the Education Network is to provide individuals who want to volunteer to help children a “one stop shop” of opportunities from which to select. United Way has launched a web site, www.UWEducationNetwork.org, and encourages anyone interested in volunteering to go to the site to sign up. Volunteers can search according to their interests and availability, as well as view a listing of all Education Network partners and submit a volunteer application form directed to the organization(s) of their choice.
“United Way’s Education Network is integral to showcasing the many opportunities for volunteerism in our community,” said Todd Stephenson, president and CEO of United Way of Allen County. “We know that getting involved in the community with kids early on and continuing throughout their school years is one of the key ways to help them grow into productive and economically stable adults.” “It’s wonderful for so many organizations to come together through the Education Network,” said Sharon Callender, coordinator of Fort Wayne Community School’s Community Programs, which runs Study Connection.
“Not only can we connect with interested volunteers, but we connect with other programs in our community and share ideas and resources.” More than 46 percent of children enter kindergarten unprepared and the most economically challenged kids start school one to two years behind in language and other skills. Statistics also show that nearly 1,000 kids in Allen County do not read at grade level by the end of third grade, an important benchmark to continued academic success.
Programs within United Way’s Education Network need volunteers to get involved when and where they can to help change these trends. Individuals wanting to volunteer with United Way or other area programs to help local youth succeed in school and life can visit United Way’s Education Network to find a fitting opportunity at www.UWEducationNetwork.org or contact Ruthie Krueger at 469-4002 or email@example.com.
Education Network partners: Allen County Public Library, Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana, Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, CANI Head Start, Catholic Charities, Early Childhood Alliance, Fort Wayne Community Schools Study Connection, Fort Wayne Urban League, Lutheran Social Services of Indiana, MLK Montessori School, Renaissance Pointe YMCA, Science Central, Turnstone, United Way of Allen County and Wellspring Interfaith Social Services