Just Food : There's No Competition At All...Or Is There?

My apologies for the long break in writing! With Christmas, and the New Year, and all of the exciting changes happening, this has unfortunately taken a back seat.

I remember one of my first meetings where I was sitting in a room with many agencies in Douglas County. I had been back in Lawrence for just a few months. And someone made a comment that I wholeheartedly disagreed with. They said,

"Why, every agency in Lawrence works well together, and there's no competition at all."

I bit my tongue so hard it almost bled. Those that know me know that I don't bite my tongue often, but I gave it a shot to see perhaps if there was something I was missing.

By nature, every agency has to be selfish. Our livelihoods are at stake, right? If we don't protect what we have and guard our mission closely, then maybe one day we will be deemed irrelevant and have to close.

If you didn't catch it, the statement I just made is HEAVILY toxic. And one that I wholeheartedly don't believe in. Why? Because this isn't about protecting an agency. No matter how much good an agency does, if there's someone else that is doing it better, and more cost-effectively, then by all means all power should be put behind that agency to focus on that.

Agencies in Lawrence have had to become all things to all people. There wasn't much here 20 years ago. So, agencies whose primary mission wasn't food, had to give food out, because no one else was doing it.

So, we have a ton of agencies in Lawrence doing a ton of good work, and much of it is not happening symbiotically. And the only reason it's not happening symbiotically is because people haven't sat down at the same table, willing to lose everything for the good of those that are investing, and those that they are serving.

I realize what I just wrote could be hard for many to digest. It's hard for me to digest. But, are we focusing on those that we serve and making things better for them? Or simply sustaining our organizations because they've always existed?

Three agencies came to the table willing to lose it all, to gain better service to clients, and selflessly made decisions that will forever alter the way that food distribution is done in Douglas County. We pickup there tomorrow.

Tagged: partner, 2012, agency, salvation army, ballard, collaboration, just food, hungry, fast food, competition, united way, thanksgiving, penn house

Comments

Marilyn Hull 1 year, 3 months ago

The United Way gets the credit for bringing agencies together to talk about how to do more and break down the self-interested silos. Erika Dvorske and her board are pursuing some difficult and controversial work. In my mind, they deserve our thanks.

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Chris Tilden 1 year, 3 months ago

There is much to be gained by collaboration. Hats off to these local agencies that are looking at how we can truly make a difference to those who face food insecurity!

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