This past week the United Way of Douglas County Education Workgroup met to learn about data collection, report out on our progress and work together to address challenges. Our efforts are being mapped on a workplan that provides a way for us to keep track of what we hope to accomplish over the course of our work together.
There is something pretty significant about being able to bring together a variety of different organizations who are working hard toward the common goal of assuring that children and teens are successful in school. The efforts are wide-ranging and include activities tied to providing training and coaching to child care providers to providing leadership skills and mentoring to older children. We learned about the hundreds of children who will be doing summer programming with Boys and Girls Club and the hundreds of kids who are in child care programs who are focused on quality.
And we were reminded of the need...
The needs of the programs in this area are great. We would like to be able to send more weekend meals home for kids who might be hungry over the weekend. We would like to have more child care programs able to take advantage of the quality improvement efforts and provide more parent connections for those in the programs. We would like to have more academic volunteers, mentors, readers and just generally nice people to be a positive force in the life of a child. Some of these needs involve money, yes, but some of these needs involve time. If you are interested in giving of your time... visit www.volunteerdouglascounty.org
Recent reports of fundraising challenges for many nonprofits in town, including United Way, should be understood for what they are: economic indicators. While the Douglas County unemployment numbers are pretty low, changes at many of our local large employers are impacting opportunities in our community.
Over the next few weeks I will post some different perspectives on this, but I want to start with this... Are we measuring what really matters?
Dollars raised in this community through local organizations, foundations, and United Way are not the ends, but the means. With last year's campaign we facilitated some strategic alignments that are producing the following results:
- More child care providers who are focused on preparing young children for school,
- More parents who understand the importance of family engagement, and
- More programs, outside of the school day, who are taking an active interest in academic success.
These are what we, as a community, should be talking about. As Jeremy Farmer will tell you, Just Food continues to feed more people. More families sought to be adopted for the holidays. Free dental day always begins in the middle of the night. Without changing how we build community and partnership, the economic indicator only reflects the input. Let's start talking about what we want to accomplish with that input.
Personally, I would like more kids entering Kindergarten with the skills to succeed because that will help teachers, parents, mental health providers and, in a few years, employers. I would like more families have the ability to provide for themselves. I would like to see more people taking responsibility for preventative health through immunizations and healthier habits.
How can we make this our community measurement of success?
The great work of the KU Work Group with the Health Department as the catalyst has reminded many of us how important the health of our community is. Individually, we spend a lot of time worrying about our own health, but we don’t always think about the health and well being of the larger community.
Reviewing the results of the Assessment was not surprising to me. In fact, it was a lot like when, after getting Wii Fit over the holidays my “trainer” told me I was overweight. Many of us know what makes us individually unhealthy. What the assessment tells us is that we also know what makes us as community unhealthy as well.
For anyone who has connected in one way or another to the Kansas Leadership Center, you will also know that what makes us healthy is not about a pill, a bandaid, or the best health product. It is about the choices that we make every day. Do I walk to my next meeting or drive the block? Do I take a second serving of pasta or salad? These choices, for me, have made the difference between being overweight or normal, according to my Wii Trainer.
One issue that arose in the assessment was that while many organizations in the community refer to each other, we do not collaborate as effectively as we could. Similar to my weight loss plan, we as a community have to change our individual habits to be able to strengthen the health of the community. For human service agencies that means we need to look beyond what our organization does to make sure we are working in concert, not just alongside each other. From simple efforts, like making sure other organizations are informed about program changes (like hours), to the big efforts of coordinating AmeriCorps members, food pantries, or emergency assistance.
This kind of collaboration and engagement cannot wait. Just like my heart weakens with every day that I don’t exercise, our human service system weakens as we continue to operate in isolation. Douglas County residents are committed to many different issues and organizations. If you read carefully the assessment (available at ldchealth.org) you will find that these issues will require many different people from many different organizations to make progress. I want us to make progress. Do you?
The United Way of Douglas County has re-released the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority’s Emergency Resources Map. This map is available to aid area families in their search for resources and services. The map which lists the physical location of 75 government entities and social service agencies is imposed on the City bus route. In addition, there are 18 other organizations listed by phone number. The backside of the map gives a description of services available at each organization/agency.
This project is the result of a multi-agency collaboration which was originally spearheaded by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Headquarters. The map work was completed by the City of Lawrence GIS Department while compilation and organization of the resources and printing was undertaken by the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority. Ongoing maintenance will be done by United Way of Douglas County. Funding for the printing was provided by the City of Lawrence, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Douglas County Community Foundation.
The map is currently available at United Way of Douglas County, Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, Lawrence Public Library, City of Lawrence Community Development. If organizations are interested in having the map available at their facility, please contact United Way at 843-6626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be a great tool for families needing resources. This will be especially true for families hit by the economic downturn who have never had to turn to these sorts of services before.
What needs to happen in our community for people to have steady jobs and financial stability? Would you be willing to post your ideas about what strategies in our community help to achieve this? Post here to help brainstorm!
What needs to happen in our community for people of all ages to have access to healthcare in broad terms, including physical, mental? Would you be willing to post your ideas about what strategies in our community help to achieve this? Post here to help brainstorm!
What needs to happen in our community for children and teens to be successful in school. Would you be willing to post your ideas about what strategies in our community help to achieve this? Post here to help brainstorm!
The United Way of Douglas County Board of Directors adopted three community goals to guide United Way efforts. The adopted goals are:
- Children and teens are successful in school.
- People of all ages have access to health care (mental, physical).
- People have steady jobs and financial stability.
The identification of community outcomes within these goals is another step in a two-year transition process. Throughout the late winter and spring of 2011, United Way will be working with community partners and issue experts to identify strategies to address outcomes. No one organization or strategy will achieve these outcomes, but by mobilizing community resources and building partnerships, which is United Way’s mission, we think we can make progress on Douglas County’s most pressing community issues.
I hope people will join us in moving the needle on some of these big challenges and opportunities.