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United Way proposes a new approach to community change

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Guest column

The Standford Social Innovation Review defines Collective Impact as “[t]he commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.”

The United Way of Central Kentucky will be hosting a Collective Impact Workshop with a nationally renowned consultant, Dan Duncan, later this month.  Duncan, a faculty member with Northwestern University’s Asset Based Community Development Institute, has 30 years experience as a United Way professional and has helped numerous local United Ways create solutions to their communities’ most urgent needs.

During his visit, Duncan will facilitate two sessions of the Collective Impact Workshop focusing on Results Based Accountability and Asset Based Community Development. These workshops are free and will be open to any local nonprofit agency, although UWCK’s funded partners will receive priority seating. The two sessions will be held from 9 to 11:30 a.m. EST Jan. 23-24 to ensure as many nonprofit leaders can attend as possible. Mouser’s Custom Cabinetry in Elizabethtown generously provided its  large conference room for the trainings.

As the Board of Directors for our local United Way, we believe a new approach is needed to address the larger, systemic issues that result in one in four children and one in six individuals in our Central Kentucky region living in poverty.

In order to attack the root causes of poverty, we must be united! Charitable agencies, industry, churches and individuals must work collectively to establish measurable goals, identify strategies, and mobilize resources.  Any strategy that will make a significant difference in the overall poverty level must involve a collaborative approach from the non-profit community.

The Collective Impact Workshop seeks to bring to the table the 20 agencies and 31 programs our local United Way currently supports, as well as opening the doors to all other non-profit agencies in UWCK’s five-county region of Hardin, Breckinridge, Grayson, LaRue and Meade. 

President Woodrow Wilson once said, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” 

At United Way, we believe deeply in this principle. During the last three years, UWCK has gained a deeper understanding of the communities’ aspirations by holding community conversations throughout our region. It became obvious through these listening sessions that poverty in our region is trending upward, and that United Way is being called to convene local business, industry, and government around a common goal — to cut in half the number of people living in poverty in our region. 

In these sessions, United Way was asked to shift from primarily addressing the short term needs of the most exposed members of our community, and to begin to put more emphasis on tackling the long term root causes of poverty. This change requires us to do more than just set a fundraising goal … it requires us to differentiate between the communities short-term and long-term focus to ensure the dollars invested are making the maximum impact in the lives of the most vulnerable children, seniors, and families.

In order to impact poverty, we are engaging the experts in education, industry, finance, the faith communities, and health to better understand the strategies and partnerships required to be an effective change agent. This is an active and ongoing process, where UWCK will continue to turn outward to our community and listen. 

This is the beginning of a new vision for our community, where hope for a better tomorrow is inspired by those who Live United through giving, advocating and volunteering. We are truly an interdependent society where reaching out a hand to one, improves the condition of all.

We need you to join us as we strive to create long-lasting and positive change in our community and region. Call our local United Way office at 270-737-6608 or visit our website www.unitedwayck.org today to learn how you can Live United.

This column was written on behalf of the United Way of Central Kentucky by Kirk Chadwick, its board president, and Brian Kerr, vice president.