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June 30, 2014
June 26, 2014 marked the 12th annual State of the Community, presented by United Way of Larimer County. In years past, State of the Community events have focused on a specific issue present in our community. For people who have attended more than one of these events, they may note that this year's presentation and keynote speaker took a different approach than previous years; instead of focusing on one issue, this year's topic focused on how we, as a community, can come together to make lasting change where we live, how it takes the whole community to change Larimer County for good.
The luncheon opened with Gordan Thibedeau, President and CEO of United Way of Larimer County, welcoming guests and highlighting United Way's year in review. Following that, Gordan welcomed keynote speaker Bill Crim, Senior Vice President of Collective Impact with United Way of Salt Lake. Bill's time with United Way of Salt Lake has focused in large on using collective impact to address the needs in his community, a great example for how we, as a community, can create change in Larimer County.
Bill began his message by making a case for collective impact (when different people and groups work together to overcome something). He laid the ground work for why it is needed. Good work doesn't always translate into community level results. This is known as the results paradox “where we can do so much, that programs can be so good but at the end of the day, community problems are getting worse, not better.” Bill posed the question, “How is this possible?”. To answer this, he defined three types of problems: simple problems - problems that anyone can solve; complex problems - problems where with the right expertise and instructions, they can be solved; and problems where the solutions don't match the complexity of the problem. This third type of problem is the one that faces our community. Funders fund individual programs and grantees, and while nonprofits collaborate, they still have to compete for resources and do so by looking for that particular magic bullet solution creating an isolated impact.
Bill went on to discuss how it is unrealistic to expect that one person, one organization can solve all the problems. Collaboration is not enough by itself. We need to focus on a common agenda, a shared goal. It's not enough to attend a few meetings or co-locate services. We have to look for ways to mutually reinforce each other, to work differently together towards that shared goal. Those “things don't happen unless we make time for constant communication, unless we trust each other, unless we stop competing as much as we can, and think about how we can stay committed to a long-term collaborative effort with a very focused goal.”
The problem and solution Bill lays out is very similar to what Larimer County needs. We have identified three focus areas, three goals to work towards which will help reduce poverty and increase prosperity in Larimer County. Those areas are Education, Income and Health. Without a good education, a child cannot get a good job and support their future family, and if a family is not able to provide for the basic needs of their children, they will not succeed as well in the classroom, decreasing their success rate. To learn more about how we can work together and change Larimer County for good, read the Community Impact Plan version 2.0. As stated by Bill, “It is not sustainable to not work together.” We can change the future of Larimer County if we work together.
Following Bill's message attendees heard from Jerri Schmitz, Executive Director of the Matthews House. The Matthews House is one of the many organizations who are partnering with United Way to make a collective impact on Larimer County. The Matthews House Community Life Center is just one of the many examples of collaborative efforts to address poverty where clients are provided assistance, support and direction on how to move past their current situation and into self-sufficiency.
Maranda is one example of how the collaborative efforts at the Community Life Center have made an impact. Over the last 8 months, Maranda and her two boys have been in need of assistance. They lost everything after leaving a domestic abuse situation. They found themselves with no family or support system and not many options. After staying their allotted time at a local shelter, they had nowhere to go and they turned to the Community Life Center for aid; they met her where she was at providing her guidance, resources and assistance. The Matthews House helped Maranda find a host home helped, get her kids in day care, find employment, continue her education in social work, and find permanent housing. Without the help of the Matthews House and the other organizations that worked together to support her, Maranda says she would most likely dead because they would have had to return to the community where her abuser lives.
Check out this videofor more information on the Power of Collective Impact
Click here to hear about the rest of the 2014 State of the Community.
All photos courtesy of ZebraJellyFish Photography
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County