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For the past 3 years, United Way of Larimer County has been using the Collective Impact model to change the system in order to address poverty in our community. What is this "Collective Impact" buzzword all about, you ask?
Over the summer, Generation Now - a non-profit organization providing summer and after-school programs for under-resourced youth in Harmony Village - had significant changes in staffing and coordination of their current program. This left a big gap in their ability to serve the community, and would have resulted in loss of their after-school program. As a result, more than 40 kids would not have critical after-school programming.
Research shows that after-school programming decreases truancy, increases academic performance, helps with emotional and behavioral problems, and improves leadership skills. These factors are critical to meeting the goal of our Kids on Track initiative: to empower youth to achieve early grade literacy, to stay in school, and to graduate on time.
In 2014, we established collaborative working groups to address the complex needs of children and families in our community: Be Ready, Kids on Track, and Working Families Thrive. A variety of different partner organizations in Larimer County that focus on youth success have come together as part of the Kids on Track collaborative working group. This includes: Poudre School District (PSD), Partners Mentoring Youth, BASE Camp, Poudre River Public Library District, Generation Now, CSU Campus Connections, City of Loveland Public Library, Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, and the Larimer County Youth and Family Services.
When Harmony Village suddenly found themselves without an after-school program for their youth, the Kids on Track working collaborative stepped up to the plate. Partners in this group came together and recognized the value of existing resources that could be redistributed to meet the needs of Harmony Village.
Boys and Girls Clubs has taken on the logistical components of the program, while remaining volunteer-driven. BASE Camp is providing in-kind staffing and support. The Poudre River Public Library is continuing programming at the site with the potential to expand services. Their programming includes story time every week, in Spanish. Future programming could include the library’s mobile maker space, a van with 3-D printing, tools for teaching computer programming, and more. The library has also provided translation services, including materials for parents and outreach.
Not only were Boys & Girls Clubs, BASE Camp, and the Poudre River Public Library involved, but the Poudre School District stepped in as well. The Kids on Track collaborative group had a relationship with the PSD family liaison program, which was critical to the success of this collaborative work at Harmony Village. The success of this after-school program is built on existing relationships that the schools have with families in the neighborhood. School Liaisons from PSD play an integral role in identifying the right program for the right student.
The efforts made by partners in this collaborative to support the children and families of the Harmony Village community are incredible and the impact is huge. And it has made a big impact in our community.
The work that United Way of Larimer County has done to create the space for these relationships and collaborative groups to form is critical for organizations in our community to be able to work together. This enables them to respond more effectively to the changing needs of our community.
It’s about building relationships.
"Often times, the best solutions are born out of our day-to-day, real life experiences in the communities that we serve," said Rebecca Toll, Director of Community Building at United Way of Larimer County. "While you can't always plan for changes in community conditions, you can respond to those changes with a high rate of success if you create the system to support that work. This is what Collective Impact is all about."
This model lays important groundwork for how our community can respond more quickly to the needs of children and families.
Place-based programming in our community is being recognized as an effective solution to ensure that kids have a safe and supportive environment after school. This is already creating a ripple effect. We are excited for the potential of this to be replicated across the community.
The amazing thing about this is that everyone came to the table in order to serve the kids impacted by the potential loss of programming from Generation Now, and contributed solutions that met the needs of those kids and families first. Now, they can adjust the way they work together to make that happen.
Why is this so amazing? In communities across the country, it is almost unheard of for such collaboration to take place. Historically, non-profits have competed for donor dollars and grant funding, which is often based on the number of children served, rather than the quality of that service.
We are changing the way organizations in our community serve children in need. We have turned the tables from trying to get kids to attend existing programs, to creating programs where there are kids who need them. This is a huge shift.
United Way of Larimer County cannot take the credit for all of this work. Our collaborative partners in the Kids on Track working group are what made the program at Harmony Village succeed. We want to recognize and praise our partners’ ability and willingness to step up to the plate.
THANK YOU, to all of our partners, for rising to the occasion.
We are proud to be a part of a network that is this responsive to the needs of our community, and look forward to the potential progress in our community that this kind of collaboration will prompt.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County