Let’s start by imagining the perfect state of York County. Children grow up in a nurturing environment. They have early childhood experiences that offer a competitive playing field so when they start kindergarten, they are prepared and eager to learn. They progress through their school years, on track with grade level expectations. Their out-of-school experiences are fun and provide opportunities for continuous learning. Their lives have hope, and there is little need for gang or drug involvement. They graduate from high school and have a choice of what to do with their lives—go to college or train for a job. They are employed at a livable wage with benefits that enable them and their families to live quality lives, in good housing and in good health. In turn, their children have the same experience. Business is attracted to York County because of its trained and ample workforce. As the business base grows, so does the tax base.
Our Collective Impact Agenda
The United Way of York County is focused on mobilizing our community to make lasting change. We are thinking beyond funding allocations and short-term solutions. Our collective impact process requires us to communicate regularly and openly with collaborators, build knowledge and alignment within our community and foster impact initiatives that will move the needle on some of our greatest problems. Collective impact, has allowed us to redefine our role in our community – we are truly becoming the backbone of community change efforts. We found that collective impact is a requirement for us to meet the urgent challenges our society faces today. Collective impact is enabling us to strengthen our community in ways we have never seen.
Here is a key part of the plan that is different than how we’ve been operating. There is much good being done in this county on many fronts toward meeting the needs of our residents. Still, our efforts are too fragmented. We may be going in the same general direction but not with a common agenda. Our plan calls for us all to come together around the key drivers of change. When we say ‘all’, we mean everyone in the community—government, schools, business, the faith community, non-profit agencies, citizen volunteers. If we all row in the same direction, we believe our progress will be exponential compared to what more isolated efforts can accomplish. This is different than collaboration, which many of our county’s organizations are doing quite well. This is an all-encompassing effort, with everyone on board focused on the same goals and understanding how what they are doing rolls up into the greater purpose of improving education and workforce preparedness.
The United Way supports programs and services in response to the specific and immediate needs of our community. In addition, through partnerships with other community organizations, we develop and implement strategies to identify and address the most urgent unmet needs in York County. We look at developing strategies and partnerships that leverage resources to address root causes that result in measurable change. All our work is grounded in our mission to “transform our community by offering opportunities which improve quality of life.”
Our partner programs and initiatives
• alleviate barriers
• evidence based
• can be preventative in nature
• potential for long-term change
• community transformation
• systems change
• strategic and preventative in nature
• long-term, measurable change
Our Impact Journey
In 2015 the United Way of York County partnered with Winthrop on a community needs assessment. Winthrop collected an enormous amount of data. We’ve worked with them to summarize target issues emerging from the study. We’ve also come up with ways to take baseline measurements of where we are in York County on each of these issues, and set both short-term and long-term goals to significantly move the needle in each area.
So, we’re proposing a strategy going forward where across the county, we are focusing on education and workforce preparedness, and eliminating obstacles to making progress. Examples of obstacles would be lack of affordable childcare, family homelessness, lack of dental care where children are in too much pain to pay attention in school, and lack of transportation to get to where the good-paying jobs are. In the beginning, it will seem like we’re trying to change a tire on a moving vehicle. It will still be necessary to fund services and programs which provide for basic needs, even as we shift more resources to education and workforce preparedness. But, as more families achieve self-sufficiency, the need for basic services will diminish.