March 9, 2018
On Friday, February 23rd, United Way of San Diego County (UWSD) convened a group of leaders from across the County at the Center for Creative Leadership in La Jolla, CA. The purpose of the convening was to discuss and get consensus on establishing a regional initiative to support youth throughout the county from cradle to career. Participants represented early education, K-12, and higher education, business, non-profits, public sector, health care and philanthropy. The goal is to build on the great work that is already happening at the community level by organizations throughout the county, and to knit effective practices together for regional impact – we will be stronger together. Specifically, in the areas of: kindergarten readiness, early grade literacy, and college and career readiness. UWSD leveraged its strong relationships and expertise to engage a diverse group of stakeholders to build consensus, and envision a region where partner organizations are working towards the same results for children and youth.
The first speaker of the day was Dr. Russell Booker, Superintendent from District 7 in Spartanburg, SC. Dr. Booker shared that, by working together, his region has been able to accelerate its effort, secure additional resources to help partners meet the needs of their children, youth and families, and influence policy. His commitment to working regionally and to using the tools of the StriveTogether Network to effect change was inspiring and set a great tone for the event. Like UWSD, the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) is part of the national StriveTogether Network and has seen strong success in mobilizing partners to achieve outcomes for youth.
The keynote speaker was Jeff Edmondson, Managing Director of the Ballmer Group. Jeff outlined the complexity of the issues facing our communities including racial disparity, lack of social mobility, the achievement gap, and the layers of need that some youth and students have. He cited four strategies to address this complexity: 1) mobilizing communities, 2) partnering and incentivizing government to make positive changes, 3) professionalizing and standardizing and use of data, and 4) strengthening the non-profit and social services sectors. Participants were excited to know that as an intermediary organization, UWSD has the collective impact expertise to support this work. Also, based on existing programs and initiatives represented at the summit - the region is poised to take on many of these important issues. Jeff encouraged everyone to embrace the moment.
To close the day, Bridget Jancarz, Senior Director of Network Engagement at StriveTogether shared specific tools and strategies that have helped communities achieve 60% of their cradle-to-career outcomes trending positively over time. She stressed the need for a clear, aligned vision; a culture of data sharing/usage; continuous improvement processes; and moving forward with a “coalition of the willing”. Bridget also shared the importance of a strong backbone organization to coordinate a regional initiative. She shared examples of other regions throughout the United States that are meeting their goals and highlighted the fact that there is a very strong foundation in San Diego to move forward.
UWSD is looking forward to harnessing the momentum of Summit through the next steps that emerged. This will be done by working closely with partners to begin crystallizing a regional vision, outcomes, and accountability structure – with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all children and youth can fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.
Tia Anzellotti is the VP, Partnerships for United Way of San Diego County.
Ian Gordon is the VP, Community Impact for United Way of San Diego County