Creating Lasting Change Together

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Our mission is to improve lives by bringing diverse people together
to build a stronger, more caring community for everyone

Contributor: Peter C. Kelly, President and CEO at United Way Fox Cities

One definition of "collaborate" found in Webster's New World Dictionary is "to cooperate with the enemy." I found this curious and wondered if it explains why collaboration is so hard. I prefer another definition I found which is "to work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort." 

There is an added emphasis on collaboration happening at United Way Fox Cities. Since 2000, we have been on a journey to create lasting change in community conditions through increased collaboration. We know that large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector commitment. In these complex times, when no organization can effectively deal with any one significant community issue, nonprofits, government, education and businesses are embracing something called "collective impact."

Through collective impact, we convene people to discuss relevant issues. We still respond to immediate needs, but also work "upstream" to address the cause of the issue. For example, sheltering the homeless is critically important, but unless we look at what causes homelessness (job loss, poor mental health, debt, etc.) we'll just be sheltering more and more families. It's the "Band-Aid" versus the "cure" analogy - there's no question, as a community, that we want to work toward the cure.

In the new collective impact model we look at the community issue first and then ask who shares a passion to make a lasting change to the current condition. Before any work begins, everyone agrees to a common agenda and how progress will be measured. We support one another's efforts while constantly and clearly communicating among all stakeholders.    

This is easier said than done. It takes time to build relationships and the confidence that we are all in this together. As it has been said, "Progress moves at the speed of trust," but we believe that the investment is worth it and "Where there is a will, there is a united way."