When you fill a room with nonprofits who achieve outsized outcomes, the air takes on a special electricity. This scenario plays out regularly here at United Way of the Columbia-Willamette (UWCW), and we’ve been working hard to harness the transformative energy.

UWCW recently shifted its focus from strictly being a powerful community fundraiser and grant maker to an organization actively engaged with its partners to achieve an ambitious goal: breaking the cycle of childhood poverty in our region.

United Way recognizes that no one organization can combat the issue on its own, so we convened a formidable group of change makers – our Community Strengthening funded partners – into a whip-smart cohort focused on substantially improving the outcomes for low-income families in our region, particularly those residing in communities of color.

To get there, United Way aims to increase the individual and collective capacity of the nonprofits within the group. By aligning their efforts; sharing best practices; adopting data-driven, adaptive processes and increasing culturally-specific and responsive practices; we can ensure that every community in our region has access to the resources they need to thrive and contribute to social change.

Among the Community Strengthening cohort are NAYA, Open Meadow, the Urban League, Virginia Garcia, Friends of the Children and Self Enhancement Inc., just to name a few. The group is organized into learning communities working together to find innovative solutions through three focus areas: Successful Students, Stable Families and Connected Communities. 

“We’ve each been working on our niche, and we all understand what needs to happen to be successful,” said Amy Potter, Program Director at Reading Results. “The difference is that now we’re collaborating to create a bigger impact.”

The learning communities’ first year of work (within a three year initial commitment) culminated in a summit on June 26, when the Community Strengthening cohort spent the day working together to chart their strategic path forward. Now that the cohort  and United Way have identified a concrete set of actions and co-developed a comprehensive work plan, next comes the critical step of operationalizing it to create meaningful, long-term change for families in need.

“Our next phase is focused on implementing concrete actions that will ultimately affect systems,” said Mayra Arreola, Director of Community Collaborations and Investment at UWCW. “We have a big job in front of us, yet it is wonderful to do so in partnership with amazing organizations that are committed to improve the lives of children and families in our region.”

Learn more about United Way's Community Strengthening  partners.

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