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Summary

A proposed partnership between Women Against Abuse and the Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley involves financial literacy and capability initiatives for women and families that have been affected by domestic violence and cross-agency training opportunities for staff members of each agency to learn about the issues addressed by the other organization.

At the United Way’s second annual Strategic Partnership Conference: Creating Innovation and Impact Through Partnership, Women Against Abuse and Credit Counseling Services of Delaware Valley were awarded a prize of $15,000 for their proposal to educate and empower women affected by domestic violence. Read about the Strategic Partnership Conference here.

Introduction

Each year in the United States, between two and four million women are physically abused. In 2009, the Philadelphia Police Department responded to over 114,000 domestic abuse incidents (iPledge 2009). Women suffering from domestic violence or those who have experienced domestic abuse endure immense physical, emotional and financial distress. A study conducted by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (n.d.). cites financial insecurity and lack of resources as two main reasons that women decide not to leave an abusive marriage or relationship.

A proposed partnership between Women Against Abuse (WAA) and the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley (CCCS) aims to alleviate the financial burden of women who have been affected by domestic violence. The partnership will provide residents of Philadelphia’s Sojourner House with financial literacy education and counseling services.


The Problem: Financial Effects of Domestic Violence

Twenty-five percent of all women in the United States will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Women who have been in abusive relationships are often even more susceptible to financial difficulty. Common tactics of abusers include refusing to allow their partner to work, control their own finances or possess bank accounts. Additionally, identity theft and credit issues arising out of joint accounts with the abuser are common (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence n.d.).

Households headed by women earn, save and accumulate less wealth. The median net worth of an individual woman is $32,840. The median net worth for all households is $93,000. CCCS has found that women in their service area earn 75 percent less than men, accumulating lower lifetime earnings and decreasing their ability to properly prepare for retirement (Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Delaware Valley 2011). Equipped with fewer resources and a greater likelihood of being financially illiterate, women leaving abusive relationships have a great need for assistance as they transition to independence.


The Solution: Collaborating to Provide Financial Literacy

WAA and CCCS have united to assist the communities of women who have been affected by domestic abuse. The proposed partnership naturally fulfills each organization’s respective mission. WAA’s mission is to provide quality, compassionate and nonjudgmental services in a manner that fosters self-respect and independence in persons experiencing intimate partner violence. WAA’s efforts work to end domestic violence through advocacy and community education. CCCS aims to positively impact individuals, families and communities through comprehensive consumer credit education, counseling, asset building and debt reduction programs without regard to economic status.

Both agencies recognized an unmet need in their constituencies. CCCS recognized that women are generally more likely to encounter economic hardship over their lifetimes and that women transitioning from abusive relationship are especially prone to financial difficulty. In response, CCCS developed FinanciallyHers, a program initiative to provide women with the tools necessary to successfully manage their finances. Since inception in 2008, FinanciallyHers has provided service to over 1,200 women (Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Delaware Valley 2011). In order to effectively reach and provide more service to financially vulnerable communities, CCCS recognized, it needed a partner who had specialized experience and outreach capabilities. CCCS approached WAA.

For over 40 years, WAA has served the women and families of Philadelphia affected by domestic abuse, providing emergency shelter, legal representation, education and training. WAA staff and case workers spend a significant amount of time addressing financial issues. Dealing with the financial consequences of abusive relationships as well as other financial issues affecting low-income women and families had begun to cut into the time each case worker had to provide basic needs including behavioral health, and other measures vitally important to women and families in transition from abusive relationships to independence. While WAA staff are extremely knowledgeable, many do not have professional backgrounds in finance. WAA recognized the importance of financial literacy and sought out a high-quality nonprofit community partner to provide personal finance programming to their client population. Recognizing CCCS’s experience with these topics and strong reputation for providing services to diverse populations, WAA acknowledged that CCCS would be a powerful strategic partner.

The collaboration is an extension of CCCS’s FinanciallyHers program. CCCS will provide financial education and counseling to residents of WAA’s Sojourner House. Sojourner House provides long-term housing solutions to women and their children who have been made homeless by domestic violence. In addition to housing solutions, residents of Sojourner House receive services including group counseling, child care, parenting and life skills education. The collaborative effort will further provide the residents with improved financial education. The opportunity to become part of FinanciallyHers will provide important financial literacy and capability strategies that will not only assist residents in mitigating financial difficulties brought on by the abusive relationship but facilitate the transition to financial stability and independence.

In addition to greater constituency service, each agency receives operational benefit. The proposed partnership aims to provide cross-agency staff training. Increasing the financial capability of WAA staff and increasing the understanding of domestic violence among CCCS staff creates a more effective referral system.


Conclusion

WAA’s experience and outreach capabilities teamed with CCCS’s financial expertise presents an opportunity to successfully fulfill the needs for financial counseling and education among women and families who are survivors of domestic abuse. This proposed partnership creates new synergies in the provision of services to victims of domestic abuse in the region.

Efforts have been made in the past to introduce financial education to women and families in transition to independence after an abusive relationship. This partnership is the first local collaborative effort that utilizes two organizations with individual strengths and expertise. The local partnership is also the first to employ a cross-agency educational agenda. The connections created within this partnership benefit the constituents of each organization and the staff providing service. Eliminating duplication of services and improving staff capacity creates a more proficient system, maximizing efficiency.

Katherine Bennett holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. She currently works for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. She has previously worked both in the private sector, for a Fortune 500 financial services provider, and the public sector, for an economic development agency. Her interests lie in small business development and improving Philadelphia’s economic landscape for entrepreneurs.

References

iPledge, A Women Against Abuse Initiative. (2009). What Are the Facts? Available at http://www.ipledgewaa.org/what-are-the-facts.php.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley. (2011). FinanciallyHers. Available at http://www.cccsdv.org/education/financiallyhers.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.) Domestic Violence Facts: Pennsylvania. Available at http://www.ncadv.org/files/Pennsylvania%20new%202.09.pdf.

Summary

The Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative’s core goal is to create an equitable system of refugee health care in the Philadelphia region that ensures a consistently high standard of care for all newly arrived refugees. The Collaborative is a partnership between Philadelphia’s three refugee resettlement agencies, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Pennsylvania , Lutheran Children and Family Service and Nationalities Service Center, and their affiliated refugee health clinics, Jefferson Family Medicine Associates, Fairmount Primary Care Center, Nemours Pediatrics, Drexel Women’s Care Center, Penn Center for Primary Care and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

At United Way’s second annual Strategic Partnership Conference: Creating Innovation and Impact Through Partnership, the Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative was awarded a prize of $15,000 for their proposal to build a refugee health care system in the Philadelphia region. Read about the Strategic Partnership Conference here.

Introduction

Refugees arriving in the United States are often escaping persecution and are forced to flee their homes only to languish in refugee camps or urban slums. As defined by the U.S. government, a refugee is a person who has fled his or her country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 2011). Many refugees have spent years with limited access to health care, food, clean water and hygiene. Often arriving with unmanaged, chronic health conditions, infectious diseases and sustained emotional trauma, refugees face great difficulty connecting to and navigating the complex U.S. health care system. In 2009, Pennsylvania resettled over 2,000 refugees (U.S. Department of Human and Health Services n.d.).

The Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative has been formed to meet federally mandated medical screening requirements and to alleviate the navigation challenges faced by refugees resettled in the region. Through close partnerships between refugee resettlement agencies and health care providers, the Collaborative is one of most innovative and promising approaches to refugee health care in the country.


The Problem: Providing and Sustaining Health Care to Refugees

Federal protocol mandates that each refugee must obtain a domestic health screening and orientation to the U.S. health care system within 30 days of arrival. Health screening includes immunizations, and examinations to identify any infectious diseases or potentially fatal toxins and emotional trauma (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). If refugees arrive with known health conditions, they must receive the mandated screening sooner. The screening process is typically facilitated by a state Department of Health or a State Refugee Health Coordinator.

Until recently, Pennsylvania had no state-sponsored governmental system in place to support refugees in receiving the mandated assessment. A system has been enacted in Lancaster County, but Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley remain without a defined system.

Philadelphia’s resettlement agencies—Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Pennsylvania (HIAS PA), Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS) and the NSC—collectively resettle over 800 refugees each year. The number of refugees arriving each year has dramatically increased over the past five years. NSC’s annual resettlement number has increased tenfold, and HIAS PA’s has increased by 500 percent. Approximately 15-20% of refugees arrive with significant medical conditions that require specialist care and/or surgery/hospitalization soon after arrival. Resettlement agencies work with refugees to facilitate their transition into American society; navigation of the health care system is a major piece of this acclimation. Refugees receive eight months of government-funded Refugee Medical Assistance. After eight months, many refugee adults lose their insurance because they fail to qualify for government- or employer-sponsored coverage. (Children, disabled, elderly and refugees with significant medical conditions continue to receive benefits after the eight-month benefit period.)

In the past, resettlement agencies struggled to find culturally competent medical providers committed to providing limited English proficient refugees with screenings and long-term care. However, in 2007, NSC and Jefferson Family Medicine Associates (JFMA) piloted a new model involving a closely coordinated partnership between a resettlement agency and medical provider. The JFMA clinic sees five new and fifteen follow-up patients each week. The clinic provides an opportunity for family medicine residents to train in global health. By housing the clinic in a university health system, refugee patients have access to an extensive network of specialty practices. A Clinic Liaison from NSC escorts clients to their first appointment and provides on-site assistance at the clinic. Since 2007 through the dedicated work of each Collaborative member, Philadelphia’s network of refugee health clinics has grown significantly. HIAS PA, NSC and LCFS have partnered with medical providers to establish additional refugee health clinics at Fairmount Primary Care Center, Nemours Pediatrics, Drexel Women’s Care Center, Penn Center for Primary Care and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


The Solution: The Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative

A defined health care system is vital to the refugee acculturation/integration process. The Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative aims to create a citywide system to address incoming refugees’ health needs and provide sustainable high-quality care. The Collaborative has identified two main goals, paired with specific objectives, to ensure that the system is successful. The first goal ensures that refugees resettled in Philadelphia have timely access to a network of primary and specialist care providers with the capacity to effectively address their complex physical and mental health needs. The second goal works to improve their health outcomes by implementing a community health education program. The Collaborative is one of the most innovative and comprehensive health care partnerships addressing refugee health needs in the nation.

Despite common challenges, until recently resettlement agencies in Philadelphia mostly worked independently to meet refugees' needs for screening, ongoing care and health education. Each agency utilized separate affiliated health care providers. This ad hoc approach fulfilled the immediate and most urgent refugee health needs, but failed to create a sustainable solution. The resettlement agencies and their refugee health clinics proposed a two-year joint citywide capacity building project to address refugee health needs.

The Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative’s core goal will be to create an equitable system of refugee health care in the Philadelphia region that ensures a consistently high standard of care for all newly arrived refugees. A collaborative project will enable partners to share best practices and information on a regular basis to improve overall quality of care; work closely with the State to develop systems to support the funding, coordination and reporting of refugee health screenings; and create standardized and coordinated systems for meeting screening and orientation requirements. The proposed Collaborative project includes developing additional specialized refugee health clinics; creating a shared on-line system for scheduling screening appointments; organizing regular training opportunities for resettlement agency and clinic staff; developing shared outcome measures for tracking refugee health screening and other health outcomes citywide; establishing a pilot community health outreach program staffed by refugee peer educators. The Collaborative has just received a two-year $195,000 grant from the Barra Foundation to support the capacity building project.

By working collaboratively and developing standardized and coordinated system for meeting refugee health needs, the agencies and clinics will create a more equitable system for all refugees that utilizes limited resources more effectively. The Collaborative aspires to develop Philadelphia's reputation as a Center of Medical Excellence for refugee health with nationally recognized best practices.


Conclusion

The Philadelphia Refugee Health Provider Collaborative has been formed to alleviate the navigation challenges faced by refugees resettled in the region and to create a more equitable system of health care. Through partnerships between refugee resettlement agencies and health care providers, the Collaborative is one of most innovative and promising approaches to refugee health care in the country.

Timely and effective provision of health care will not only make this region more attractive for refugee resettlement (and help stem population loss), but will ensure that refugees receive needed medical treatment as early as possible so that they can more quickly become contributing members of our community. By developing a citywide partnership, the Collaborative is developing an innovative model that can be replicated in other cities. The Collaborative is unique in connecting all regional resettlement agencies and most of the major medical institutions in a shared project of this scope and impact.

Katherine Bennett holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. She currently works for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. She has previously worked both in the private sector, for a Fortune 500 financial services provider, and the public sector, for an economic development agency. Her interests lie in small business development and improving Philadelphia’s economic landscape for entrepreneurs.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). General Refugee Health Guidelines. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/immigrantrefugeehealth/guidelines/general-guidelines.html.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2011). Questions & Answers: Refugees. Available at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=e4eabcf527f93210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=385d3e4d77d73210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. (n.d.). Fiscal Year 2009 Refugee Arrivals. Available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/data/fy2009RA.htm.

Summary

The Double Dollars partnership targets families and heads of households in order to improve the well-being of Philadelphia communities and create lasting connections between healthy food and hungry stomachs. Partners in the Double Dollars initiative include Fair Food, Wholesome Wave Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

At United Way’s second annual Strategic Partnership Conference: Creating Innovation and Impact Through Partnership, Double Dollars was awarded a prize of $2,500 for their existing operation, which provides incentives for healthy food purchases to low-income populations in Philadelphia. Read about the Strategic Partnership Conference here.

Introduction

Nearly 1 in 4 people in Philadelphia lives in poverty, double the rates experienced at both the national and state levels. More than one-third of all children in Philadelphia live in poverty. According to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger (2010), in 2009, more than 316,000 Philadelphia residents received help from a food pantry. As of January 2011, more than 441,000 Philadelphia residents rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to put food on their tables.

Programs such as Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program increase the use of SNAP dollars to purchase healthy food options by providing incentives for purchases. In partnership with Wholesome Wave Foundation and state and local governmental agencies, Fair Food has successfully implemented the Double Dollars program in Philadelphia.


The Problem: Gaps in Food Access

The majority of Philadelphia’s citizens live below the national poverty level. The city is consistently ranked the highest for rates of obesity, although the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger (2010) has found that more than 25 percent of the population is cited as chronically hungry.

This apparent paradox is created by a gap in Philadelphia’s food access systems. Many neighborhoods fail to offer full-service grocery options, leaving residents little choice in purchasing options for grocery needs. People living in these areas, known as food deserts, show increased risk for health problems associated with poor diet. As mortality rates from heart disease and diabetes climb, the need for increased access to healthy, affordable food for low-income residents has become clear.


The Solution: The Double Dollars Program

As noted by the White House Task Force on Child Obesity, collaborative efforts between public and private sectors and between government and educators are needed to ensure that we provide each child with the tools necessary for healthy lives. Food deserts can be addressed by lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity. Collaborative approaches from farmers markets, foundations, local governments and nonprofits have shown an ability to improve the health and nutrition of low-income families and their children.

Past incentive projects have demonstrated success in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in households. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that participants given double-value vouchers for local farmers markets consumed an average of three additional servings of fruits and vegetables each day as compared to those who did not receive coupons (Parker-Pope 2008). The study also showed a behavioral change six months after the coupon program had ceased, with participants maintaining the higher rate of produce consumption.

In order to improve the well-being of Philadelphia’s families, an incentive program was generated through a partnership between Fair Foods, the Wholesome Wave Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The Double Dollars program targets families and heads of households who receive SNAP benefits by providing incentives for healthy purchase options. The partnership’s overall mission is to encourage and promote the purchase and consumption of fresh, local and healthy food among low-income individuals.

The Double Dollars program provides a simple solution. The program doubles the value of any purchase made with SNAP dollars at farmers markets, up to $20 a week. Fair Foods has successfully implemented this program at the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. The Reading Terminal Market is centrally located, easily accessed by public transportation and open seven days a week, year-round. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (2009), the market redeems the highest number of SNAP dollars in Pennsylvania. Currently, fifteen merchants accept Electronic Benefit Transfers. Fair Foods Farmstand is one of the largest vendors in the market, carrying a variety of fresh produce, meats and dairy products from more than 90 sustainable farm producers in the region.

The Fair Food Farmstand’s valuable location in Reading Terminal Market places the collaborative in an exceptional position to affect low-income populations with greater health risks. This partnership, comprising both public and private entities, uses a multi-tiered approach. Each partner adds value to Double Dollars’ collective goal:

  • Fair Food manages the Farm Food Farmstand. The nonprofit agency is committed to building healthy local food systems in Philadelphia. The organization works directly with both buyers and growers to bring fresh, healthy and local products to the Philadelphia marketplace while educating the community about sustainable practices in agriculture.
  • Wholesome Wave has provided start-up funds to the Double Dollars program and provides technical assistance through program design, evaluation and data collection. The nonprofit organization implements Double Value Coupon Programs that enable communities experiencing high rates of food insecurity to increase their consumption of fresh, healthy, locally grown foods. Their Double Value Coupon Program runs in 12 states and the District of Columbia at nearly a hundred farmers markets and farm stands.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has also contributed start-up funds to the program to support critical outreach to the communities who will benefit. The department plans to utilize the data collected from the Farmstand in future planning and programs on the state level.
  • The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has provided Double Dollars with a sophisticated point-of-sale system. This system provides vital resources as a state-of-the-art data source for the partnership as it moves forward.

Conclusion

Double Dollars is very different from any other incentive program; the partnership in an exceptional physical position to reach the most vulnerable populations in Philadelphia. People using federal food benefits are able to access the Reading Terminal Market from every part of the city by train, trolley, bus and subway.

The sophistication of the Farmstand’s point-of-sale system will also afford the partnership the ability to understand and disseminate the consumer use data. Never before, on such a large scale, has a farm stand been able to collect data in order to drive advocacy and policy on behalf of at-risk populations. The Double Dollars program and Philadelphia will be the first to create comprehensive analysis of Double Value Coupon Program’s impact.

The long-term goal of Double Dollars is to more fully understand these coupons’ effectiveness in driving behavior change, in continuing behavior change post-incentive, and in serving as a tool for recruiting SNAP-eligible individuals. Additionally, the program plans to evaluate the value of supporting behavior change through one-on-one engagement.

This partnership may also have a significant impact on the benefits that individuals receive. One of the long-term goals of Double Dollars is to enroll shoppers in SNAP assistance and target current beneficiaries for re-enrollment efforts. This will benefit individuals today and in the coming years.

Katherine Bennett holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. She currently works for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. She has previously worked both in the private sector, for a Fortune 500 financial services provider, and the public sector, for an economic development agency. Her interests lie in small business development and improving Philadelphia’s economic landscape for entrepreneurs.

References

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. (2010). Fact Sheet: Hunger in Philadelphia. Available at http://www.hungercoalition.org/fact-sheet-hunger-philadelphia.

Parker-Pope, T. (2008, January 15). The Farmer's Market Effect. New York Times. Available at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/the-farmers-market-effect/.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2009, April 3). Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Announces Nutrition Benefits Increase [press release]. Available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/pressreleases/2009/PR-0087.htm.

The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2010, May 11). Childhood Obesity Task Force Unveils Action Plan: Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation [press release]. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/childhood-obesity-task-force-unveils-action-plan-solving-problem-childhood-obesity-.
 

Introduction

The economic environment has plagued many businesses, small and large, with hardship and uncertainty, leaving entities across all sectors and industries at risk. A recent study conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund (2009) shows that America’s nonprofit sector is financially vulnerable. The recession is forcing the issue of how to better invest in what works for the benefit of society. Decreases in funding and capital and human resources have affected nonprofit organizations’ ability to fulfill missions and serve populations in need of their vital services. Recognizing gaps of funding and resources, nonprofit organizations are turning to partnerships to effectively address the needs of their constituents.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “The turbulent economy is creating new incentives for charities to cooperate. More organizations are starting to share fund-raising and marketing ideas, while others are considering merging, combining ‘back offices’ to handle administrative duties, or other formal alliances” (Wallace 2009). Across the country, community foundations, United Ways and nonprofit associations are holding workshops to help charities learn about their options. Organizations can no longer afford to ignore the fruitful opportunities of collaboration. Funders and nonprofit entities are recognizing the potential impact that collaboration can produce, and are rewarding agencies engaging in collaborative behavior.

The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania (UWSEPA) understands the importance of cross-sector collaboration and nonprofit partnerships. Striving to increase awareness and the importance of collaboration, UWSEPA developed an arena to foster discussion and action. The arena created is the Strategic Partnerships Conference, which hosted the first annual Innovative Partnerships Competition in 2010 to bolster and reward Philadelphia’s nonprofit organizations who are working collectively towards greater impact.


The Strategic Partnership Conference

Responding to the effects of the national recession and the effect on the local community, UWSEPA recognized that nonprofit organizations were in great need of assistance and planning resources to supplement their operations to ensure long-term sustainability. In 2009, UWSEPA joined forces with Delaware Valley Grantmakers (DVG), the Philadelphia Foundation (TPF) and Women’s Way to launch the Strategic Partnerships Initiative and subsequent conference. The conference featured informational sessions on topics such as joint programming, shared operations, management support organization models, and mergers.

UWSEPA believes that this initiative represents an opportunity to strengthen and broaden the scope of well-run organizations. Additionally, the initiative presents an opportunity to ensure that good programming, valued in the community and achieving strong outcomes, survives and is expanded when possible. The first symposium brought together nonprofit executives, board members and grantmakers from the Philadelphia region to discuss the role of partnerships in the nonprofit sector.

The success of the first conference prompted the need for further conversations focused on collaborative approaches to the region’s most pressing problems. The second forum took place on December 3, 2010, and was hosted by the UWSEPA, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Leadership Program, the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal and DVG. The second Strategic Partnership Conference, called Creating Innovation and Impact Through Partnership, gathered the region’s nonprofit professionals to promote the advancement of organizational partnerships. Programming included inventive service delivery, development of staff management systems and leveraging resources to restructure organizational operations to ensure mission fulfillment.

Nonprofit leaders came together to find new ways of delivering their services, organizing their staff and allocating their resources in order to promote mission fulfillment in the most creative manner. The 2010 Strategic Partnership Conference also featured the first annual Innovative Partnership Competition, which showcased five organizations’ approaches to collective impact.


The Innovative Partnership Competition

Serving as a culmination to the Strategic Partnership Conference, the Innovative Partnership Competition was created to feature the most innovative examples of high-impact collaboration in the region. The 2010 conference hosts conducted the competition, which was fashioned as a two-phase contest. Participants were asked to submit an application describing their proposed or developing initiatives following a set of questions and criteria. Phase one served as an initial screening process, indentifying the top five proposals. During phase two, the five finalists presented their innovative partnerships to a panel of judges and the audience of the conference. From the pool of finalists, three applications were selected and awarded cash prizes of $15,000.

Phase One: Application

The open invitation for submissions produced 30 applications. Applicants were required to describe their collaboration following five criteria:

  1. Describe the partnership, including all partners involved.
  2. Illustrate the issue addressed by the strategic partnership and the proposed solution.
  3. Capture the relationships which prompted the exploration of partnership.
  4. Describe the potential, or existing, impact of the partnership.
  5. Explain why the initiative is innovative.

Phase Two: Finalist Presentations

Finalists who showed the greatest degree of collaboration with the highest potential impact were awarded the opportunity to present their proposals to the audience of nonprofit professionals and a panel of expert judges of various backgrounds from both the public and private sectors. Presentations were judged by the potential impact, level of innovation and feasibility of the collaboration and outcomes. Five finalists were selected to present during the Strategic Partnership Conference:

  1. Diplomas Now, an existing partnership, is a unique data-driven collaborative that works closely with school administrators, teachers and other onsite providers to identify off-track youth and develop, implement and sustain comprehensive, targeted and intensive strategies to get them back on track. Partnering organizations include the Philadelphia Education Fund, Johns Hopkins University, the School District of Philadelphia, City Year of Greater Philadelphia, and Communities In Schools of Philadelphia.
  2. Double Dollars, a developing partnership, targets families and heads of households in order to improve the well-being of Philadelphia communities and create lasting connections between healthy food and hungry stomachs. Partnering organizations include Fair Food, Wholesome Wave Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
  3. Farm to Families Initiative, a working partnership, connects a diverse group of Philadelphia-based nonprofits to get fresh, affordable, local food to North Philadelphia families each week, year-round. Partnering organizations include St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, farmers and producers from the Delaware Valley foodshed, Common Market, the SHARE Food Program, the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, Neighborhood Bike Works, the Health Promotion Council, the Food Trust, OMG Center for Collaborative Learning, the Reinvestment Fund, the University of Pennsylvania’s PennDesign, and Greensgrow Philadelphia Project.
  4. Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative, a proposed collaboration, will create an equitable system of refugee health care in the Philadelphia region that ensures a consistently high standard of care for all newly arrived refugees. The Collaborative is a partnership between Philadelphia’s three refugee resettlement agencies, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Pennsylvania, Lutheran Children and Family Service and Nationalities Service Center, and their affiliated refugee health clinics, Jefferson Family Medicine Associates, Fairmount Primary Care Center, Nemours Pediatrics, Drexel Women’s Care Center, Penn Center for Primary Care and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
  5. Women Against Abuse and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware County, a proposed partnership, involves financial literacy and capability initiatives for women and families that have been affected by domestic violence, and cross-agency training opportunities for staff members of each agency to learn about the issues addressed by the other organization.

Award Winners

Three partnerships—Farms to Families, the Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative and the Women Against Abuse and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware County—were awarded cash prizes of $15,000. Two other finalists, Double Dollars and Diplomas Now, each received a prize of $2,500 because of their marked success and innovative efforts. Additionally, each winner received consulting services to assist in the development of their strategic partnerships. Consulting services were donated by the Wharton Small Business Development Center and the Alliance for Nonprofit Management.


Conclusion

The Strategic Partnership Conference and the Innovative Partnership Competition have demonstrated the importance strategic partnerships can play in a community. As described by the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania (n.d.), the conference and competition was created to facilitate dialogue between nonprofit leaders and funders, showcasing Philadelphia’s ability to become a leader in effective partnerships. Mergers and creative partnerships enable nonprofit organizations to expand service areas and increase impact and will continue to redefine the nonprofit industry.

Katherine Bennett holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. She currently works for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. She has previously worked both in the private sector, for a Fortune 500 financial services provider, and the public sector, for an economic development agency. Her interests lie in small business development and improving Philadelphia’s economic landscape for entrepreneurs.

References

Nonprofit Finance Fund. (2009). Nonprofit Finance Fund Survey: America's Nonprofits in Danger. Available at http://nonprofitfinancefund.org/news/2009/nonprofit-finance-fund-survey-americas-nonprofits-danger.

United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. (n.d.) Strategic Partnerships Contest: Innovative Partnerships Prize. Available at http://www.uwsepa.org/Programs_StrategicPartnerships_contest.asp.

Wallace, N. (2009, March 26). Economic Woes Bring More Charities Together. The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Summary

Farm to Families connects a diverse group of Philadelphia-based nonprofits to get fresh, affordable, local food to North Philadelphia families each week, year-round. The named partnering organizations are St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, farmers and producers from the Delaware Valley foodshed, Common Market, the SHARE Food Program, the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, Neighborhood Bike Works, the Health Promotion Council, the Food Trust, OMG Center for Collaborative Learning, the Reinvestment Fund, the University of Pennsylvania’s PennDesign, and Greensgrow Philadelphia Project.

At United Way’s second annual Strategic Partnership Conference: Creating Innovation and Impact Through Partnership, the Farm to Families initiative was awarded a prize of $15,000 for their proposal to increase local food accessibility in North Philadelphia. Read about the Strategic Partnership Conference here.

Introduction

Over 60 percent of the city’s adult population is overweight, and more than 50 percent of children struggle with obesity. In North Philadelphia, nearly 70 percent of children are overweight or obese. These astounding figures can be directly attributed to poverty levels and consumption behaviors (Philadelphia Department of Public Health 2010).

Philadelphia has the highest obesity rate among the nation’s largest cities. The higher the obesity rate, the more serious the health problems, the higher the health-care costs (Bayliss 2010). Lack of access to affordable, healthy foods is a well-documented risk factor for obesity and related poor health outcomes, and the need for increased access to healthy foods is especially great in low-income, minority neighborhoods in the city. Targeting the communities plagued by the highest rates of childhood obesity in North Philadelphia, the Farm to Families program provides fresh, affordable and local food to families each week, year-round.


The Problem: Limited Food Access and Associated Health Risks

Just a decade ago, a national study conducted by the Fresh Food Financing Initiative showed that Philadelphia had the second lowest number of supermarkets per capita of major cities in the United States (Food Trust 2004). Lack of food access was particularly severe in low-income neighborhoods and was linked to high rates of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

The direct correlation between food access and obesity rates is evident in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is home to many food deserts, areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), food deserts may negatively affect health outcomes.


The Solution: Farm to Families

In order to reduce the number of food deserts in Philadelphia, the Farm to Families initiative was created to provide sustainable food systems for families in North Philadelphia, where rates of childhood obesity are the highest in the city. The systems create access to affordable, readily available and reliable sources of healthy, culturally appropriate and locally produced groceries. St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children (SCFC) has staged a fresh food intervention for North Philadelphia families. With the support of six of the nation’s largest health funders and a broad network of local service providers, SCFC has launched Farm to Families to re-imagine the inner-city food landscape.

Families living, working and worshipping in North Philadelphia are able to buy Farm to Families boxes. Participation is simple; individuals and family can easily order and pay for a food share one week ahead of time, in person at an established dropoff location within walking distance of their homes. The shares are available year-round, including the long winter months. Food shares are sold at wholesale cost, and cash, credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are accepted. The weekly shares are available in $5, $10 and $15 packages. Each box contains fresh fruits and vegetables. The $10 and $15 shares additionally include one dozen eggs and one pound of poultry as well as increased quantities of produce. Farm to Families gives people in North Philadelphia a choice that many of them have never had before—the choice to buy affordable, healthy, local, high‐quality food on a consistent basis right in their neighborhoods.

SCFC with Farm to Families has brought multiple organizations together to achieve a common goal. Significant funding provided by Convergence Partnership has allowed for the partnerships to thrive. The collaborative efforts of the diverse network of public and private local service providers have supplemented the program. Partners play specific roles in either the system of direct service or education and advocacy. Direct service partners grow, distribute, package, redistribute or deliver produce. Other partners engage in educating, lobbying, evaluating and consulting for the Farm to Families program.

Direct Service System:

  • Farmers and producers from the Delaware Valley foodshed supply sustainably grown and produced fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat.
  • Common Market, a wholesale consolidator, marketer and distributor of local food, aggregates the farmers’ bounty for weekly box distribution.
  • SHARE Food Program, a supplier of affordable, nutritious food for individuals and organizations, packages and delivers weekly boxes to community‐based organizations.
  • Community‐based organizations such as the Women’s Community Revitalization Project act as the on‐the‐ground box delivery agent, additionally recruiting and managing the customer base.
  • Neighborhood Bike Works delivers boxes to the homes of families without easy access to distribution sites.

Education, Advocacy and Evaluation System:

  • The Health Promotion Council offers relevant nutrition education and cooking workshops on site at box pick‐up.
  • The Food Trust works to create greater access locally and statewide through policy change work, including expansion of food benefits provided by SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and amendments to school nutrition policies on food and beverages found in cafeterias and vending machines.
  • OMG Center for Collaborative Learning, the Reinvestment Fund, and the University of Pennsylvania’s PennDesign conduct ongoing evaluation.
  • Greensgrow Philadelphia Project, long‐time farmers and community-supported agriculture operators, provide technical assistance.

Program Facilitation:

  • SCFC provides staffing support via a project manager; regular technical assistance with strategic planning, operations and evaluation; and a set of coordinated grants, one to each organization, to increase capacity for food access work.

The intricate system of specialized partners has created a simple solution to the food deserts of North Philadelphia.


Conclusion

Farm to Families is truly a multi‐field collaborative, creating new partnerships and strengthening existing ones. Hundreds of North Philadelphia families have been helped by the Farm to Families program. In 2010, 267 families utilized the system and gained access to fresh produce.

Farm to Families’ innovative approach to improving food access exemplifies how partnerships, even the most complex, can collectively achieve impact by leveraging resources towards achieving a common goal. The program is leading a community-wide shift in healthy eating. At some point, with SCFC at the helm or with program partners taking the reins, Farm to Families is envisioned as a city‐wide food distribution system that gets the best‐quality food to everyone who needs it.

The new system of dedicated partners has successfully created a simple solution to the food deserts of North Philadelphia. With the support of six of the nation’s largest health funders and a broad network of local service providers, SCFC has successfully launched a progressive food share program in Farm to Families that rebuilds the inner-city food access landscape.

Katherine Bennett holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. She currently works for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. She has previously worked both in the private sector, for a Fortune 500 financial services provider, and the public sector, for an economic development agency. Her interests lie in small business development and improving Philadelphia’s economic landscape for entrepreneurs.

References

Bayliss, K. (2010, April 7). Fat in Philadelphia. NBC Philadelphia. Available at http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Fat-in-Philadelphia-90082062.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Food Deserts. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/FoodDeserts/,

Food Trust. (2004). Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. Available at http://www.thefoodtrust.org/php/programs/fffi.php.

Philadelphia Department of Public Health. (2010). Obesity in Philadelphia. Available at http://www.phila.gov/health/pdfs/Obesity_in_Philadelphia_3.10.10.pdf.

Summary

Diplomas Now is a unique data-driven collaborative that works closely with school administrators, teachers and other onsite providers to identify off-track youth and develop, implement and sustain comprehensive, targeted and intensive strategies to get them back on track. Partnering organizations include the Philadelphia Education Fund, Johns Hopkins University, the School District of Philadelphia, City Year of Greater Philadelphia, and Communities in Schools of Philadelphia.

At United Way’s second annual Strategic Partnership Conference: Creating Innovation and Impact Through Partnership, Diplomas Now was awarded a prize of $2,500 for their program, which aims to decrease the number of school dropouts in the region. Read about the Strategic Partnership Conference here.

Introduction

According to the nonprofit organization DoSomething.org (n.d.), every 26 seconds a student drops out of school in the United States—7,000 students each day. Each year over a million students drop out of high school. These shocking statistics have wrought an educational crisis in America. Diplomas Now was established to tackle the crisis and improve the high school graduation rate in the nation’s largest cities. Understanding the most vulnerable populations and the contributing factors involved, Diplomas Now has constructed an approach that improves curriculums and instruction techniques.

The ground-breaking public-private partnership born in Philadelphia has successfully identified early warning signals leading to student dropout. The overwhelming success of Diplomas Now has gained national recognition, and the initiative is being replicated in nine cities. Diplomas Now is a highly collaborative partnership that has become a leader of a national transformational education movement.


The Problem: Addressing the Factors in High School Dropout

High school dropout rates are close to 50 percent in the largest American cities. The most vulnerable populations are minority students; nearly 50 percent of all African-American, Hispanic and Native American students fail to graduate from public high school with their class. Studies conducted by the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (Balfanz and Legters 2004) show that fifty years after Brown v. the Board of Education, we are still struggling to provide all youth with equal opportunities to obtain educations. Now more than ever, further engagement with inner-city students is needed.

Serving as a pilot to a national movement, Diplomas Now initially targeted and analyzed at-risk youth in the School District of Philadelphia. The District nationally ranks eighth in enrollment and serves a racially and ethnically diverse student population. Eighty percent of the student body is composed of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students. The current dropout rate hovers around 40 percent.

Research conducted by partners of Diplomas Now identified which students are most likely to leave the education system and pinpointed why exit occurs. Collaborative partner John Hopkins University identified the three strongest predictive indicators of dropout:

  1. low attendance—exhibiting less than an 80 percent attendance rate,
  2. poor behavior—demonstrating unsatisfactory behavior displayed in at least one course, and
  3. course failure in literacy and/or math—receiving a final grade of “F.”

The three indicators are known as the Early Warning Indicators or ABCs (Attendance, Behavior and Course Passage). A student exhibiting one or more of the indicators has only a 10 to 20 percent likelihood of completing high school and receiving a diploma. Students likely to drop out of the educational system can be identified as early as sixth grade.


The Solution: Diplomas Now

Diplomas Now was established in 2006, beginning as a research initiative between John Hopkins University and the Philadelphia Education Fund. In 2008, the two formed partnerships with City Year of Greater Philadelphia and Communities In Schools of Philadelphia. The four agencies actively sought and engaged in a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia.

Each collaborative partner of Diplomas Now provides unique expertise and supplies dedicated capacities to the program. The four agencies’ collective strengths work to achieve Diplomas Now’s mission to identify at-risk students and develop and implement strategies to make high school graduation an attainable goal.

  • The Philadelphia Education Fund works directly with school administration and staff, leading program design, on-site facilitation and data analysis. The organization also acts as a liaison to the nine national sites.
  • Johns Hopkins University provides research and technical assistance to participating Philadelphia schools. Additionally, the university’s research has played an important role in scaling the program to the national level.
  • City Year of Greater Philadelphia and Communities In Schools of Philadelphia directly engage with Philadelphia school students and families. Providing trained corps, City Year staff work in schools and offer assistance in the form of instruction, monitoring and mentoring to students who exhibit Early Warning Indicators. Communities In Schools of Philadelphia assigns each participating school an onsite coordinator. Each coordinator is responsible for connecting students and families to city and community assistance services.

Diplomas Now’s innovative school-based approach utilizes the Early Warning Indicator system established by Johns Hopkins and the Philadelphia Education Fund and employs individualized targeted and intensive plans for achievement. Students receive direct support from multiple sources. Traditional academic instruction is received from school teachers and support staff; supplemental support is provided by City Year and Communities In Schools of Philadelphia staff who monitor behavior and provide exemplary role modeling and mentorship. The approach enables Diplomas Now to understand and fully engage with inner-city youth to help reduce Early Warning Indicators. By utilizing teams of highly collaborative partners, the solution works to organize and align all school-based resources and institutionalize practices that positively impact attendance, behavior and course literacy.


Conclusion

Diplomas Now has demonstrated strong results since its inception. In 2009, Diplomas Now was employed in three schools in Philadelphia: Feltonville Arts and Sciences, Jay Cooke Elementary and Thurgood Marshall Elementary. The schools saw decreases in the number of students exhibiting Early Warning Indicators after the program was implemented. Data collected by Diplomas Now (n.d.) shows that collectively, the three schools witnessed 56 percent fewer students who were initially off-track in attendance, 53 percent fewer students off-track in behavior, and 82 percent fewer students off-track in math and 78 percent fewer students off-track in literacy.

Diplomas Now is unlike any other similarly focused initiative. It is a highly collaborative partnership that has become a leader of a national transformation movement. Utilizing a data-driven approach and employing four highly specialized organizations creates a distinctive collaboration. Each partner supplies complementary talents, delivering best practices to students and the education system.

Diplomas Now has successfully united once separate organizations now working towards a common goal. Each organization commits itself through leadership, partnership, advocacy and funding to ensure that graduation rates across the nation improve. As a result of the overwhelming success in Philadelphia, the local initiative has been replicated in nationwide. Diplomas Now operates in 20 schools in 10 cities.

Katherine Bennett holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. She currently works for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. She has previously worked both in the private sector, for a Fortune 500 financial services provider, and the public sector, for an economic development agency. Her interests lie in small business development and improving Philadelphia’s economic landscape for entrepreneurs.

References

Balfanz, R., and N. Legters. (2004, September). Locating the Dropout Crisis. Report 70. Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk, Johns Hopkins University. Available at http://diplomasnow.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/locating-the-dropout-crisis-balfanz-legters.pdf.

Diplomas Now. (n.d.). Philadelphia Results. Available at http://diplomasnow.org/results/philadelphia/.

DoSomething.org. (n.d.). 11 Facts About Dropping Out. Available at http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-dropping-out.

Introduction

Let me tell you a secret—actually, it’s a secret that we all know: Today and, I predict, in our many tomorrows, our lives will continue to be problem-free. How, you may ask, can I say that when now, more than ever, most of us are feeling almost overwhelmed with the increasingly rapid pace and number of crises we have to deal with in our work lives alone?

I can say our lives are problem-free because they are. What is keeping us up at night, lengthening our work hours and shortening our times of rest are not problems but dilemmas—paradoxes that, unlike problems, do not have right or wrong solutions. Rather, what’s filling up all of our days are competing realities—not “black or white” issues, but “gray” challenges that we must address, challenges that most often do not lead to “yes” or “no” responses or solutions. Dilemmas, competing truths, must first be recognized and then “unpacked” and pulled apart, in order to, at best, be managed.

At some point we moved through the Age of Knowledge and Information Transfer to what Charles Handy (1994) termed the Age of Paradox. Here in the 21st century, in our ”flattened,” highly connected world, we know, also, that the days of the Lone Ranger are gone; the most effective way to live fully—healthily and happily—is through partnerships. Technologically joined “friends” through Facebook, links, blogs and networks are here…and here to stay. So what is an organizational leader to do? Well, let’s look at just three paradoxes for partnership:


1. Fear used fully can be power for good.

Let’s jump right into the deep end and look at what usually holds us back or what gets in the way of trying something new—a new project, a new position or even just a new way to get into work. What gets in the way most of all is fear. Fear is powerful. It can push people together and it can pull them apart. In some instances, fear can rip apart an individual. Fear of loss of position, power and control has been the primary motivation behind many of the world’s tragedies. In Hitler’s regime and in other hate movements in our history and, sadly, to date, the “we must get rid of these people” mandate has many of its roots in the ground of fear from a greatly downturned economy.

Less tragically yet still sadly, fear of limited growth potential is one of the major reasons nowadays that people leave our organizations. In fact, in a recent survey of several hundred organizations in our nonprofit social sector, salary was one of the least cited reasons; only about 2 percent of those interviewed said that their low salaries were the reason they left their positions (Opportunity Knocks 2010). And many of our talented colleagues do have choices.

In fact, 20 percent of our folks are voluntarily leaving their jobs after less than one year (National Human Services Assembly, personal communication), and they are taking with them their institutional knowledge and our time and training invested in them. Some of our talented colleagues are leaving to start their own businesses. Others leaving us are being scooped up by socially responsible corporations—for-profits that promise flexible workplaces that provide good work-family balance with opportunities to most quickly move up the hierarchical ladder. Nowadays, some of our new and younger staff talent are being called “sector agnostics.” They share our desire to “give back,” but from where they do so is irrelevant to them (Cornelius et al. 2008).

But all is not lost! Actually, looking fully at the fear of those leaving us, we find possibilities to counter their fears. We know our talented people want more training. They want to continue to learn and develop and do so in organizations that recognize that whole people come to work. These people have families—children and parents—and, when they need our people, our people must be able to be with them, and do so without fear that their jobs will be in danger. Our most talented colleagues want to work in organizations with powerful minds and compassionate hearts. And isn’t that what all of our organizations in the social services once were like?

Somewhere we lost our way, our confidence in ourselves, and fear seeped in. Many of us now work in and even have unintentionally contributed to cultures filled with fear. Like icy cold water, this fear made us pull in and be less flexible, with more rigid policies and procedures. And to make it even worse, we began to falsely believe that there was no other way.

Yet again, once recognized for what it is, fear can be fully used and bring us together right here and now. Harnessing and directing the fear of loss of our organizations and their services can help us to find ways to most creatively co-labor—to collaborate by actively seeking out “kindred others” who may not even have been thought of before. This leads us directly to our second partnership paradox.


2. Partnering can be done with familiar strangers.

These are times to be on the lookout for the familiar in those who may not immediately look like us. The possibilities to ensure our organizations’ survival, so that we can meet the ever-expanding needs of those we serve, go beyond us here in the nonprofit social service sector. Organizations that are committed to thriving are open to unions with any and all who share their fundamental purpose, their mission, their reason for being. Such not-for-profits may seek out program sharing with public governmental agencies or even decide to create spin-off ventures or consolidate resources with businesses in the for-profit sector. Across the continuum of options for our organizations to come together—from loosely connected affiliations through more tightly joined joint ventures and maybe all the way to legally defined mergers and acquisitions—agencies today have many possibilities that they can explore. All is possible now; we know how to do this. Our only limitation is our degree of imagination.

In years past, yet for most of us not really too long ago, the most thoughtful organizations’ boards and staff actively engaged in strategic planning—a detailed analysis starting with your organization’s history, present situation, mission, and assessment of upcoming critical issues both inside and within the environment. We then used this information to develop “the strategy” (such as growing in terms of services or staff numbers, specializing in terms of service focus, professionalizing the overall organization). That strategy development then led us to implementing the plan. Together this internal and external scrutiny was intended to enable us to articulate the “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” within and outside of the agency. From all, a linear, step-wise “process for progress” was determined, a blueprint that was to last many years.

Just as we now know that for our 21st-century organizations we can only begin to think of planning three to five years out, we now also remember that there are no straight lines. This leads us to our final paradox.


3. The “straightaways” to tomorrow are best traveled slowly and thoughtfully.

Yes, the yellow brick road we follow to get close to our goals is actually a crooked path. An analysis of what is, is helpful but that is just our starting point. Today is just that—today, this day. Snapshots of today and even yesterday are just moments in time. We must slowly and thoughtfully move from static strategic planning to continuous strategic thinking and strategic action, all the while sorting out what may be important to do from what is really “strategic”; from what will we get our most gain? What action will serve as leverage or even a facilitator of other actions critical to attaining our goal? We must do our best to constantly look around all of the corners as if we had periscopes to try to see, envision, what may be coming.

And here’s a clue. If we take a careful, honest look at all that brought us to this moment, we will see that even our own personal pasts did not always or, for some of us, ever follow a logical, straight path. So why would we think that in these times of heightened complexity, uncertainty and ceaseless change, the evolution of our organizations would be any different?

To really provide the much-needed leadership for our organizations we must plan for change; we must go beyond thinking outside of the box to discernment and action without any boxes. While for some of us this perspective may be exciting, for many others it is downright scary. But we are not alone—remember, we’re all in this together. And the more we gather to think most critically and creatively, to analyze and synthesize, the more we will be able to recognize, tease apart and then balance the competing tensions, the dilemmas that face us daily, with courage and compassion.

Together, courage—the ability to face fear, to have the stamina of will—and compassion call for the ability to act decisively while maintain a reverence for Life. This union of courage and compassion enables us to see problems as opportunities, hear complaints as different ideas, understand resistance as possibilities, and boldly recognize that most people in our organizations are doing the best they can with who they are and what they know. Knowing that our yellow brick roads, our straightaways, are crooked and best traveled slowly and thoughtfully with those with whom we share a common cause are essential words of wisdom for forward movement.

In conclusion, recognizing just these three paradoxes of today allows us to attend to them most effectively, starting right here, right now, remembering that we can do this together.

Dr. Darlyne Bailey is Dean, Professor, and Special Assistant to the President for Community Partnerships, Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.

References

Cornelius, M., P. Corvington, and A. Ruesga. (2008). Ready to Lead?: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out. A National Study Produced in Partnership by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Meyer Foundation and idealist.org. Available at http://www.meyerfoundation.org/downloads/ready_to_lead/ReadytoLead2008.pdf.

Handy, C. (1994). The Age of Paradox. Boston, MA.: Harvard Business School Press.

Opportunity Knocks. (2010).Opportunity Knocks Nonprofit Retention and Vacancy ReportAvailable at http://content.opportunityknocks.org/research/Retention_Vacancy_Report.pdf.