CINCINNATI, Ohio (November 8, 2021) —
Dear United Way friends,
Too many times in my career, I watched families and children suffer from no one listening to them.
A child custody case where no one gave the child, parent or caregiver a chance to speak. Hungry families waiting in long lines for food assistance only to find out—before anyone even knew their situation—they would have to wait at least 30 to 45 days for food. The unemployed shuffled to the next minimum-wage job without anyone asking what training/skills/job they needed for true financial stability.
Families know what they need to be successful. Too often, we don’t ask but assume we know what is best.
My experience leading a large public organization gave me a front-row seat to the failures of policies and practices not informed by family voice. I know we can and must do better.
When I joined United Way of Greater Cincinnati, these experiences informed one of my guiding principles. We are committed to listening more intentionally to the community, engaging those most affected by the challenges and working together to create solutions.
Throughout 2020, we applied this guiding principle to our work. For example, during COVID we noticed an increase in callers to our 211 Help Line demonstrating signs of mental health challenges, so we built new strategic relationships with local behavioral health partners offering online visits.
Also, in the early days of the pandemic, our relationships with community and faith-based partners helped us learn where PPE and COVID relief funding was most critically needed, allowing us to respond quickly to the hardest-hit communities.
Listening is now an important part of United Way’s DNA.
We also want to hear from Hamilton County families with young children about the early childhood support system. We are partnering with several community organizations to strengthen the ecosystem of early education and better support families in Hamilton County. If you live in Hamilton County with children younger than 6 years old, you can click here to join.
Our work is informed by other philanthropic organizations blazing the way in participatory and community-informed grantmaking, systems change funding, and being positive disruptors of the traditional power structures held by philanthropy. While I cannot highlight everyone who inspires us, below is a shortlist of our favorite resources.
Over the next six months, I will pull back the curtain and share more details about lessons learned through listening and the changes it brings.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati