CINCINNATI, Ohio (April 12, 2022) —
Dear United Way friends,
One of the things I heard when I joined United Way of Greater Cincinnati two years ago was to be fresh and bold in our approach to tackling the challenge of economic well-being for all in our region.
We are proud of our history investing in programs that meet critical community needs. But, despite our work, a generous community, and a robust social service sector and public safety net, poverty rates in our region have remained the same. Families across our community continue to struggle and experience hardship. Our region has not made progress towards achieving United Way’s vision of economic well-being for all.
I am energized to lead United Way and drive solutions that spur systemic change – so fewer families need help in the future. On April 12, we announced nearly $20 million in community investments, with $11.4 million invested with our “Systems Change Partners.” This announcement marks a milestone in our now two-year journey to transform United Way of Greater Cincinnati and is a first step toward implementing true change by funding efforts and partners targeting systemic change. (Note: we are working through the grant acceptance process and will publish a full list of funded organizations the week of April 25.)
We began our transformation by asking the community to drive our work and investments – to tell us what challenges to address and what solutions work for them. We leaned into the expertise of approximately 400 community members, business leaders and 200 partners and analyzed extensive community data to inform our investment decisions.
We no longer ask our partners and our community to align with goals we determine. We want to hear from those closest to the challenges and let them determine the path to success. We listened, we asked questions and we listened some more. Then, we delved deeply into data to support our findings and solutions.
As a result, we are co-creating solutions recommended to us by those who have lived experiences with the challenges poverty creates. We are using data and information we gathered from the community to strengthen those solutions. Our work must eliminate inequities and dismantle outdated systems that are barriers to achieving true generational financial freedom.
The discussions and data review resulted in a focus on six opportunity areas:
These initial Systems Change Partners -- a diverse portfolio of 86 community partners across the region interested in working together to make progress on these opportunities - will join us on this journey. Nearly 20 percent are new partners to United Way. That’s the largest number of new partners in any single year in recent history. The new portfolio ensures diverse representation and ideas.
Our initial $20 million investment is a milestone and yet it is also just a first step. There is work to be done, systems to change, and results to be achieved. United Way will continue to drive community and data-informed solutions, and will continue to advocate and strive for systems change through additional partnerships and investments. We will continue to mobilize the advocacy of the business community, our partners in the social services sector and your support to strengthen our community.
As we work with our partners to set collaborative goals and benchmarks for our progress, expect a community dashboard later this year to track changes in family economic well-being across our region. These goals and measurement tools will provide transparency to the community and key stakeholders to hold us accountable, and serve as a critical tool to help corporate, government, and nonprofit partners align resources and move our region forward.
We have heard an appetite for change. This movement is motivated by families, community members, business leaders, social services agencies and others seeking solutions centered on those closest to challenges and creating long-term systemic change.
Please join us on this transformational journey — advocate, volunteer and give.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati