Robert C. Reifsnyder is president of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. This op-ed originally ran in the Cincinnati Enquirer on April 19, 2017.
If you follow the news, you can’t help but be struck by the increasing divide in our nation’s capital. Whether we consider ourselves Republicans, Democrats or Independents, conservatives or progressives, we’ve seen in the past decade or more an expanding level of divisiveness in the debates and actions over our country’s direction. It is increasingly difficult to get things done in Washington, D.C.
This divide makes the dramatically expanding collective, collaborative action in our regional community even more meaningful. And 2017 may be our region’s most ambitious year yet in our collective work to improve our community and people’s lives.
The Child Poverty Collaborative has begun implementation of a four-year strategy action plan to help 5,000 families and 10,000 children lift from poverty toward self-sufficiency in the next five years. Dozens of agencies will work together on a coordinated one-to-one family coaching initiative, an employer human resources roundtable will identify ways employers can support their employees who struggle to achieve self-sufficiency, a public policy collaborative will work to change policies which hold individuals and families back, and United Way will increase its focus on opportunities for families in poverty.
In education, after the passage of Issue 44 last fall, United Way is leading the implementation of the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which will help thousands more low-income children attend quality preschools beginning this Fall. The All Children Thrive Collaborative is working to ensure that more children are healthy and working to 3rd-grade reading achievement. In its first social impact bond deal, the Every Child Capital Collaborative has, through Imagination Library, enrolled more than 9,000 children who have received more than 116,000 books in its first year. The Strive Partnership is re-energizing under new leadership to help every child, every step of the way, cradle to career. Every Child Succeeds, Ready Schools, Born Learning Academies, United Way Success By 6®, Community Learning Centers, the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative and other collaborative action initiatives are working to prepare our children and help them succeed toward high school graduation.
In efforts toward financial stability, Partners for a Competitive Workforce and its 150 partners have helped more than 10,000 individuals train for, obtain and advance in the jobs employers need to be filled, in the past eight years. Through the Regional Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Collaborative, hundreds of volunteers in dozens of companies and organizations are working right now to help more than 21,000 hard-working families and individuals receive more than $23 million in tax refunds. The Tristate Veterans Community Alliance is helping veterans receive coordinated care as they get back on their feet after serving our country.
In health, Cradle Cincinnati has worked to reduce infant deaths to a historic low in 2016. The Heroin Epidemic Collaborative and Funders Response Collaborative are among several regional efforts tackling the major opiate addiction problem. The GenH Regional Health Agenda is working to help our community achieve better health, better care and lower cost. And The Health Collaborative just received a major Accountable Health Communities grant to effectively coordinate the health care and human services received by patients with multiple challenges.
These are among the many significant collaborations occurring in our region, which recognizes that no significant community goal can be met, no problem can be reduced, no solution can be achieved at scale, by any single agency or organization. We must work together, and we are. And we’re achieving results.
Many of these collaboratives still need volunteers. You can connect with these collaboratives directly or reach out to United Way’s Volunteer Connection at 513-762-7180 or www.uwgc.org/Volunteer. Get involved, and join the growing number of volunteers who are coming together to improve our community and people’s lives.