Reader's View: Bringing groups together to make the Valley a better place

October 25, 2013 

There is a new style of tackling broad community challenges — and it’s working.

The “Collective Impact” model of community change is bringing new energy, passion and solutions to face the Treasure Valley’s biggest opportunities in the areas of health, education and financial independence.

Collective Impact is the way United Way of Treasure Valley has expanded its ability to provide opportunities for individuals and families to succeed.

In this model, everyone works together — including individuals, foundations, businesses, cities, state government, schools, churches and nonprofit organization.

Collective Impact is rather new to the Valley as a problem-solving tool, but we’ve seen its benefits very quickly. Today, UWTV’s efforts are affecting more than 300,000 people, as opposed to about 35,000 a few years ago.

But Collective Impact is really about people, not numbers.

Through a Collective Impact framework, the P16 Caldwell Education Project claimed an early victory by increasing the rate of Caldwell High School graduating seniors who enrolled in college by 9 percentage points in one year. But the real winners are students such as P16 scholarship winner Charlene Miller, who is working to become the first in her family to graduate from college.

United Way has opportunities to help organize, facilitate and fund some of the most innovative, evidence-based projects in the valley. Every day, I get to see groups from various sectors unite to solve valleywide issues that affect us all.

Also in education, the Treasure Valley Education Partnership is working to coordinate resources and institutions to support youth along the education continuum and ensure at least 80 percent of valley students go on to post-high school education by 2016 and beyond.

TVEP has moved past the high-level planning stage and into ground-level work. This summer, TVEP published its first community report card, and the partnership is about to launch its first project in local schools: a competition aimed at increasing the rate of students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline came to be in similar fashion.

After United Way brought concerned groups together to pool their efforts, the hotline opened less than a year later. This spring, we helped connect the hotline with funding from St. Luke’s Health System and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation for longer operating hours, ensuring critical support for those struggling to cope.

But it is personal stories that best illustrate the value of Collective Impact. Recently, I learned about a woman who called the hotline after she’d begun cutting her wrists.

“The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline saved my life,” she said.

Collective Impact has deepened the potential for United Way and its many partners and supporters to make the Valley a better place. This model is bearing significant fruit within United Way’s focus areas: education, health and financial independence.

Collaborative projects are only possible with contributions of all shapes and sizes. Whether through volunteered time and talents, advocacy within a peer group or money donation, your support is changing lives in the valley.

Collective Impact is working, but there’s much more to be done. I encourage you to consider joining our efforts to make a visible difference that can be sustained for many years to come.

You can take action by giving, advocating or volunteering at UnitedWayTV.org.

Nora Carpenter is the CEO and president at United Way of Treasure Valley.

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