At United Way of Summit County’s annual Knight Breakfast this morning, president Jim Mullen unveiled the organization’s comprehensive strategy map, aimed at successfully achieving its previously announced Bold Goals by 2025. Speaking to a sellout crowd of 450 at the Akron Fairlawn Hilton, Mullen laid out how the organization will pursue a holistic approach to improving the local community in the years to come.
According to Mullen, at its highest level, United Way’s impact work will be guided by four integrated strategic approaches:
• Community engagement – centered on developing key partnerships across multiple sectors of Greater Akron to take a hands-on approach to key issues.
• Wrap-around services – designed to provide multiple services to entire families at easily accessible locations.
• Policy and advocacy – to address systemic, root causes of local issues that affect community conditions.
• Basic needs support – to ensure families and individuals have the basic necessities for a healthy, stable and successful life.
These four overarching strategic approaches will in turn complement Bold Goal-specific strategies aimed at improving key community conditions.
• To achieve Bold Goal 1’s increase in third-grade reading scores, United Way will develop and support programs to increase kindergarten readiness, family engagement and K-3 attendance and programs that mitigate summer learning loss among students.
• To achieve Bold Goal 2’s increase in four-year graduation rates and college/career readiness, United Way will develop and support programs to offer mentoring, mitigate summer learning loss, increase family engagement and improve job readiness and middle-grades math skills.
• To achieve Bold Goal 3’s financial empowerment target, United Way will develop Financial Empowerment Centers in conjunction with the City of Akron (slated to open in 2018), which will provide integrated services in areas of high need to help families and individuals build assets, reduce debt, raise credit scores, budget for the future and access safe and affordable banking services.
• To achieve Bold Goal 4’s reduction in emergency room visits due to drug overdose, United Way will support programs to promote drug abuse awareness, prevention focused around harm reduction for active users, treatment and increased family and peer engagement for those impacted by the opioid crisis.
The announcement of these strategies represents the first phase of a multi-year project by United Way to develop new programs and drive community investment to achieve its Bold Goals by 2025.
Following the announcement, four representatives of United Way’s community impact task force, who are also United Way board members, took to the stage. David James, Sr., superintendent of Akron Public Schools; Mark Krohn, founder and managing partner of the Law Office of Mark E. Krohn; Christine Amer Mayer, president of the GAR Foundation and chair of United Way of Summit County’s board of directors; and Dr. Tim Stover spoke in-depth about the strategy map and took questions from the audience.
“We chose these strategies because they target the critical issues we discovered in our review of community data and citizen input,” says Mayer. “They have worked in similar communities, they are scalable and they have the support of key leaders in our community. There has never been a better time in Summit County for this kind of sustained effort, and with the enthusiasm we have seen from people across this community, we know it can succeed.”
Today’s event also marked the opening of United Way’s latest grant cycle. Organizations interested in submitting grant applications to United Way of Summit County can find information about the process at uwsummit.org/rfp.
The event also featured the rollout of United Way’s Public Policy Agenda. As part of United Way’s integrated strategic approach, public policy will play a key role in United Way’s impact efforts. United Way of Summit County will work to influence public policy from the local to the national level to help achieve the organization’s Bold Goals. Collective voice opportunities – promoted online, via text message and through community partnerships – will help mobilize individual community advocates to become part of a strong, unified voice to influence policy makers. More information about United Way’s Public Policy Agenda is available online at uwsummit.org/advocate.
The Knight Breakfast also celebrates the beginning of United Way’s annual campaign. 2017 campaign chair and partner-in-charge of Construction and Real Estate Services for Sikich, Laura Culp, spoke of recent successes by the organization, which has engaged more than 200 companies and 2,300 people in volunteer events over the past year. “United Way offers a unique opportunity for all of us to join together in a powerful effort to take on our community’s most critical challenges – and win,” she said.
“Ultimately, this is all about investing in our community,” says Mullen. “Whether we are contributing our voices as advocates or our resources, the time is now to ensure that we are targeting the specific needs of our community. The plan we laid out today will ensure that the investments we make in our community will be paid back many times over in the form of new opportunities for our youth, a thriving business community and healthy and stable families across Summit County.”