By William H. Considine, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, Akron Children’s Hospital
If I ask you to picture a leader, what comes to mind? You might think of a CEO, or a president. Perhaps it’s someone you admire from your everyday life – say a coach, a teacher or a pastor. Whatever it is that you imagine when you think of a leader, I’m willing to bet you’re thinking of a single person.
The truth is, we tend to think of leadership as a personal quality of individual people. While that is certainly true, it leaves out the many organizations that offer exciting new ideas that inspire others, that commit themselves fully to serving their community and that are willing to do the hard work to build a better future. United Way of Summit & Medina is that type of organization. That is why I am proud to serve on its board of directors.
Leading with Ideas
When United Way announced its Bold Goals in 2017, it ushered in a new era for the organization. It caught the attention of difference makers throughout our community. Here was something new and different. Plenty of nonprofits will talk passionately and eloquently of their mission. Fewer will put a stake in the ground and invite the public to gauge their success by answering a simple question – do they do what they say they are going to do?
During the organization’s latest Report to the Community, my good friend, United Way of Summit & Medina president and CEO Jim Mullen, spoke about the reality faced by many people in our community. For too long, people in our community who are struggling have been left to carry their burdens alone. When help has been available, it has been offered piecemeal, leaving residents to navigate a complicated network of assistance. United Way’s mission, he said, would be to leverage the progress it has made and its experience providing assistance to build an ecosystem that places the person at the center.
This idea has the potential to transform the lived reality of thousands of Summit and Medina County residents. If the Bold Goals represented a promise to the community, this is the plan that will deliver that promise.
Leading by Example
Anyone who doubts that United Way has the determination to accomplish this should look at what it has achieved in just the past few years. Since it announced its Bold Goals, United Way has transformed itself. It has changed from an organization that merely passes funds from donors to other nonprofits into one that serves clients directly. Visit United Way’s offices in Akron or Medina and you will see families getting help with their finances. You will see people on the verge of homelessness meeting with case managers working to keep them housed. United Way staff are in Akron Public Schools, in libraries across Summit and Medina Counties, and always just a phone call away in a moment of crisis. United Way isn’t just talking. It’s leading by example, working in our community, with our community and for our community.
And all that work is making a difference. For instance, when United Way announced that it would be working to raise college and career readiness rates in Akron Public Schools, only 2 in 10 graduates were prepared for college or the workforce. United Way partnered with APS and local businesses to expand students’ access to hands-on learning experiences. As a result, today that rate has doubled.
This is an organization with purpose – one that is not afraid to bring new ideas to the table and to lead by example. I invite you to be a part of this effort.