What better way to start the New Year than to set a goal to reduce childhood poverty in not just one Connecticut community, but many? The Valley Community Foundation, Griffin Hospital, TEAM, Inc., and Valley United Way came together with more than 20 other organizations in Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, Seymour, and Shelton (the Valley) to figure out how to do just that over the next 10 years. Danosky & Associates was honored to be asked to facilitate this initiative as they explore all the different facets that contribute to childhood poverty – and the impact it causes.
The priority to focus on childhood poverty came as a result of a facilitated brainstorming session to highlight some of the pressing needs within the Valley Community. The one issue that continued to resurface during this exercise was childhood poverty. According to detailed data the collaborative has compiled, 26% of all Valley children live in households below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Over the course of the next several months, these organizations will utilize an innovative and structured approach known as Collective Impact, which facilitates collaboration across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations, and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change. The concept of Collective Impact is based on the idea that, in order for organizations to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large-scale, they need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal. Nonprofit organizations in the Valley have a long history of collaboration, so this approach was a natural fit as they sought to move forward. In addition, the project will be facilitated by Danosky & Associates, which has successfully managed other collective impact initiatives – including the Working Cities Challenge in Danbury, which resulted in a $450,000 grant to reduce the number of minorities living below federal poverty guidelines.
One of the community leaders heading up this initiative is Valerie Knight-DiGangi of Valley Community Foundation. “It has been a wonderful evolution of time and energy with people who are so committed to working together,” said Valerie. “In these early stages of this project, we are working through three task forces on a very structured timeframe. The first task force will work to identify who these families are: the make-up of their households; where they live; the many factors that impact their economic status in the community. The second will determine who in the Valley can connect us with people who have direct experience with childhood poverty – who can talk to us about what the needs are and truly inform our work. The third will create processes to bring all of these people to the table. To ensure this important project maintains on track, Sharon Danosky is keeping us on a very tight timeline to acquire the necessary data before reporting back to our task forces to discuss next steps.”
The task forces include a diversified representation from nonprofits across a variety of sectors. Leading the initiative with Valerie are Sharon Gibson of Valley United Way, David Morgan of TEAM, Inc., and Monica Oris of Griffin Hospital’s Valley Parish Nurse Program.
“At Danosky & Associates, we find this work to be extremely rewarding,” said Sharon Danosky. “It is a privilege to work with so many dedicated groups. And it’s exciting to be part of an initiative that will benefit so many into the future.”