OPINION

United Way of Story County Findings of Community Conversations

Sara Wilson

United Way of Story County (UWSC) is working to understand the scope and dimension of the challenges facing Story County. We told you last month that we recently hosted 11 community conversations to learn and develop measureable goals in order to proceed with a shared vision in creating the biggest possible impact on the future of our county.

By engaging the community, UWSC gained valuable public knowledge that will inform our work moving forward. The themes that emerged will help inform how we engage current partners and the community, identify new partners, develop strategies and mobilize resources. As United Way’s focus is education, income and health – the building blocks for a good quality of life – the findings are divided into those categories.

Education: Upon analyzing the concerns in the areas of income and health, root causes for the concerns were sought out. To address future learning and behavior that can negatively be influenced by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and to address future income stability through employment, focusing on early childhood education is a solution.

Income: The overall themes that surfaced in regards to income were housing and transportation. The type of housing that is desired is not available, and this cuts across all income levels, including low-income, young professionals and seniors. And transportation options in the county aren’t as spontaneous as is desired. The types of rides that are wanted aren’t available.

Health: The overall theme in regards to health is that more mental health services are needed. There is a shortage of providers based on the amount of need.

Another major theme throughout the conversations focused on collaborations. Many of the collaborations and relationships in place now are making good progress within their areas, and more partnerships are desired to move discussion into action. UWSC believes that collaborations will be a part of the solutions created to address the concerns listed above. To collaborate, we will share this newly gained knowledge with those who can be a part of the solution: community leaders and community members, including those who participated in conversations. Other general solutions recommended included human services providing a holistic approach, utilizing students, addressing root causes, advocacy, a centralized listing of resources, partnering more with the faith community and measurement/sharing of outcomes.

UWSC will set goals within the areas of education, income and health, based on the knowledge learned. Reaching community goals will require expertise, experience and passion from members of the community that come together to collectively impact the community, so additional stakeholders will be sought out to be a part of the solutions.

Once goals are identified, UWSC will begin to collect baseline data through an outcomes measurement tool called Results Scorecard. We will work with partner agencies, collaborations and other community partners to develop indicators that can be measured to show progress being made towards each goal and to begin to gather baseline data. Agencies will then begin reporting their programs’ progress on the indicators working toward the community goals, allowing for a clear view of how to invest time and dollars and become more strategic in funding decisions.

Sara Wilson is marketing director for United Way of Story County, a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.