OPINION

Story County Quality of Life Alliance

Kim MackMarketing director of UWSC

Partnerships and collaborations are tools for group problem-solving, decision-making and action, and United Way of Story County (UWSC) is a strong proponent of these effective, dynamic groups who get things done in the community.

The mission of UWSC is to be a strategic leader in building countywide 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. A key component of the mission — partnerships — explains how we pool the expertise, talents, energy and resources of many to help collaborate to solve issues. One way UWSC develops partnerships and invests in the community is by leading or participating in several community collaborations.

Story County is fortunate to have individuals in the community that come together and rally around an issue or problem and then work toward improving conditions for all. United Way of Story County currently facilitates several collaborations including Transportation, Hunger, Food Pantry and Grade Level Reading (Ames Reads). In addition, United Way is a member of other collaborations including Story County Quality of Life Alliance (SCQLA), which describes itself as the “Coalition of coalitions.”

SCQLA was established to help promote health and quality of life across Story County. It is set up as an “alliance” because our goal is to harness the collective power of many different community coalitions and organizations. The group meets quarterly to exchange ideas and updates about programming and resources that impact health and quality of life in Story County.

Every five years, SCQLA also conducts a community needs assessment. The needs assessments have included individual surveys, focus groups and review of outside data. The most recent needs assessment provided an opportunity for human service agencies to provide feedback on what issues and concerns are most prevalent among their clients.

From that needs assessment, SCQLA agreed to focus on three general areas: hunger, mental health/crisis management and healthy living. To help move this work forward, existing collaborations (Hunger and Criminal Justice Mental Health Task Force) have been invited to help identify solutions and to measure progress. In addition, a new coalition, modeled after Healthiest Ames, has been formed to include all of Story County.

Story County is rich in services to improve lives for all citizens. There are over 30 human service agencies with committed staff working to combat hunger, homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and so much more. But having an abundance of services alone is not what makes Story County unique: It is the collaborations and infrastructure that are in place which define the culture of health in the community. The simple reason is this: no one individual, no one service and no one agency can do it alone.