Learning about Collective Impact
The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, the Rider-Pool Foundation and Penn State Lehigh Valley came together to offer community members a session on collective impact Jan. 18. The session, which was part of a larger three-day event, educated attendees about practices that can help address societal issues.
United Way Executive Vice President Marci Ronald-Lesko described collective impact as a form of collaboration that involves the community with the goal of solving social problems. According to Ronald-Lesko, the framework of collective impact can be used to help tackle social issues such as addiction, poverty, suicide, homelessness, human trafficking, food access and aging-related issues, among others.
“It’s an opportunity to think about where we are and what needs to be done differently,” Ronald-Lesko said.
With this community collaboration in mind, the event was open to a wide variety of people, including community members, professionals in higher education, nonprofit organizations, corporate partners and public officials.
“Anytime we’re doing any of these efforts, we have to keep the people that we’re trying to serve or trying to help at the center of the conversation,” Ronald-Lesko said. “[We’re] really trying to get underneath these issues so we can dissolve them.”
Although some of those in attendance were already involved in this work, the event was also open to those who were new to the practice. Experts from the Tamarack Institute and Ontario Trillium Foundation participated in the presentation and discussion to help educate everyone who was interested.
“It was a great event… particularly the diversity in the room,” said Hassan Batts, director of operations for Allentown Promise Neighborhood. “The most important part [was that] we had over 20 community people in the room contributing to this discussion.”
Chief Learning Officer of PBS39 WLVT Teri Haddad similarly appreciated the blend of community members and community leaders.
“The Collective Impact event sponsored by United Way, Rider Pool and Penn State was truly inspiring. It was wonderful to be in a room packed with community members committed to making the Lehigh Valley a great place to live and work,” she said. “The notion to design with communities instead of for communities as one that resonates with many of us. … It makes sense that the only way to create systemic change is to take a holistic approach utilizing our collective strengths, driven by the needs and voices of those we serve.”