VISTA ASSIGNMENT DESCRIPTION:
The City of Seattle's Human Services Department contracted with MLK Solid-Ground, a program of the National Corporation for Community Services to obtain an Americorp/Vista. The Vista's project assignment, originally set for three years was designed to support, enhance and increase the number of nonprofit and faith-based organizations helping families, the underserved, refugees and immigrants and homeless individuals by using PeoplePoint the City's online benefit portal.
The Vista's role was to increase the number of nonprofit and faith-based organizations registered as partners with Washington Connection by 40%. These goals were exceeded by direct community outreach; by going out into the field and meeting with nonprofit directors, staff and whenever possible, members of the communities where they serve.
In my role as a Vista I listened and sought to build capacity based on the specific needs and challenges that each individual nonprofit discussed and acknowledged needing help with and support in defining solutions.
The benefit of partnering with Washington Connection was to give organizations the opportunity to have an innovative informational one-stop shop tool linking them to city, state and federal benefits thus enhancing the direct and indirect service they already provided to the individuals and families in their community.
VAD Project Goals:
• Expand the number of community and faith based organizations (CBO's) and agencies that use the Washington Connection portal-support them in becoming registered Partners with DSHS
• Design tools(methods) to evaluate the effectiveness of the online portal
• Identify underserved populations and create means to engage them in using the online benefit portal
• Analyze service gaps, ex. age, language, and ethnic and socio economic groups. I've included (immigrants and refugees
• Capture information about the portals strengths, weaknesses and user suggestions for improvement
• Determine strategies to encourage feedback-focus groups, survey's, interviews involving both agency staff and clients who have used the portal
• Implement evaluation strategies among the 39 agencies currently contracted by PeoplePoint in 2011 to support additional training on portal use and give technical support
• Double the number of Partner agencies from 39 to 78 to participate in trainings
• Distribute and deliver training/marketing materials to agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations and targeted groups
• Increase the number of underserved customers using the online benefit portal
• Coordinate nonprofits efforts to build a network interacting directly with: city agencies, Human Services Department, Parks & Recreation, the Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, Family Centers, the Mayor's office and Municipal court.
• Create opportunities for city agencies and organizations to connect and share information.
The City of Seattle created PeoplePoint-as an online information portal, linked households and individuals to City, County and State benefits through the DSHS online benefit portal Washington Connection.
The benefit portal was designed to be a holistic tool for not only low-income households and individuals but for all residents and the homeless to see if they qualified for benefits (medical, food, and healthcare) programs and services including federally funded programs and services.
By filling out a comprehensive application the system would then generate exactly what the applicant/s could then apply for based on the information they provided.
PeoplePoint grew out of the realization that the best way to reach hurting families and underserved communities was to allow organizations dedicated to those communities to serve as "Host and Assisting Agencies" working directly with DSHS as Partners providing greater accessibility.
I decided to incorporate the City of Seattle's Human Services Department "Logic Model" into this process as a precursor to "Community Engagement" initiative that is based on the outcomes and projected goals as a result of the "Logic Model".
When I began in January of 2012, 40 organizations had already been contracted by the City of Seattle's Human Resource Department's PeoplePoint program. It was designed to become the blueprint to how individuals and families would be able to access basic support during difficult times.
What made it especially encouraging was the promise of creating a holistic experience that provided what could be considered a "wrap-around" service all in one place with one application.
The push-back was almost immediate for the following reason, technical issues with DSHS Washington Connection portal. It frequently crashed, (according to some of the first-time users), and at that time did not allow organizations access to client information once entered, information that they felt they needed in order to follow-up and support those they helped apply for benefits at their organizations site.
"BEING IN THE FIELD MEETING, RESPONDING TO AND ASKING QUESTIONS NOT ONLY SURFACED ISSUES BUT IT ALSO REVEALED ACHIEVABLE SOLUTIONS"
There was a need to be able to track where the application was in its process, know when it was time for a client who would need their help to renew benefits and make sure they didn't miss deadlines and risk losing their benefits as so many do. (That has changed and now organizations can access client information up to 6 months)
In all fairness to DSHS, security had to be the primary focus because organizations that became assisting agencies signed HIPA and nondisclosures agreements giving them access to sensitive information.
Since then most if not all of these earlier quirks have been remedied and the portal will shortly have an upload feature that would allow for a quicker and more efficient way to add required documents that many save electronically but also for those who are not technically savvy.
The average amount of time it took an individual to help a client complete the application process could take anywhere from one to two hours depending on the circumstances and whether or not there was language and/or cultural barriers.
Trust repeatedly came up since many individuals who qualified for benefits, services and programs came from counties where civil liberties were non-existent. They had experiences that supported their mistrust of the online portal and the questions the online portal required.
The assumption that leaving their countries and coming to America would somehow make all of those memories go away turned out to be the bridge that further divided these underserved communities especially for immigrants and refugees.
Learning a common language does not automatically create a common understanding and many of the nonprofit organizations were themselves navigating new surroundings, cultures and customs. Adding to this mix are those individuals who were the newly poor.
People who had never planned to become homeless and un/or underemployed. This included once solid middle class individuals and families who were not emotionally or mentally prepared to navigate a system they often looked down upon as freebies or "entitlements" as they are referred to in political circles.
They did not have experience speaking to their peers about how to get help and not feel dehumanized in the process. For some there was a moment of truth when I suggested that they test the site by filling out an online application using themselves as potential clients.
I could see the surprise and sudden humility when they realized that they also qualified for certain benefits, programs and services. I needed them to be able to put themselves in the place of the clients they would help and eliminate the air of "us vs. them" mentality that individuals needing help often complained of and rightly so.
Individuals who were able to distance themselves from those people were now finding themselves standing in the same food lines and at DSHS offices. This later group suffered mainly due to their feelings of having somehow failed; they rarely consider seeking help until they are in desperate circumstances.
There was also those who had been released from hospitals and assisted living homes and could not manage their own care well enough to hold onto benefits. The challenge was how do we reach them, help them and allow them to maintain their dignity in a perceived and justifiably so, non-demoralizing process. How do we reach them before that happens? How do we reach immigrants and refugees? How do we help the homeless? How do we help hurting families and children?
II. Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons Learned:
The assumption that the people Washington Connection wanted to reach had access to technology made creating Partnerships with local organizations all the more critical.
Because we knew not everyone had a computer and many we needed to reach are homeless; being able to have an organization or familiar neighborhood center act as a service-driven information Hub in the community meant that they would have a greater opportunity to reach these almost invisible people.
Not only is there a large portion of King County residents who are gravely underserved, there is a large influx of refugees and immigrants that are finding the culture of Seattle difficult to navigate.
Most of this is blamed on language and culture, yet the conditions that brought immigrants and refugees to this area and our lack of sensitivity and awareness of those conditions and culture has caused a huge disconnect and exposes the underlying racial disparity still very present in this community.
There tends to be an assumption that people come to America to assimilate which is not what they should feel compelled to do. They are here to enjoy the same liberties that include freedom and the opportunity to have a better life for themselves and their families, not much different than those of us who call America home.
We are a nation rich in many cultures and ethnicities. Yet we run the risk of missing out on and silencing crucial and much needed voices, ideas and creativity when we label which ultimately limits the contributions that immigrants and refugees and minorities are qualified to create.
For many of the organizations I spoke with what was touted as a promising ‘wrap around” service was becoming bogged down by time constraints, inadequate staffing, lack of interest and Washington Connection not being the dependable tool it had promised to be.
There also seemed to be a considerable amount of unwillingness to incorporate using the online portal because it meant there had to be a change in how they responded to the needs of their clients. They would have to be trained and be able to dedicate a computer with trained staff members or volunteers available for clients who sought help.
This meant cultivating a new level of intimacy that required a great deal of trust and compliance with the nondisclosure agreement and protection of the client. They simply did not see how this could be of benefit to them given the amount of time it took to actually assist an individual/family in completing the application process, take the next steps towards qualifying for benefits and follow the progress of that application.
I decided to address issues that were impediments to creating the capacity I knew each desired. Change is good and times change and life is not static, nonprofits would have to learn to engage and comply with the changing demographics or become increasingly unproductive and eventually obsolete to the growing and ever shifting needs in the community.
After numerable phone calls, emails and face to face meetings with our existing list of nonprofits, it became quite clear that I was not going to be able to change their first impressions of the online portal. Although I felt that some were actually hiding behind the early challenges so that they didn’t have to make the changes needed to take advantage of this new and very effective online portal.
Not willing to declare defeat, I mentally placed them on a temporary shelf and began to research other nonprofits and faith-based organizations. There comes a time when it was far easier to reach out to untapped areas and organizations than to continue to bang on a closed door that drawn its line in the sand and had made the decision to not engage.
I began to introduce Washington Connection in the communities where they served as a tool to build capacity. What I learned almost immediately was that few had heard of Washington Connection and thus even fewer were aware of the services and programs available to them.
Spending considerable time talking to smaller nonprofits and several large and well known organizations I came to believe that true capacity building could be achieved by these organizations by showing them how they could utilize the information as a tool to help others and also help themselves gain partnership development with other nonprofits within the community.
By creating significant partnerships among themselves and through collaborative conversations they could begin to share meaningful information, resources and talent. They were peers, and regardless of the size of the organization what they had in common was a sincere desire to make a difference in the lives of the communities they served.
Affiliating with other organizations would give them access to information, skill sets and decision makers they might otherwise not have.
There was a desire to grow and a willingness to be more effective only there was still that push back against change in "how" those changes would be implemented. Making paradigm shifts in how organizations viewed the people they served also struggled to keep up with the actual change in demographics.
Technology was outpacing their ability to keep up and cuts to staff made it almost impossible for some to function at a modest level. Although partnering with other organizations was obvious to the person looking in, it was not initially as easy for the organizations themselves, it always came down to a 'time" and "resource" challenge.
III. THE EARLY PARTNERS (PEOPLEPOINT)
The following nonprofits received monetary incentives from the city of Seattle via PeoplePoint to support their becoming Washington Connection Partners- 100% of incentives were spent on new computers and/or laptops and printers for the staff to help them meet the needs of their clients with the hope that these additional resources would encourage them to become Partners.
ACRS Islamic Center of Washington *
Afrique Service Center * Multicultural Self-Sufficiency Movement
Atlantic Street Center Neighborhood House
Catholic Community Services People of Color Against AIDS Network (POCAAN)
Central Area Motivation Program(Center-Stone) Pike Market Child Care *
Children's Home Society Refugee Federation Services
Chinese Information Service Center Salaam Urban Village Assoc.
Community Lunch on Capitol Hill * Salvation Army
Community Psychiatric Clinic * Senior Services *
Compass Housing Alliance * Solid Ground
Deaf Blind Service Center Somali Community Services Coalition
Denise Louie Education Center * Somali Community Services of Seattle
East African Community Services South Park Information and Resource Center
El Centro de la Raza Southwest Youth and Family Services *
Evergreen Children's Association (Kids Co) Techno Formation Vocational Services *
FamilyWorks University District Food Bank *
First AME Child Development Center Volunteers of America *
Horn of Africa Wellspring Family Services
International District Housing Alliance * YMCA Center for Young Adults
Islamic Center of Washington * YWCA
*Designates organizations who received financial support but chose not to become Washington Connection Partners to date.
These forty medium to large scale nonprofit organizations were offered incentives so that they could train staff on how to access benefits using DSHS Washington Connection online benefit portal. The funds were used primarily to purchase computers, printers and in some cases laptops for staff use.
Although the contract clearly defined that the expectations was for them to become Washington Connection partner, fewer than 50% of the nonprofits who accepted the incentives actually became WC partners.
Only a few nonprofits used the funds to set up a dedicated kiosk so people could apply for benefits online themselves or apply with limited assistance.
The belief was having access to technology would increase the nonprofits ability to help more members in their communities apply for and receive benefits through the online portal.
What was not taken into consideration was the amount of time each application would require including challenges using the online system itself which crashed regularly before improvements and enhancements corrected it.
Partners wanted to be able to track applications and that access came late in the year, but not nearly soon enough to keep them interested and committed to its use.
Once again change for them was seen as too time consuming and not worth the effort. They are wrong and those who did push through are now reaping the intended advantages that only a system such as Washington Connection can provide to anyone who is seeking help and information about city, county state and federal benefits, services and programs.
Once again, I must defend the Washington Connection online benefit portal. I can say with confidence that many organizations did not embrace it because it meant a change in how their day to day operations would be handled. It meant having to spend additional time with individuals with limited staff being the main argument.
I would challenge them by admitting the beginning of any change is the most difficult; but with proper planning and a mind-set dedicated to bringing the best of what is available because of those changes for those they serve, that and that alone should be their main concern.
BELOW IS A SAMPLE OF THE GENERAL FEEDBACK SOME GROUPS EXPRESSED:
Asian Counseling and Referral Service, better known as ACRS listed the challenges and benefits they encountered using the online portal-I ACRS comments because they reflect the feedback I encountered from the organizations that participated in this incentivized program.
• Benefits: The agency's largely bilingual/bicultural staff of 200 collectively speaks 30 languages and dialects. Caseworkers who speak the same language and come from the same culture assist more than 23,000 people annually, making clients' transitions easier and successful outcomes more likely. This project complements existing work through our Community Resource Program that provides support to individuals and families in accessing needed services and benefits.
• Actual Groups Asian Pacific American communities served: Bhutanese, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islanders-although Asians are primary target group ACRS has served and continues to serve any ethnic group that comes to them for assistance in accessing benefits via Washington Connection.
• Major Challenges: Elderly with mobility issues – Communities with people living too far from site who need to be physically present to complete application. Service requires online access which cannot be supported off site without adequate funding to pay for access. “How does that look/what does that entail”?
o Clients with limited /no English proficiency- Chemical dependency-Mental Health diagnosis will need more Case Management to assist them with applications ‘after they receive notification from DSHS’ what happens to these individual prior to getting notification and where would we go to find them?’ ACRS staff has to accompany these clients to CSO’s to provide interpretation/emotional support to those clients who are chemically dependent and/or mental diagnosis.
• Most challenging: When/if application is denied, our staff has to provide ongoing advocacy to justify benefits-it can take more than 5 contacts for our staff to assist the clients to receive their benefits successfully. Inability to track the application process and be able to alert the client if they need to recertify.
• Administrative Cost Incentive-allowed ACRS to build capacity in terms of hardware as well as provide educational materials that will be used over time.
IV. The Birth of Partner Café
After listening to organizations and meeting with many who work and depend on their services, I was immediately struck by how few of those they served were reflected in "working" positions within the organization itself. "How can you assume to understand the needs of a culture you don't know?"
Many of these organizations had no idea who their own neighbors were. They consistently asked for information about other services and resources and yet I possessed a list of over 100 organizations many providing similar services.
One organization dedicated to helping young pregnant teens finish school, maintain a reasonable relationship with their child's father for the sake of that child by offering parenting classes for both asked about where they could get referrals and how could they let the community know they existed.
Organizations were not sharing information with other organizations and ended up becoming unintentionally silo-ed from the very resources that was easily accessible to them had they looked beyond their own doors.
Most of the organizations that were "ethnic" specific often found themselves feeling out there alone in a vast wasteland. I will never forget one young and highly talented man from Sudan discussing his experience with the Seattle police. "We never know what it is we are doing wrong because no one tells us the rules"
What is acceptable in some cultures is often frowned upon in others and not because it is bad, but because few take the time to interact and learn so that they can develop a level of respect and appreciation for traditions different than their own.
The current culture of local and city governance has to create responses concerning sensitivity to race; ethnicity and I would even include religious practices within diverse communities to address these disparities.
When an individual or family goes for help, unless the organization is run but a particular ethnic group, rarely is there someone from their own community at the organization for them to talk too.
There are numerous initiatives at the state, city and local levels that in their defense try to speak to racial issues and disparities. But, from my conversations with many refugees and immigrants as well as families who came to the Northwest to take advantage of what they see as positive change, there still needs to be a paradigm shift in who is talking and who is invited to the table to listen.
This lead to an idea that if, I could bring these organizations together they could and would be able to learn and grow together. By utilizing the experiences of established organizations and by sharing challenges in the company of like-minded individuals many were able to see how effective coming together could be in order to develop problem-solving skills.
The reason for Partner Café was to achieve the following:
• To meet, engage and support small nonprofits and connect them to larger organizations to learn best practices
• Identify what works in outreach and marketing and make it culture specific
• Connect organizations to resources beyond funding, ex: mentoring, skill and information sharing
• Create opportunities where individuals can share information about using the Washington Connection online portal
• Assist organizations to identify intersections between organizations and the not so obvious overlapping and redundancy of services-connect and share resources/information/referrals
• Formulate strategies in order to link organizations based on commonality-geographical presence-cultural competencies
• Attention and energy refocused to solution based strategies working with stakeholders by asking the hard questions
• Surfacing- Often the hardest part of dealing with conflict is removing the emotions and dealing with the issues creating a safe environment for honest conversations with constructive feedback/solutions
• Silos-removing oneself from the bubble that tends to insulate against fresh ideas and developing significant relationships with the community
• Data-used as a tool not a carved in stone rule
• Boots on the Ground-face to face discussions where individuals come together to learn, teach, share, but most importantly ask for the help they need in a safe and nurturing environment-"Partner Café"
V. These are some of the questions that were asked:
• What do you have? What do you need?
• It's ok to ask for HELP!
• Does your work environment encourage productivity and how can the group support you in creating it?
• Have you been able to use Washington Connection as a tool in covering wrap around services? Would you like to learn how?
• Is the work you are doing part of your long-term goals?
• What values are you looking for in the work you do?
• What skills do you bring to the work you do and how can the group help you build on those skills?
• What skills do you need to make your work more productive?
VI. Desired outcomes for "Partner Cafe":
• To make decisions that are based on individual conditions that are fluid and ever changing-flexible and inclusive
• To seek wisdom and guidance and not fear being wrong, but rather opening the door to sincere debate and resolution and misperceptions often borne out of ignorance of the facts
• empowering their nonprofits to better serve their communities as Partners with Washington Connection; these conversations opening a door to new ideas created by interdependent collaborations
• To face racism -ageism-cultural biases' head on and strive to rise above the obstacles that many underserved individuals face every day
• Make a lasting difference by planting seeds of hope supported by significant action
• Build capacity among nonprofits and show them that positive interdependence is their greatest strength
• Build on the goals of HSD Community Service & Self-Sufficiency Division into best practices as I endeavor to link inputs based on the logic model with outcomes for capacity building among community and faith-based organizations
• Sensible and realistic utilization of resources
• Connect diverse communities to resources by constructing outcome-based conversations with decision makers and peers
VII. Having the conversation and what was learned:
Each organization has the capacity to reach individuals who may otherwise be overlooked.
The organizations in the community are crucial to the goal of reaching as many individuals and families as possible. Their intimate knowledge of the people they serve in the community they live in and the lack of or availability of resources increases their capacity to assist these individuals in an efficient and timely manner.
What surfaced most was learning that for Nonprofits to function efficiently engagement had to be built on trust and consistency. Trust meant consistency of services offered, being accountable for promises made to the public and staff that are dependable and committed to the people they serve. Challenges and questions that are still being discussed include both the organization and the people they serve:
• Online portal difficult to navigate
• Time needed to complete an application takes staff away from regular duties.*None had staff delegated to portal use"
• Limited staff
• Limited management skills - insufficient or non-existent ongoing training
• Limited transit available to vulnerable population
• Underutilized space
• Limited or outdated technology
• Language barriers
• Disparities in service rendered
• How to reach underserved community
• How to achieve sufficient community outreach
• Too little space to build physical capacity
• Unaware of available resources
• Funding sources (finding and writing grants)
• Cultural sensitivity and awareness
• Redundancy and overlapping of services
• Not connecting outside of their own organization
• Not utilizing information made available on government (local) websites
• Navigating Seattle culture, particularly the refugee and immigrant populations
• Silo-ed (Not connecting to other nonprofits)
• Feelings of isolation (nobody really cares)
• Cultural unawareness-sensitivity
• People did not know where to go and what information was available
• Language and Racial barriers (real or imagined)
• Access to affordable housing
• Access to affordable childcare
• Access to affordable healthcare individual/family
• Blatant racism
• Seeing "themselves" in decision-making roles
I believed and still do, that Washington Connection for all of its growing pains is the most effective tool for organizations who whether they believe it or not do direct service. It allows them to help clients find necessary support and opportunities that go well beyond DSHS.
In many ways we are all providing direct service. The following list of organizations was part of my outreach strategy that by putting boots to ground and coming face to face with the communities they serve, I would be able to develop realistic and qualitative strategies over quantitative.
The stigma attached to DSHS is also in need of a paradigm shift in how it is viewed. For me I know it as a stabilizing force not meant to be a lifelong crutch but rather a needed aid during times of hardship.
After speaking directly to the families, nonprofit coordinators, faith-based services, office assistants, staff and Executive Directors about empowering their nonprofits to better serve their communities as Partners with Washington Connection; these conversations opened a door to new ideas inspired by interdependent collaborations.
It often felt like I was hearing the same conversations and frustrations when meeting with nonprofits. Some would have too much of one thing, while another would have far too little.
They all seemed to lack access to the type of information that would enable them to be better stewards of the resources they did have. All wanted to have a closer relationship with decision makers at the city and state level as well as have reasonable access to opportunities to increase their ability to meet the changing needs of the communities they served.
You cannot determine the future of a community based on the past or where people came from. You cannot fulfill a dream by crunching numbers on a spreadsheet. People are not a bunch of facts and figures on a summary report. And you certainly shouldn’t decide to judge the report compiled by people with no knowledge or invested interest other than assuming that elaborate plans without the people’s input has true value.
Is there any wonder that the number of nonprofits in King County alone is equivalent to the population of a small city? Below is a snapshot of the number of "help" focused organizations in Washington State. As of 2010 there were approximately over 20,000 such organizations in King County alone.
REGISTRATIONS WITH THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Registrations and Filings of Nonprofit Organizations (as of 2010)
• 54,030-“Regular” nonprofit corporations (RCW 24.03), May 19, 2010
• 3,920- Other types of nonprofit corporations
• 9,308- Fundraising organization registrations, February 22, 2010
• 2,088- Optional statements of fundraising organizations not required to register
FILINGS WITH THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
• 24,919-501(C)(3) public charities, IRS, April 2010
• 1,296-501(C)(3) private charities, IRS, April 2010
• 10,311- Other categories of federally tax-exempt corporations, IRS
• 11,319- Small organization report (Form 990-N) filers, IRS, May 2010
That many have been operating since the turn of the century? Doesn’t that beg the question, what have you done for anyone lately that will make a significant and permanent difference? But if that were the case, people would be jumping over themselves to work themselves out of a job.
How and why is there such a huge disconnect between what exists and the hundreds of thousand that go un-served every day?
“Organizations that solicit charitable contributions from Washington residents are generally required (by RCW 19.09, the Charitable Solicitations Act) to report annually to the Charities Program of the Secretary of State. Of the 9,308 registrations as of June 2008, 3,017 were for out-of-state groups that have fundraising activities in Washington-Evans School of Public Affairs.”
The ilove Seattle website, is another great source for locating nonprofits in Seattle. The bible for all Foundations both nationally and globally can be found at http://foundationcenter.org, The Foundation Center. I have shared this information with every one of the organizations I came in contact with. I wanted them to be able to have access to the most recent information possible and at the same time be able to empower themselves and their staff with information that was free, accessible, and current and information that is considered the gold standard by the world’s most financially stable Foundations’.
Below are the nonprofits that I have been honored to work with up close and very personally. I understand the hard work that they do and I respect their difficulties, but I would challenge them to ask themselves to take a hard in-depth look at how they are operating in a diverse and global community. Why is it that there are more nonprofits added each year? Why there are so many nonprofits and fundraising organizations yet so many individuals remain unnoticed, un-served and forgotten?
Work it Out Unleash the Brilliance
Community for Youth Seed of Life
Teen Feed Neighborcare health
Jewish Family Services Community Day School
Sea Mar Community Health SOAR
Indian Association of Western Washington World Mission Ministry
Evergreen Healthcare Children & Youth
Awake Church-Aurora TechAccess
Youth Suicide Prevention Program Within Reach
University of Washington Nurse Training Program Catholic Community Services of Western Washington
ArtCorp Crisis Clinic
Seattle Schools Seattle Central College
Chief Seattle Club Child Care Resources
East African Community Services Kids and Company
Literacy Source Neighborcare Health
Sea Mar Community Health Centers Seattle Jobs Initiative
TechAccess YWCA Works
WithinReach YWCA Greenbridge Employment Services
Seattle Schools Providence
Refugee Federation Services Ballard Homeless Clinic
Cancer Lifeline Campana Quettzal
Caya College Access Now
Concord International School Communities in School
Explorations in Math First Place
Hamilton International Huchoosedah After School
Invest in Youth Madison Middle School
MadronnaK8 School Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
Morningside Academy New Futures
Northwest Harvest Odessa Brown Children's clinic
OneAmerica Peace for the Streets by Kids
Powerful Schools School's Out Washington
Seattle Mesa Seattle Parks Camp Long
Seattle Public Schools Schools Native American
Seattle University Seattle Young People's Project
Social Venture Kids Somali Youth and Family Clubs
South Shore preK-8 School StoryGarden Seattle
Team Read Teens in Public Service
Toddler Tech Development University Tutors for Seattle
Urban Impact Asselt Elementary
Vietnamese Friendship Youth Eastside Services
Youth in Focus Youth Media Institute
Youthcare King county Caregiver Support
Rosehedge-CareTeams Bethany Community Church
Crosspoint Church Epic Life Church
Greenwood Christian church Ohana Project
Our Redeemer Lutheran Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church
Sanctuary Church Adventist Community Services
What are we not doing? Should we not spend more time developing actual solutions rather than just safety nets? And the hard questions that beg surfacing is how do we address institutional racism, ageism , cultural and gender bias when it comes to moving qualified and talented individual into the workforce rather than creating barriers to their inclusion. Demographically, people who are considered the Protected Class, outnumber all other workers in service jobs yet are less than .004% of those in top tiered positions.
Unfortunately few are in decision making roles that would allow them to be door openers over the gate keepers who keep many qualified individuals out. Even those with significant experience, higher education and masters degrees find it hard to crack that ceiling. Sadly this is to be expected in some industries, but it is disheartening to find it in the nonprofit sector where few of the nationalities being served are in positions of power and impact.
I am an eternal optimist. I am at my best when working among others who are brighter, more talented and challenge me to do my best work. I believe that I am not the only one. I know that I am not because many of the organizations listed have people dedicated to working against maintaining the status quo. Our first and most important commodity is the health of our citizens. When people are able to take care of their health and the wellbeing of their family members, it allows people to remain viable in the workforce rather than on welfare.
I did not meet one individual who wanted to be sitting in the waiting rooms of these organizations. They are grateful, but they want to work, to have an opportunity to grow and be included in the growth of this city, this county, this state and this country. Washington Connection has become the link that draws many organizations and the people they serve together as a united interdependent force. Partner Café has proven to be one vehicle that filled a much needed vacuum helping those who work for and rely on these organizations to learn from one another-share valuable information, but most importantly act as conduits of tacit knowledge and productive solution focused meetings with real outcomes.
I want to take this time to thank Jessica Chow a Planning & Development Specialist in the Community Support & Self-Sustainability division and my Supervisor who listened with an open heart and mind. Who was willing to empower me with the tools I needed to be successful at what needed to be done. But what is priceless to any supervisor -direct report relationship and one I practice when in a leadership role is to give that person all that you can so that they can take what they learn and pass it on. I realized that what was missing for many of these organizations was the powerful information that they did not share with one another. Many did not even know the other existed? I then came to believe that they were one another's best means to get what they needed to be effective, not band-aids but true healers. That's when Jess suggested the "Conversation Café" model that allowed me to take that next step. It became my primary focus; developing a way for city, state and federal agencies to create real solutions by being door openers, not gate keepers so that organizations can effectively point individuals to where when and how to take their next and final step towards self-sufficiency. I hope that this report allows you to realize that we are an interdependent village of amazing people in search of an open door. Be that open door.
Americorp/Vista is a program of MLK at Solid-Ground
Solid Ground "Founded in 1974 by community leaders and concerned citizens of one of Seattle's then most economically devastated neighborhoods, Fremont. Originally called the Fremont Public Association, our services – emergency food bank, clothing bank, and employment program – reflected the desperate needs and determined response of a mobilized and committed neighborhood- Now based in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, our 30 programs and services help nearly 60,000 households each year overcome poverty and build better futures throughout King County and beyond". Its primary goals:
Cheri Denise Coleman, MBA