Making Vital Connections
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 16:02
By Catherine J. Woodman and Kevin Stoddart
We live in a vibrant community, and it’s people across our region who make this a great place to live. Yet in every city, there’s a line that separates “have” and “have-not.” As citizens, we are all responsible for altering the line that divides.
United Way is working to reshape that line so it can encircle and connect us. We focus on unity, not disparity. We see opportunity rather than need. And we link people and support, so vital connections can be made.
United Way Halifax is dedicated to improving lives and changing social conditions. For more than 85 years, it has been a reliable, efficient, trusted community-change agent. With your support, we’ve helped many — seniors, newcomers, young people, parents, your neighbours, co-workers, students, clients, customers. All these individuals have the courage to change their own lives for the better. You may not know the names of everyone benefiting from support, but we can all share in the responsibility of making life better for others.
Over the years, we have followed a familiar and traditional approach. United Way funds 55 community-based agencies delivering life-changing programs. We partner with residents in Spryfield and Dartmouth North who are strengthening their neighbourhoods. We advocate for changes in programs and conditions.
More recently, United Way has become even more responsive to community needs while also being responsible to donor interests for accountability and results. After considerable research and dialogue with volunteers over the past two years, we’re embracing two key priorities: to address poverty and to promote healthier people living in a healthier community.
To achieve these priorities, we’ve identified four interconnected strategies:
Opportunities strategy will ensure people have the skills and opportunities they need to achieve financial security. This includes housing, financial literacy, life skills, income and transportation.
The neighbourhood strategy ensures strong resident engagement and local leadership to achieve positive change.
Social capital strategy enables people to have the necessary relationships to foster a sense of belonging and reduce isolation.
Healthy living strategy achieves improved nutrition and active lifestyles for physical well-being.
Future United Way investments will be made according to these priorities. We hold ourselves accountable, through measures and indicators, for positive change. Because we know money alone cannot buy the outcomes we want to create, we will assume many leadership roles — funder, partner, convener, advocate and researcher.
This change has been deliberate and thoughtful. Many volunteers from many walks of life have literally spent hundreds of hours thinking, discussing and testing ideas. We’ve involved representatives from the agencies we fund so that they are included and informed at every significant step of our planning. The agency voice has been essential because we value our relationship and recognize the expertise front-line program providers bring to making a lasting difference.
Next to government, United Way makes the largest investment in the social sector by collecting and distributing donor dollars to community-based agencies and programs. This commitment to the Halifax area began in 1925. Our vision articulates important social goals: our neighbourhoods will be thriving, supportive and safe places; and our citizens will have healthy lives and participate in community.
United Way rallies community partners to share knowledge, resources, skills and services to win on these social issues. When you get involved in or give to United Way, you can rediscover your community. You can help reshape lines that divide us, carve a new path, and change the future.
Catherine J. Woodman is president and CEO and Kevin Stoddart is chair of the board of directors, United Way Halifax.
As published in the Chronicle Herald on September 19, 2012