Caring for our community and the people who live here is part of our DNA as Grand Rapidians. When we see a need, we do something to address it. More often than not, our approach to any given need varies depending on our seat at the big community table.
For instance, government might take one approach, while philanthropy tries a different solution, the business sector, our faith communities, schools, (and the list goes on)… all often do something different to address the same need.
What if everyone worked together? Could we do better? (Um, duh!)
Imagine if everyone took a seat at that big community table at the same time and the conversation went something like this:
Ms. Philanthropy: We care about kids, so we are funding human service workers in schools.
Mr. Business: Neat! We care about kids, too. Our employees volunteer as mentors in classrooms.
Rev. Faith Group: Wow, cool! We like kids, so our congregation provides meals for families.
And so on…
When all the players lay their cards on the table, they can work together and identify the very best solutions to address needs effectively and efficiently.
Seems like a duh, huh? It takes more than you might think.
Organizations at the table have to dig in deep. They have to know the context and history of the need, challenge assumptions, agree on what success is and how it will be measured, and have a handle on the current system in place for addressing the need. Personal agendas and viewpoints must go to the wayside.
It can be intense, which is why this kind of sharing and collaborating is actually quite unique.
To help this collective work happen in our community, Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently awarded a $375,000 grant to KConnect for System Alignment—Stronger Outcomes.
KConnect provides the big community table. KConnect brings people from all sectors together (see partner list here), and helps them re-imagine the systems we have in place to address needs while aligning individual efforts and measurement. We think this will be a game changer.
“The goal of KConnect is to help identify what is working and harness the community’s collective efforts behind common measurable goals. They seek opportunities to highlight, support, and develop projects that have the potential to create far-reaching, systems-level change, and improve outcomes for the children and families of Kent County,” said Kate Luckert Schmid, program director at the Community Foundation.
It's impossible to tackle all community needs at one time. For now, KConnect is focusing specifically on ensuring all children in Kent County have a clear path to economic prosperity. From this central vision they’ve created specific workgroups that focus on:
- Prenatal to 3rd grade
- 4th grade to high school
- High school to career
- Community engagement
- Basic needs
- Policy & advocacy
We’re excited to see how the collaboration unfolds and what solutions the workgroups identify. To learn more about KConnect, visit k-connect.org. In addition to a great ‘What is KConnect?’ section, they also provide details about each workgroups goals and provide a data dashboard to give you a sense of how Kent County is performing on selected success measures.