At its first-ever Spirit Summit, United Way of Snohomish County aims to start a conversation about serving whole families.
With new President and CEO Allison Warren-Barbour at its helm, the agency is moving toward a two-generational approach. The goal is to help children and their parents, moving vulnerable families toward educational success and economic security.
The half-day summit, 7:30-11:30 a.m. June 12 at Tulalip Resort Casino, offers a chance for nonprofit groups, donors, government and business leaders to learn about the local United Way’s next chapter. Marjorie Sims, managing director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, will deliver a keynote talk at the summit breakfast.
Ascend, a policy program of the Colorado-based Aspen Institute, is a pioneer in the two-generation approach.
“Over many years, funding has been siloed for child-focused or adult-focused programs. That’s not how families operate,” Sims said Friday from Washington, D.C., where Ascend is based.
“This approach is making investments in the entire family.”
Local families will join in a panel discussion at the summit.
The two-generation concept dates back more than a century, Sims said. Hull House, launched in Chicago in 1889, was the best known of hundreds of settlement houses that helped poor families with shelter, child care and more.
“And Head Start is a two-generation approach,” Sims said. Founded in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, the federal program includes early childhood education and skill-building for low-income parents.
Other United Way organizations have adopted a whole-family focus. They include United Way of Greater Triangle, in North Carolina, where Warren-Barbour worked before starting here in January.
Warren-Barbour said the summit will introduce a new role for United Way of Snohomish County, which in 2015 marked its 75th anniversary. “This new model is about United Way as more than a funder,” she said Tuesday. “It’s a community partner, a barrier remover and an active participant.”
The agency continues to make grants, but differently than in the past. There will be some grants to single programs, but Warren-Barbour explained that most will be available only to “collaboratives.”
What’s a collaborative? Warren-Barbour said those seeking grant money are asked to bring partners — at least five of them — to the table in an effort to boost family stability. The focus is on families with children from birth to age 8. That area of need was based on Snohomish County census information, she said.
All the partners don’t have to be nonprofits, Warren-Barbour said.
“We start with organizations working with that zero to 8 population,” she said. “We also understand where they go home at night, on weekends and in the summer. It’s a complex system.”
Offering an example of how a grant might be awarded, Warren-Barbour said Early Head Start could team up with a health organization that does home visits, a job skills partner, a local elementary school, and a community college. The idea is “to build a micro-community around these families,” she said. “It’s yes to the children, but we can’t stop there.”
Sims said many low-income families are isolated, and it’s helpful to bring them together through social networks. “There could be opportunities for families to come together for dinner, to give each other support or provide information about job opportunities. It’s a bonding experience,” she said.
The new grant process has already begun. Warren-Barbour said that of 33 grant applications from collaborative partnerships, 26 will get money from United Way. There may be fewer grants than in the past, but United Way intends to make deeper investments. “Poverty is as complex as each individual in a family,” Warren-Barbour said.
Sims worries about the likelihood of federal spending cuts that will harm low-income families. “With so many low-income families, the parents are working. It’s not as if they’re not trying to provide,” she said. “We need to have strong conversations about what is a quality job, and where those jobs are.”
Warren-Barbour said United Way won’t forget about providing for basic needs. “You can’t teach a hungry child,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Way of Snohomish County will host a Spirit Summit 7:30-11:30 a.m. June 12 to introduce its two-generational approach to help children and families. The event at Tulalip Resort Casino, 10200 Quil Ceda Blvd., includes breakfast with a keynote talk by Marjorie Sims, followed by 9:15-11:30 breakout sessions. Tickets, $10 for nonprofits or $25 general admission, available at http://bit.ly/spiritsummit
Learn more at www.uwsc.org.