If we are not growing we are shrinking. My staff have heard me say that many times. Every year it costs more to do our work—more in salaries, health care benefits—so if you are not growing, you are shrinking.
One of the strategies for growth we have employed is to join with reputable, like-missioned organizations. People often ask me exactly why this strategy for growth? My response: because together, we are better.
The driver behind all of our work is comprised of three key concepts: we must be relevant, we must be sustainable, and we must have impact.
In order to be relevant, we must continually look at ways to solve the problems that challenge economic well-being. Needs evolve, policies change, government and foundation budgets grow and shrink, and innovations are happening every day. Part of our strategy is to not only keep up with all of those changes, but also to lead the way in guiding policy and thinking. By joining with organizations that are also focused on solving the problem we have a much better chance at creating relevant solutions.
For our work to be sustainable, we look to long-term outcomes, not just quick solutions. For example, twenty years ago, sheltered workshops were seen as cutting-edge solutions to integrating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) into employment. As a result of our learnings about sheltered workshops, it is clear that not only can people with I/DD work and work well, but most are able to work in the community, contributing great work in a variety of settings. And so the next generation of understanding support of those with I/DD includes closing sheltered workshops, working alongside businesses and families to inspire not only the possibility that an individual with I/DD can work, but that he will make a huge contribution to his family, the workplace, and his community. Combining with organizations that are forward thinking helps us to maintain long-term sustainability.
And, for us to have impact, our work must be about both changing the life of an individual, but ultimately changing the system itself—we aim to change hearts, minds, systems, and processes so that even those who do not come through our doors are impacted by the work we do. By leveraging our work and the efforts of our family of agencies—we have a tremendous opportunity to make real impact.
And so we seek to partner with other organizations whose work adds to ours—so that together we are not just 1+1=2, but more like 20 or 30…better together.
And when we find ways to leverage the brands within our family of agencies—like Easter Seals, ReServe, Wildcat, Community Work Services and most recently, Single Stop USA—we are really leveraging the value of each.
On February 1, we combined with Single Stop USA. This combination is a perfect example of combining strength, talent, and ensuring our commitment to relevant, sustainable impact. Single Stop enjoys a strong reputation as a one-stop shop for individuals seeking to access resources to help break the cycle of poverty through access to education, training, counseling, and employment. Single Stop USA is a perfect addition to our “family,” –and as a result, each of us will be able to offer a new portfolio of services to those we serve.
Together, we will use our strength to leverage equity for those with barriers to economic well-being. And together, we will continue to strive for relevant, sustainable impact.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.