United Way of King County CEO participates in national summit
This blog was written by Jon Fine, CEO of United Way of King County
On August 27, I was honored to attend a Forum on Urban Innovation at the White House. I had been a visitor in Washington D.C. when I was the Cheltenham High School Scholar Athlete, and I lived there for a term in college when I interned in the office of Congressman Larry Coughlin. However, this is the first time I had been invited to the White House to participate in deliberations.
The Office of Social Innovation invited a group of about 150 nonprofit and government leaders from around the country to talk about innovative programs that were helping deal with social issues, and to discuss how the federal government might be supportive. The event was hosted by Jonathan Greenblatt, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, in coordination with the Office of Urban Affairs and Economic Mobility and the Office of Public Engagement.
One of the first questions most everyone asks me is if I got to meet the President. He was unable to join us, but did send his Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. It was a thrill to go back to Washington, as it is a majestic and inspiring city, and to represent the great work we are doing at United Way of King County. Washington doesn’t always get everything right and the current partisanship is disturbing, but the people I interacted with were invariably bright, energetic, hard-working and optimistic, and they are trying to do something positive for the country.
The programs I heard about from the Administration and from organizations around the county were quite disparate, but various themes emerged. Among them were the importance of using data, having accountability, collaborating and combining the strengths of the public, private and nonprofit sectors. I was able to tell them about the priorities we are working on at United Way of King County and about the importance of focusing on results not just the process.
Two examples of innovative programs that stood out in my mind were Neighborhood Centers, Inc. and the Pittsburgh Promise. Neighborhood Centers, Inc. is a multi-service agency in Houston and was notable for its significant expansion and tapping in to the aspirations of the people in the community. The Pittsburgh Promise was interesting for its attempt to improve educational prospects and provide scholarships via aggressive fundraising and a public-private partnership.
The nonprofits were supportive of the federal government efforts to provide shared information, grants and a platform for social innovation. However, they generally advocated for a less heavy-handed approach to regulatory requirements and for avoiding a one-size-fits-all expectation.
When I talked about homelessness, I let participants know how it was important it is to enlist the whole community in the collective effort and highlighted the prominence of the Committee to End Homelessness and the 5,000 units that have been created so far as part of the plan.
I left the forum with a sense of pride in representing United Way and the great work that we are doing here in King County.