Vail Daily column: Help move the needle
December 1, 2016
The new movie "Suffragette" tells the story of a working-class British woman who fought for her right to vote in 1919. But the right to vote was not what motivated her. Her horrifying personal experiences as a laborer and a mother drove her to protest in the streets, suffer beatings and even spend time in prison. The sacrifices she made for this historic cause was just one step in a long commitment to changing her own life.
This story reminds me so much of InteGreat! and the value of collective impact. Real change requires people from many different walks of life and even contrasting pockets of our community to work together. There are so many serious social problems that we can never solve alone.
Collective impact does not mean organizing schedules, locations and people. It does not happen when people fall in love with an idea and bring that dream to life. Instead, it is a completely new, and often frightening, way of operating where we have a shared vision. It is one that requires personal sacrifice for the common good.
Since 2015, the most public demonstration of InteGreat!'s work has been the Summer Lunch program. It was a serious need — 150,000 missing meals each summer for our most vulnerable kids and families — and it had a solution.
We can not allow changes in land use in Vail for our open spaces and adjoining federal lands. We cannot allow the very principles that have made Vail a success to be abandoned.
In year one, several key organizations shared resources to launch a summer lunch pilot for six weeks.
In year two, multi-sector entities put their foot in the water:
• From the Transit and Housing Authorities to the School District and the Food Bank of the Rockies.
• From 13 businesses who dedicated staff time to 16 organizations that contributed programming.
• From parents who shared their talents every day to AmeriCorps service members who grew our capacity.
So many different people and groups gave something to summer lunch that it gave it wings. $175,000 of in-kind resources boosted grant funds allowing children from Red Cliff to Gypsum to receive the nutrition and fun they needed.
In 2017, InteGreat! now looks to multiple strategies beyond direct service to reduce food insecurity and increase healthy food access for all of our children and families. We have pinpointed a needle to move and measure.
This is how collective impact is born and nurtured.
Food is only one item on InteGreat!'s plate. Our mission is to create a more effective community system: a community which puts the needs of our most vulnerable members in the center and wraps itself around them so seamlessly that anyone with any need can walk in any door and receive the help that allows them to grow, thrive and dream.
I am often plagued by questions about InteGreat! It doesn't fit into any box. It is not a project or a program; it is not a traditional nonprofit or a start-up business. InteGreat! is driven by the "why." We want all our children to be successful. And "what" we must do to make that happen is engage families, share knowledge, align systems and resources, and increase access to quality opportunities.
The only crystal clear aspect of InteGreat! is "who." You, my neighbor, are InteGreat! You — the parent, the child, the student, the worker, the director, the teacher, the native Spanish speaker, the Colorado home-grown. Your personal experience can move the needle, just as it did for the "Suffragette." So from now on — when you see or hear or read InteGreat! look in the mirror, Eagle County — for there is an empty chair always open and always waiting for you at the table.
Sara B. Amberg is strategic director for InteGreat!
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