Change – Community – Collaboration – Courage

In this first MAUW blog there is nothing new, just a reaffirmation of a new direction. I’m writing about the 4C’s, but not those associated with coordinating child care. We, the United Way Network, are in the business of change, changing our community for the better through collaboration, which takes…you’ve got it – courage.


Char-Em United Way is starting down a road which some of you have traveled, but many have not. Building toward collective impact, we are reviewing and updating our strategic plan. But it didn’t start there. For years the board has been working toward focusing our work and community investment to effect change. We give grants from $500 - $20,000, yet have a hard time measuring impact, regardless of the training we do with logic models and more.


We have an idea why. Our investment in the community has been scattered, trying to support the whole of human services with limited resources. As the United Way network talks about relevancy, so do my board members. And as we step back and look at our work, we’ve come to the realization that we are uniquely positioned to drive change through collaboration. In our second phase of strategic planning we will invite the community to give us feedback and help set our direction. Building on the ALICE report and a recent housing study conducted by Networks Northwest, the Council of Governments, we will be working on issues in a different manner as we move forward. Human service organizations are great at recording and reporting on issues, but finding solutions has always been difficult.


Our community investment process has changed over the years in an effort to focus our work and achieve outcomes, but it has changed slowly. Now is the time for us to take the bold move of identifying and driving solutions to community issues, but this doesn’t come without some concerns. What about those partners who are doing good work in an area of need, but not our main priority? How will the community react? We’ve seen presentations, read stories, and heard firsthand accounts of collective impact and been warned; this is a four year process, don’t expect instant success, anticipate road blocks. And yet, like explorers, we need to find courage to know that at the end of this process our community and our organization will be stronger.


We aren’t sure what our “Bold Play” will be. In my mind, starting down this road is a bold play. Like a nervous hostess I wonder if the community will see the potential of our United Way and come together to help guide us. Part of me knows they will or that those who do will be the right people and over the next few years great things will happen.  Stay tuned.

Char-Em United Way advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all by focusing on the three key building blocks of education, income and health. Char-Em United Way recruits people and organizations that bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done in Charlevoix and Emmet County. LIVE UNITED® is a call to action for everyone to become a part of the change. For more information about Char-Em United Way, please visit: