What if all children in York County had access to the best education possible, regardless of their address? What if poverty, racism and ageism were relics of the past? What if every person in York County had access to healthy food? What if our downtowns and neighborhoods were thriving, with more businesses both small and large creating family-sustaining jobs?
That’s what York County Community Foundation (YCCF) envisions for York County. Almost 60 years ago, YCCF was founded by generous and visionary Yorkers who knew that by pooling their charitable resources they could achieve greater things for the community that they loved. Over time YCCF has learned that, although charitable funding is critical to success, it takes more than grant dollars to create and sustain a thriving community.
In the last few years, YCCF brought speakers to our annual meetings to teach us new ways to work together to solve the persistent challenges York faces. Our speaker in 2019, Ursula Wright of FSG, taught us about collective impact, an evidence-based set of best practices to create transformational change. The key tenet of this practice is to convene different sectors to create changes to the systems that hold persistent problems in place.
While collaboration across sectors occurs in York, collective impact differs from past and present efforts because it ensures that people experiencing the challenges are shaping the solutions and that power and decision-making are shared. It means that every person at the collective table is an active participant with mutual responsibility for achieving results. How we work together is as important as what we work on.
YCCF’s interest in this model grew out of its work with YorkCounts, and its mission to build a stronger York County by assessing needs and driving for results. For more than two decades, YorkCounts has tracked statistical indicators of York’s wellbeing, convened summits to collect community input on priorities and strategies and conducted research on best practices to address chronic challenges. (See www.yorkcounts.org) It produced compelling reports on truancy, education, and municipal collaboration, and advocated for transformational solutions. The YorkCounts work led to the Truancy Prevention Coalition that has significantly reduced truancy in York County. It led to the establishment of the York Academy Regional Charter School that offers world-class education to students no matter their zip code.
The members of YorkCounts demonstrated sustained passion and leadership to tackle the fundamental causes of our community’s challenges and develop bold solutions. Moving forward, YCCF will build on its work and use the collective impact framework to support new shared tables that are addressing York County’s most pressing challenges. Good work is already being done to improve health outcomes, to strengthen the workforce pipeline, to create alternatives to prison for people with addiction or mental illness and to confront racism. YCCF is inviting these changemakers to learn with us about how the collective impact framework could strengthen these collaborative efforts for even greater impact on our community. We will work with community partners to foster learning, common goalsetting and data gathering across sectors to achieve and measure community results.
YCCF is also assessing our grantmaking model through the collective impact lens. One step we are taking in 2020 is to launch a community grant reader program. The grant reader program will bring fresh and more diverse perspectives to the evaluation of the grants we award. YCCF is inviting volunteer grant readers from all over York County to read, score and select grants to fund twice a year from the Fund for York County and Embracing Aging. This change will allow YCCF to enhance its impact by involving more people in decision making and by expanding opportunities for organizations to access grant funds. To learn more or to apply to be a grant reader, visit www.yccf.org/grant-reader-application.
It will take consistent and bold efforts by many to create the thriving York County we envision. YCCF is energized to work alongside partners to unleash the power of greater aligned efforts for a stronger York.
Jane M. Conover, MSW
President & CEO
York County Community Foundation
Jeff Lobach, Esq.
York County Community Foundation