By Maicharia Z. Weir Lytle, President and CEO
In October, I shared the exciting news that USES has embarked on Vision 125, a strategic planning process that is preparing us to better meet the needs of our evolving community through high impact programming and a sustainable business model. For the past month and a half, our consultants have been conducting interviews with USES community and team members, donors, local community leaders, real estate experts, top funders and elected officials in the city. We also reviewed the feedback we received through focus groups, emails from residents, and face-to-face conversations with residents from our community, which has helped us to identify and draw out themes which will influence our strategic direction for the future. Thank you all for your feedback.
From the last month and a half we have learned:
-Despite an influx of wealth into the South End, many families are still struggling: 1/3 of children live below poverty line in the South End/Lower Roxbury community. To put it in perspective, a single parent earning minimum wage receives $22,880/year. The federal poverty line for a family of three is $20,090.
-Research shows that low-income children who grow up in impoverished neighborhoods attend college at lower rates, earn less money as young adults, and are more likely to become teenage parents than their low-income peers who grow up in more affluent neighborhoods. In the South End, we are fortunate to have an economically diverse community that is mirrored in USES’s youth programs. As such, connecting people across race and income is one of USES’s key strengths.
-A child raised in a household in the lowest fifth of the income distribution has a 39% chance of being stuck at the bottom as an adult and just a 7% chance of making it to the top. Therefore, a two-generation model that serves children and parents together in a strategic way increases the chances of achieving whole family impact in which parents increase their economic stability today and children are better positioned for economic upward mobility in the future.
-We have multiple options for utilizing or changing our real estate assets in a way that advances a sustainable business model.
-Forming strong partnerships will be key to our mission delivery and will allow us to focus on the programs and services that we provide with such excellence.
Through the community’s support and feedback, we have gained additional clarity on the type of organization we want to be: an organization with a focused mission and defined, measurable outcomes that demonstrate real change and impact for children and families.
We then dug deep with this understanding to answer the most important question – Why do we exist? While that question is incredibly complex, our team was able to sit down and articulate a strong belief that:
USES can mobilize our socio-economically diverse community to disrupt the cycle of poverty, generation-to-generation, so that all families and their children can thrive and succeed.
We will execute this mission by making sure that parents/caregivers achieve financial stability and mobility, that children are set up for educational success beginning in the early, formative years, and that our participants have the opportunity to build their social networks. These connections are critical: they will help propel families forward through meaningful relationships with those in our community who are in a position to provide support. And this is where you, our neighbors and supporters, come in. Success for the families we serve will require investment and engagement from those in our community who can volunteer in our programs, mentor and build meaningful relationships with our families, and provide ongoing philanthropic support. In a time when communities are becoming increasingly divided, USES will be calling on its neighbors to actively break down barriers and create opportunities for all families to connect and thrive.
Over the next six weeks, though we have much work to do, we are well-placed to implement a successful Vision 125 with this framework to guide us. Our next steps are to create a plan that will define our future programming, outline a path to financial sustainability, and identify how our real estate will support our vision.
As we move forward, I invite you to share your thoughts and feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please accept my heartfelt thanks once again for all of your support.
United South End Settlements (USES) is approaching its 125th anniversary at a critical inflection point. The demographics of the South End/Lower Roxbury are shifting and our service model must evolve to reflect both the community we serve and the landscape in which we serve it. That is why USES is engaging in a strategic planning process from September 2016-January 2017 to explore who we serve, what we want our impact to be, and how we can make our model financially sustainable for the next 125 years. Throughout this process, President and CEO Maicharia Weir Lytle will be sharing updates in order to communicate progress with and ask for insight from the entire USES community.