|Posted on October 10, 2021 at 6:55 PM|
“Forum: a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.”
On this October 18th ECS will gather for the 8th time its annual Forum for Justice and Opportunity. Once again, we focus on the issues that impact the individuals we serve and explore and recommend solutions that drive transformation.
ECS, in its 151 year, has always run to the fire. Four years ago, we looked back on our history and drew inspiration to make a bet based on a simple observation. As we looked at the poverty landscape in Philadelphia and beyond, we outlined several conclusions. First, most of the work done in the social services sector maintains individuals. All be it valuable and necessary work given the statistic that 15% of Americans, 28% in Philadelphia, live at or below the poverty line, way more if you look at a living wage. Second, to break the cycle of intergenerational Poverty and move beyond maintenance, transformation to the work we did has to take place. We created a strategy in partnership with our board in several areas.
First, we searched for a better way to case manage and thus create transformational impacts for our participants. Working with Empath in Boston, we implemented a brain science-based methodology based on the notion that Poverty is a root cause of deep crises, which severely hampers cognitive function and an individual’s problem-solving capacity. By setting goals, coaching, and being in a relationship with our participants, and turning goal achievement into a reality, we can start the journey to economic mobility and, in time, break the cycle. The data shows that with each goal achieved, the level of crisis lowers, and in time, a participant can make long-lasting change reality on their own. We added a savings match to help build assets and set new goals so a participant can meet goals in housing, wellness, financial skills, education, and employment—each element with dedicated programs or specialists. Our work looks not to maintain the status quo but to support and create sustained transformation. The data suggests we are on the right path. Both the coaching methodology and our dedicated transformation programs MindSet and Rise are up and running. Our challenge post-pandemic will be the grow the numbers served and continue to respond to participants needs in new and place based ways.
Second, in our Out of School time programs, in addition to a strong STEAM core curriculum, we added a solid social and emotional focus for an age-appropriate coaching model, and again the impacts have been significant. We also grew the program to over 700 pre-pandemic students.
Third, we invested in a strong infrastructure to support our program teams. We created a learning and evaluation group to provide the data necessary to be a learning organization. We built capacity in our IT, HR, Advancement, Marketing, and Finance functions. In our current plan refresh, we are adding a recruiting process and creating a research and development capacity to monitor and rapidly improve our program offering as data and conditions change.
Fourth, we seek out partnerships with other agencies that share our values and complement our offerings to our participants. Some examples are behavioral health, Philabundance with our food pantry, Shift Capital, and wellness programs with several partners. These efforts will be significantly enhanced with the shift at St Barnabas from a shelter to a community resource center where we can partner with the local West Philadelphia community and be in an everyday relationship. We note that we can serve more individuals than we could as a shelter by adding significantly to our Rapid Rehousing units in partnership with OSH.
Fifth, we looked at our programs, our partnership and recognized that while significantly impacting our participants, we could drive a more significant impact by providing thought leadership through the Forum and through growing our advocacy efforts. Our goal is first to educate our stakeholders on the issues of Poverty and second to call for and invite our stakeholders to advocate for positive changes to public policy that directly impacts our Philadelphia participants. Issues like racial equity, a living wage, and cliff benefits are three examples.
We invite you to attend the Forum starting October 18th at noon and running at noon for the balance of the week. We begin with a keynote from Charles Blow of the New York Times, who will bring his unique perspective and start a critical discussion. Register at www.ecsphilly.org/forum.
Our mission is to challenge Poverty, and our vision is a world where opportunity is available to all. All that we do is shaped by our values of Justice, Dignity, Community, and most importantly, Impact.
If we are to thrive as a nation long-term, Poverty needs to be addressed and the cycle broken. It is one of the clarion calls of our times. Join the movement and answer the call to service. Imagine an America where 15% of the population currently living in Poverty is working at a living wage and off the social safety net? The work we do imagins such a time, such an impact, and such a transformation.
The work we do is a team sport.
We need you on our team.
So do the people we serve.
See you at the Forum.