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OpportUNITY Central Iowa Reports Reduction in Poverty: A Collective Impact Success Story

Posted on February 8, 2018
By Vibrant Communities Canada

OpportUNITY Community Plan Cover Square.pngJust before the holidays, United Way of Central Iowa, as part of the OpportUNITY Plan, announced that in 2016, 11,000 more individuals were financially self-sufficient in three state counties: Polk, Warren, and Dallas. This is incredibly significant to the community, as it marks the first time in recent memory that Central Iowa has seen a reduction in poverty. The good news reflects well on the hard work of United Way of Central Iowa and their partners, the value of a Collective Impact approach to poverty reduction, and the importance of a robust measurement strategy.

United Way of Central Iowa is a member of the Vibrant Communities Cities Reducing Poverty network, and they have been working with Paul Born over the past three years. We were proud to produce a Case Study of the important work they are doing with emphasis on lessons from their Collective Impact approach and best practices in community engagement. Some highlights from the case study and the recent announcement around Central Iowa’s poverty reduction are described below.

In 2014, United Way of Central Iowa brought together leaders from the business and philanthropic community, governments and schools, non-profit and faith groups, and individuals with lived experience of poverty, to address the question of how to reduce poverty in their community. This meeting began the Collective Impact process to reduce poverty, in which community members developed measurable targets, including increasing the percentage of Central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient from 64.7% (2014) to 75% by 2020.

United Way of Central Iowa and its community members have worked to meet this target by setting key priorities in four areas:

  • Education;
  • Transportation, homelessness, and housing;
  • Individual, place-based and system level change; and,
  • Food security.
Each of these priority areas has been supported through the Collective Impact approach: developing a common agenda, agreeing upon performance measures, working on mutually reinforcing tasks, frequent communication, and a strong backbone organization for support. 

In addition to emphasizing the value of the Collective Impact approach, the news from Central Iowa highlights the value of setting measurable targets and reporting results. Collecting the data and sharing the analysis enables the United Way of Central Iowa to show a real increase of financially self-sufficient families, and provides roundtable members, stakeholders and their community a chance to celebrate successes along the way and reinforces that their work is moving them toward their overall goals. To learn more about the important work of United Way Central Iowa and the importance of the Collective Impact process in their poverty reduction strategy, you can read their Case Study here.

Learn More:


Collective Impact, Cities Reducing Poverty, Poverty Reduction Strategy

Vibrant Communities Canada

By Vibrant Communities Canada

Vibrant Communities supports cities and local leaders to develop and implement large-scale change initiatives through two learning networks, Cities Reducing Poverty and Cities Deepening Community. A Vibrant Community can be created once the human, social and economic cost of poverty are significantly reduced. Together, these cities/regions aspire to reduce poverty in 100 cities.

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