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Next Generation partners focus on family well-being, advancing racial equity at February meetings

Human Services

Improving the health and well-being of children and families by using whole family, two-generation approaches and taking steps to advance racial equity were among the topics that grantee partners in the Human Services Program’s Next Generation Initiative in Detroit and around the country discussed at February convenings hosted by The Kresge Foundation.

Through its Next Generation Initiative, the Human Services Program provides direct service organizations with the training and tools to improve their leadership development, develop a community of practice and create action plans that advance and accelerate social and economic mobility for children and families.

But we know that families come in all different shapes and sizes, so the initiative employs a two generation, whole family approach that addresses the needs of both children and adults in their lives together and reflects the importance of including fathers.

Detroit is the foundation’s first place-based NextGen city. In early February, the foundation kicked off the initiative by bringing the five participating organizations together for the first time to discuss opportunities to implement a two-generation approach and map out what each agency hopes to accomplish over the course of the two-year initiative.

Mental health, trauma and toxic stress, data sharing and policy reform were all lifted up as challenges that agencies face within their agencies and in the community.

But by coming together, agencies realize that they are not alone in facing these issues.

Detroit Next Generation Initiative

“We are all running at 100 miles per hour, and there is value in stopping to learn from each other,” Lina Hourani-Harajli, chief operating officer at Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), said.

“We’re not only focused on building leadership within organizations, but across organizations,” Joelle-Jude Fontaine, senior program officer for the Human Services Program said. “This group has the unique power to become a network that goes far beyond two years and collectively works to integrate the delivery of services to better support children and families living in Detroit.”

While NextGen work in Detroit is just beginning, the 13 organizations that are part of the national initiative are now at the halfway point of a journey that began in 2017. They gathered last week in San Diego, California to explore a model health and human services ecosystem and establish action steps for advancing racial equity within their organizations and communities.

San Diego County in California is dealing with the same challenges that many regions around the country face – surging demand for social services, a wave of chronic disease and rising health care costs.  County leaders responded to these challenges by developing Live Well, San Diego, an innovative ecosystem of human services, health care, private sector and community organizations that supports positive choices, pursues policy changes for a healthy environment and improves the overall human services culture.

Almost a decade into this transformational initiative, presenters from San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency and partner organizations from throughout the community shared how they brought diverse stakeholders together to integrate services and create a social movement, as well as lessons they learned along the way.

“Healthy people create healthy communities, which creates a healthy environment, which creates healthy societies. But wellness goes way beyond health – to improve well-being, we have to coordinate people’s lives, not just coordinate their care,” Nick Macchione, director and deputy chief administrative officer of the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency said.

Grantee partners also learned from the experiences of fellow cohort members Joseph Jones, Jr. founder and CEO of the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore, Maryland and Brian Lyght, CFUF chief operating officer, who explored questions such as “How could the Center for Urban Families serve as a unifying force in a racially charged climate?” and “What does the organization’s mission to ‘disrupt poverty’ mean as the community’s extraordinary needs evolve?”

One valuable lesson Jones learned was that CFUF could achieve more when it collaborated with an array of community partners.

“We’ve recognized that there’s no way that one individual, one organization, or even a municipality can go about dismantling poverty,” Jones said.

Other activities during the convening included Ignite Talks, where members of the cohort described what racial equity meant to them personally, why it matters, and how their organization is advancing racial equity; and World Café conversations where participants shared their collective knowledge and ideas for shaping the future and advancing racial equity.

Talk was then translated into action steps that each group could take transform their own organization.

“We can’t be afraid to put a stake in the ground and speak up,” Jones said.

To learn more about the Next Generation Initiative, click here.