We here at Catholic Charities USA are eagerly awaiting our upcoming trip to Saint Louis, Missouri, for our 2012 Annual Gathering. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I’m excited to once again visit the glistening Gateway Arch, take in a Cardinals game, and experience the hospitality of our friends at Catholic Charities of St. Louis, who will be celebrating their centennial anniversary by hosting this meaningful event.
While our yearly gatherings offer us a much needed opportunity to make new friends and reconnect with old ones, more importantly, they’re a chance for us to engage in meaningful discussion about the state of poverty in our nation while working together to shed light on the innovative and exciting new ideas that are truly helping to lift those most vulnerable among us out of poverty.
For too long, the discussion of how to address poverty has remained siloed among social service providers and nonprofit organizations knocking on the doors of government and corporate America, looking for partners to engage with us in this important conversation.
Engaging the marketplace must be a central principle in this discussion. Effectively partnering government, non-profit and private resources is essential to permanently improving outcomes for people in need.
Recently, New York City announced a project that did just that. With buy-in from a major investment bank and the city government, a non-profit, The Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE), will work to reduce recidivism rates by helping at-risk young men improve skills through education, training and counseling. Currently, almost 50% of young people who leave correctional facilities in New York City return within one year. If ABLE reduces that number by 10%, they save the local government money, ensure a return for investors and deliver the promise of a better life to thousands of young men– making this a triple bottom-line proposition. While similar programs have shown promise, the engagement of a major national corporate partner demonstrates the increasing appetite for this kind of close partnership, setting the stage for potential future collaborations in cities across the country.
The model New York City is creating here is exciting and welcome news for us in the work we do. They are creating the building blocks for a new way of thinking about social service – one that transcends traditional models in favor of growing partnerships that can leverage the essential work of nonprofit organizations in communities across the country. We’ll be thinking about this innovative idea and others as we prepare for our Annual Gathering in St. Louis and as we continue forward in building a gateway to opportunities for all.