The Arlington Community Foundation’s Nonprofit Center has worked for four years with Arlington’s safety-net nonprofits–those serving the tens of thousands of Arlington residents who are living on the edge economically –to strengthen their effectiveness in collaborating to address pressing community needs.
After producing a report on the nonprofit safety-net and facilitating community dialogue on emerging needs, the Center partnered with the Arlington County Department of Human Services (DHS) to launch the multi-year Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative. The model uses research and economic class perspective to understand the dynamics that cause and maintain poverty from the individual to the systemic level.
Senior managers and front-line staff from key DHS service areas and nearly 30 Arlington nonprofits are participating. This public-private partnership represents a re-design of the safety net system to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and strengthen connections so people in poverty can gain traction and move forward. We are working collaboratively to build the range of resources and social capital that people need to move out of poverty. Participating organizations convene quarterly to share expertise, challenges and successes. The Urban Institute is providing technical guidance to support our process.
Bridges Out of Poverty allows individual nonprofits and County programs to help their clients escape the tyranny of the moment that living in poverty entails and begin to build their own future story. At the same time, it gives us an opportunity to facilitate collaboration across the nonprofit sector and County agencies for collective impact at the community level.
Beginning in fall 2018, Arlington DHS and a wide array of nonprofits convened by the Arlington Community Foundation are piloting this re-design of the safety-net to break the downward spiral of poverty with 200 families. The 200 Bridges pilot uses a two-generation approach with parents and their children to build opportunities for adequate housing and child care, jobs with better wages, health care, and educational advancement. This united effort involves unprecedented collaboration across the County, nonprofit system and families.
The Bridges Out of Poverty partners have streamlined the myriad consent forms for different organizations into one common form, while still complying with HIPAA privacy rules, so individuals no longer have to repeat their history over and over. They’ve reduced the “agency time” spent navigating the system, so people can use those hours more productively.
Arlington County, the Community Foundation and the many nonprofit partners hope to use what is learned through Bridges Out of Poverty and other complementary initiatives to create policies that improve mobility for everyone in Arlington.
Working together, we hope to create Arlington’s own social health index on quality of life measures for all who live in Arlington, such as affordable housing and childcare, decent paying jobs, and access to health and mental health.