Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On collaborating and human services

If nothing else, representatives from five elected bodies in Mecklenburg County agreed on one thing today when it comes to delivering health and human services: They're all interconnected and need to collaborate more if we're to dig out of this charity crisis.

Officials from the county commission, Charlotte City Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board and the mayors of two towns, met over lunch today to begin the conversation about building a battle plan to help attack growing social needs such as homelessness and health care.

The conversation was called last month by commission Chairman Jennifer Roberts after some of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's top leaders declared a need for a coordinated plan to help fill gaps created by the city's banking crisis and funding cuts for nonprofits at a time of growing demands.

Her co-host was commissioner Dan Murrey, chair of that board's health and community services committee. In addition to the elected officials, representatives from foundations and nonprofits joined the round-table-like discussion.

Roberts and Murrey liked what they heard.

Much of the talk focused on not jumping to solutions, but taking time to collect data on what might work. That process would include hearing ideas from ordinary residents, looking at plans created by other cities, and perhaps dusting off local research already compiled but sitting on shelves somewhere.

Some elected officials suggested centralizing organizations to cut down on duplication. But mostly the message was: coordinate a plan that doesn't require more money -- even after the crisis is over.

"We all recognize that ... that elected officials in our cities and towns don't work in a vacuum," Roberts said. "We each have fewer resources. What we must figure out is how are we going to leverage what we each have and how are we going to find out the best practices that work?"

Murrey declared the group in fact-finding mode that could take months. He said today's larger group will break down into smaller conversations and share information.

"We recognize that it's critical for us to buy into an active engagement with these other elected bodies if we're going to accomplish what's best for the community," he said. " ... This is a long-term process, not a short-term negotiation.

"But we had to do something to get the conversation going. Now we've got to keep it going."

That's the hard part.


LaWana said...

Today's meeting was a good start. There seems to be a genuine concern for the state of Human Services in the area. Personally I agree with Vilma Leake that the major concern should be for the "Grassroots people and what are the needs coming from the community".
I do not agree with Harold Cogdell's suggestion of a "Single point of Contact" for the identified services like Health & Human Service and Education. Just by going to www.guidestar.org you will see that Charlotte has over 5,845 registered non-profits, the City/County can barely maintain their current load. They should be resources only and the community should be leading this charge.