3 Community Projects that are Transforming Austin

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The issues facing Austin-area residents are daunting. Whether it’s improving the health outcomes of families, ensuring permanent, safe homes for children, helping our homeless neighbors or increasing career opportunities for young adults, community problems are complex. And as I wrote in my previous blog post, Problem Solving and Collective Impact, solving complex problems requires several key factors:

  • A cross sector approach
  • Coordinated work efforts
  • Shared goals
  • Ongoing data collection and evaluation
  • An emergent strategy

Initiatives that bring these factors together and engage Austin’s strong nonprofit, business and government sectors collectively will best enable us to tackle our community challenges. There are already a number of initiatives that are showing promising results in achieving real impact and transformational change in our community. Here are 3 examples that show the power of collective impact and give us hope in moving the needle on some of our city’s most entrenched social issues.

Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative: Increasing education and career pathways for young people

Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative (AOYC) was created in 2013 in response to the work and recommendations of the White House Council for Community Solutions. Coordinated by Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and funded by a grant from the Aspen Institute, AOYC is a collective impact collaborative that connects 16-24 years old with opportunities to achieve goals in education, career and community and brings together 25+ partners in Travis County including government, foundations, higher education, chambers of commerce, and nonprofit organizations.

Still in the early stages of work, AOYC has already made substantial progress on building a common agenda among its partners and defining how they can work together to move the needle on youth opportunity in the city. As shared data and evaluation methods are established, AOYC will be able to measure where Austin stands with opportunity youth now and how we aim to improve supports and services for them. An early implementation success, and in partnership with Austin Community College, AOYC has launched a Summer Transitions Course through which students will receive summer case management services, life-skills training, and some financial incentives as they take pre-college developmental education math and English classes.

GO Austin! VAMOS Austin!: Improving children’s health

Launched in 2012, and catalyzed by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, GO Austin! VAMOS Austin! (GAVA) is a placed-based, cross-sector initiative dedicated to improving the health of children in Dove Springs/78744 and the 78745 neighborhood of Austin. Residents, community leaders, funders and nonprofits have come together to improve access to healthy, nutritious foods and safe physical activity while also establishing a sustainable community effort to lead this ongoing transformation. With a heavy emphasis on resident leadership development, sustainability, and ongoing evaluation, GAVA has built a strong foundation and is able to track its successes based on measurable change in areas that all partners agree are important.

Three years into the initiative, GAVA is seeing transformational change. GAVA partners then worked with the school district and city parks department to develop an agreement that increases equipment and amenities on school parks throughout the city. Concurrently focusing on access to healthy food, GAVA worked to bring produce stands into the community, giving neighbors direct points of contact for fresh food.   Additionally, coordinated teams of residents have become system change agents, working with the schools, neighborhood stores, parks, and business owners to implement policies and practices that expand access to healthy foods and physical activity options. Through its collective approach, GAVA is creating change and building sustainability.

Travis County Collaborative for Children: Finding permanent, nurturing families for foster children

The Travis County Collaborative for Children (TCCC), initiated by the Texas Christian University Institute of Child Development, is aimed at transforming the model of care for foster children across the child welfare system and dramatically improving their lives and outcomes. With 35+ partners representing nonprofit organizations, child protective services, the county courts, advocacy groups and private providers, TCCC is building four pillars that will result in improved outcomes for children:

  • Effective Collaboration
  • Trauma-Informed Organizations
  • Trauma-Informed Public Policy
  • Healing Families

As a leading partner in the collaborative, Mission Capital is charged with engaging stakeholders and community partners, providing strategic guidance and advice, and building a network of individuals and organizations that form the foundation of this important work. Read more about our work with TCCC.

Transforming our community will take working together, and a good way to start is by sharing success stories!


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