Nancy Vaughan column: Goals provide a focus for action

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Jul 23, 2017 
In 2008, United Way Worldwide made a bold move by announcing three 10-year national goals:
• Cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school.
• Cut by half the number of lower-income families that lack financial stability.
• Increase by a third the number of youth and adults who are healthy and avoid risky behaviors.
While not every local United Way did specific work around these issues, setting goals did direct a national conversation, increasing awareness and advocacy as well as increasing funding in many communities.
Locally, we set our focus on financial stability while maintaining our work in school readiness.
This year, world organization provided a progress report on those goals and announced goals for the next decade, 2018-28. Madison County’s reality is in line with national trends:
• High school graduation rates are climbing but gaps persist.
• Since the Great Recession, family instability among low-income families has increased with some leveling off now.
• Though youth and adults are avoiding more risky behaviors, obesity rates continue to rise among adults with leveling off among children younger than 5.
Of course, no one organization can claim credit for positive change, nor take the blame for setbacks. A lot can happen in the course of a decade and the one we are wrapping up has been particularly unsettled. While I had reservations in 2008 about the wisdom of announcing ambitious goals, I have come to believe that having a focus for improvement does matter — to individuals, to communities, to nations and to our world.
United Way system goals for the next decade build on the first set of goals and echo the realities we face today:
• Five million people will get better jobs.
• 95 percent of students will graduate high school ready for college and career.
• 90 percent of people are healthier.
• Engage 10 million more people to build 1,000 stronger and more inclusive communities.
In Madison County, our support of the THRIVE Network, Born Learning and Covering Kids and Families is directly connected to the first three goals. The new goal area — community cohesion — reflects our LIVE UNITED message: together we can achieve a greater level of impact for the entire community. Without this goal, the other goals will be more difficult to achieve. In addition, our nation is struggling with systems that create opportunity gaps for many.
We have been working on community connection with conversations and volunteer engagement for many years. The national goals will help us document our efforts to engage people in solutions for Madison County. We are actively seeking new voices and broad representation from people across the county to form a new community connections committee led by Kim Rogers-Hatfield, vice president of engagement.
The committee will assess our current volunteer and engagement opportunities, create recruitment strategies and develop ways to improve volunteer experiences. Our door is open at 205 W. 11th St., so stop by and share your ideas.