A Few Words on Marketing
Our Best Work, Fearlessly Every Day
I encourage you to read the brief post, but in essence, Seth writes about what it takes to be on the shortlist. He refers to the shortlist as the respected, admired – ‘obvious choice’ – individuals or groups who are always top-of-mind when you want to get something done.
Poverty Reduces Cognitive Capacity
The fact that poverty makes life harder is hardly news, but the science that shows how poverty reduces cognitive capacity is. The accompanying infographic below shows the correlation – poverty consumes mental resources, which reduces IQ and leaves less capacity for other tasks.
Two of my nieces were a week away from college finals. Both were talking about late nights, and mind-diminishing fatigue, and both took heart in the fact that it was only a temporary condition. Harvard Economist, Sandhil Mullainathan, says: “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day”. I would further say: Imagine being a single Mom with two children, the youngest of which has a serious medical condition. Then imagine not knowing how you will purchase the medications for your child and food for the upcoming week. Or how you will explain to your older child why you can’t buy school pictures this year.
Raising a family is hard work, doing it on the mental capacity equivalent to pulling an all-nighter, inconceivable. The Social Work Degree Center infographic also shows that more than half of us will live in poverty at some point before we are age 65, and woman and children experience the greatest poverty. Currently, in Washington, 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line. Poverty isn’t the struggle of a few in our country; it is the reality of many.
This past spring, WithinReach Chief Program Officer Sharon Beaudoin spoke on a CityClub panel about the effects of poverty on health. More importantly, Sharon and fellow panelists, Ben Danielson, MD, (Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic), Gordon McHenry (Solid Ground), and Sam Whiting (Thrive By Five) talked about what we can do to support families living in poverty, how we can change the picture. The conversation was many-sided.
The first step to changing this reality is being aware of how poverty affects millions of families every day. Despite operating with limited capacity due to poverty, social injustice, health inequity, lack of access and more, Dr. Danielson was quick to remind us that the families we serve everyday are strong and resourceful. Let’s keep the conversation going, and make the connections Washington families need to be healthy!
Full Circle: The Power of Summer Meals
Last Friday, several of us from WithinReach took part in an event to launch the Summer Meals Program. The event was hosted by Jefferson Community Center on Beacon Hill in Seattle. Like other community centers, schools and parks across the state, Jefferson Community Center operates a Summer Meals site, where kids and teens from local day camps and the surrounding neighborhood can eat free, healthy meals through the summer.
The event was super fun! In addition to our friends from the City of Seattle and United Way of King County, Seattle Seahawk football player Bruce Irvin, and Blitz were in the crowd. After the program was officially launched and the kids had eaten a healthy lunch, it was time for pictures and autographs with Bruce and Blitz.
You can be sure we didn’t miss our chance to snap a few photos ourselves! When I asked Bruce Irvin if we could see his World Champion ring, he took it off and let us try it on and take pictures of it – how crazy is that! I feel almost famous just saying I’ve HELD a Super Bowl ring!
This was all very exciting, but it was actually an impressive young woman, named Temesgen Melashu, who reminded me of the power of summer meals. I noticed Temesgen enthusiastically inviting kids into the line for lunch, and making sure they sanitized their hands before picking out their meal.
As we chatted, I learned that Temesgen works for the City of Seattle as a Summer Meals Site Monitor, helping sites provide the best program possible for kids. She told me that she loves the Summer Meals program, not only because she sees how happy the kids are eating the meals, but because she remembers how much the program meant to her when she was younger.
She said, “working with the Summer Meals program is sort of full circle for me – I came to sites like this when I was growing up. I know from my own experience how important these meals are”. I asked Temesgen what she will do when her summer work is over. She told me that she is headed to Seattle Pacific University in the Fall to study Communications or Sociology, with the eventual goal of getting her Master of Public Health degree.
For me, that’s full circle. I looked around as we spoke and realized that the room at Jefferson Community Center was filled with Temesgen Melashus – 100 or more young kids with amazing potential to learn, grow, and lead. And, the nutritious food they eat through the Summer Meals program is key to helping them realize this potential.
Bruce Irvin told the kids that being a professional athlete and a new dad has made him realize more than ever how important it is to eat good, healthy food. He said, “who knows, maybe there is a 1st or 2nd draft NFL player right here in this room?!” Yes – from Summer Meals to Seattle Pacific University, or Summer Meals to the Seahawks – it’s a BIG WIN!
Creating Anchors of Certainty
I attended the WA State Non-Profit Conference last month and was happy to hear my friend, Angela Powell of Imago talk on adaptive challenges – the kind of challenges that require new thinking and learning, and out of the box approaches.
As leaders who navigate adaptive challenges every day, she encouraged us to reflect on the things we bring to the table that help us or hold us back from navigating such challenges. Among other things, we were asked to reflect on our “certainty anchors”. Referencing Jonathan Fields book, “Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance”, she described anchors of certainty as the rituals or routines that create certainty and safety in our lives. This really resonated with me.
Angela commented that as humans we crave certainty. Unfortunately, life is filled with uncertainty. I immediately began to think of my own certainty anchors – basic things like the secure nature of my home in an ever changing world, dinner with my family at the end of a very long work day, knowing that I can take my daughter to the doctor when she is sick, and the support of my extended family and friends in hard times. I depend on these anchors of certainty to face the pile of uncertainty that comes my way every day.
The lives of many of the families we talk to each day are filled with uncertainty – often at the most basic level – being uncertain about where the next meal will come from, or being unclear about whether their health insurance coverage has been successfully renewed, or whether there will be enough money to cover the rent after being laid off.
For many, the uncertainty creates adaptive challenges– requiring new ways of thinking, learning new systems, and asking for support in a new way.
On my drive home from the conference, it hit me that we are in the business of helping families create their own anchors of certainty. Whether we are helping families find a dependable source of food for their family, or ensuring that their health coverage is uninterrupted, or helping them find trusted preventive healthcare for their kids.
Between March and April, our staff helped more than 19,000 people – adults and kids – successfully renew their Medicaid coverage. Without a lapse in coverage, these 19,000 people will live with the certainty that they can get the care they need to stay healthy.
So, at WithinReach we are helping families build resources and routines that create certainty and safety in their lives.
My take-away from the conference – anchors of certainty not only help us through the hard times, they help us thrive!
What are your anchors of certainty…and how are you cultivating them?
I have been going to the same Yoga class with my Mom, who is now 82, every Tuesday for the last 14 years. (Yep, that’s right, my Mom started her Yoga training at age 68 and is a constant source of inspiration for me).
Yoga settles my mind, and keeps my body moving and healthy. It also provides a great source of community – a long held vision of Annie Stocker, the owner of TwoDogYoga, where I practice yoga. Our particular class has several yoginis who are teachers. At class this Tuesday, the conversation buzz before class was about how the school year is almost over!With about 6 weeks left in the school year, the discussion quickly moved to all the good things about summer break for kids and teachers alike – a slower pace, time to play, summer vacations, etc. I couldn’t help draw attention to one really hard part of the summer break for many kids.
In Washington state, more than 400,000 low income kids rely on school breakfast and/or lunch every day. This food resource is critical to their health and learning. Where do these kids eat breakfast and lunch during the summer?
Fortunately, there is a program that fills the gap for these kids. As described in this video, the federally-funded Summer Meals program provides free meals to kids, no questions asked.
The good news is that there is plenty of food available, and it can be found parks and school sites throughout the state. The bad news is the very few families take advantage of the Summer Meals program, simply because they don’t know about it. I was appalled to learn recently that only 10-15% of the kids that are eligible for school meals statewide eat at a Summer Meals program site during the summer break.
I further explained to my fellow yoginis that WithinReach is committed to changing this for kids. There is a huge need for outreach and promotion of the Summer Meals program. We need to make sure that every child in our state has good food to eat all year long – including during the summer. This is why our staff will invest all their energy in getting the word out about the Summer Meals program this year – through PSAs, connecting with community based organizations, and creating a texting campaign that will help families find a Summer Meals site near them quickly and easily. We are committed to ending Summer Hunger!
By the time our yoga class started (sometimes we like to chat almost as much as we like to do yoga!), everyone in the class was fired up about summer hunger. Under Annie’s care, our yoga studio has a commitment to supporting our local community – cooking meals for the Tent City residents, teaching free yoga classes at the low-income housing residence, hosting food drives for the local foodbank, and now helping to get the word out about the Summer Meals program – so no child will be hunger this summer.
Washington Steps Up to Support Breastfeeding Moms
Celebrating a Culture of Workplace Flexibility
Queue the applause (followed by a standing ovation)! For the 7th consecutive year in a row, WithinReach has won the nationally recognized Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence In Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility. On the heels of the Emmy Awards, I think it is only fitting that the leadership and staff at WithinReach take a bow.
In my mind, the Sloan Award is one of the highest honors an employer can receive. It is our Emmy for operational excellence, for business smarts, for living our mission from the inside out.
Each year the When Work Works Initiative recognizes worksites across the country for their innovative and effective workplace practices. In a two phase process, using a rigorous scoring method that looks at the real life experiences of employees against benchmarks for employer practices, the Sloan Awards honor ‘organizations that are using workplace flexibility as a strategy to make work “work” better—for both the employer and the employee’.
For years now, WithinReach has embraced the belief that workplace flexibility is a critical tool in recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest staff possible, and to improving the health of all families in our state. Whether it means…
- offering employees flexible work hours so they can see their children off to school or meet the bus after school to avoid additional childcare costs
- allowing an employee the chance to work from home one day a week to help an aging parent,
- helping new Moms feel supported by providing a welcoming space and ample time to pump breastmilk at work, so they can continue to give their babies the best start,
- fostering a culture of flexibility that tells employees it is OK to bring their kids to work during unforeseen school closures, or when their childcare falls through on a given day (and having toys, puzzle, and books to engage them).
The research is clear, among other things, employees who work in flexible workplaces report greater engagement on the job, greater desire to stay with the organization, and better overall health.
Raising a family and working full-time is hard. Doing both well is unbelievably challenging. Having to choose to do one well, over the other, is unbearable. At WithinReach, creating a culture of flexibility is about making the connections that our employees and their families need to be healthy. We don’t ask people to choose between family life and work life. We don’t penalize or hold people back for wanting to be good parents AND effective professionals.
A work culture that not only respects work-life balance, but encourages it, makes great business sense. It doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. In fact, I have never in my career worked with a more dedicated, hard-working group of people. At WithinReach, we believe all families can be healthy – and that starts with the families of our employees.
So, as we stand at the podium, receiving our ‘Emmy’, we thank our Board of Directors, our leadership, our funders, and supporters, and of course, most of all – our families!