Through the Bold Goals Coalition, we solve community problems that may be too big or complex for any single organization to tackle alone. We help the community work together differently to address long-standing issues in health and education in Central Alabama.
To showcase some of the coalition’s accomplishments, spark even greater enthusiasm among those who already know us and raise awareness among some who don’t, we recently conceived, planned and staged our biggest event to date: the Bold Goals Community Lab.
“It was a milestone for the coalition,” said Dan Stephens, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA), which has served as the primary backbone organization of the Bold Goals Coalition from its 2014 launch. “The level of interest showed that we’re continuing to gain momentum and also highlighted the diverse network of leadership we’ve built, and continue to grow, through the coalition.”
Held on October 15, 2019 at B&A Warehouse in downtown Birmingham, the Community Lab mirrored our innovative, collaborative approach to problem solving. We brought together a cross-section of participants from Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties. They represented the health and education fields, business community, philanthropic organizations, and state and local government; and they came together to celebrate the measurable results of Bold Goals projects and tap into the wide array of expertise that was all in one room.
Dr. Alison Grizzle, a member of the Bold Goals Education Steering Committee, served as emcee and facilitator for the Community Lab. She kept everyone engaged and welcomed insights from the diverse group of participants. We also heard the national perspective on our work from keynote speaker Josh Davis, StriveTogether’s vice president of external affairs.
“The Community Lab created the opportunity for people to engage with one another around the Coalition’s proven initiatives to help us plan how to scale them up and reach more people,” said Dan. “The afternoon session focused on extending access to this type of problem-solving throughout our five counties, getting more input, engaging the expertise of the people in the room and looking at our track record to see how we can make our solutions bigger and get them to more people.”
In many cases, the results of the Coalition’s projects are just as dynamic as the process it took to get there. Every project takes multiple partners aligning their work to achieve outcomes for the community.
Take, for example, the work of the Early Learning Action Network, one of four networks that presented their work at the Community Lab. Alabama leads the nation in terms of quality of Pre-K education. “In an ongoing study [we’ve learned] that the children that have been part of the First Class Pre-K program are doing better than their peers in reading and math on state assessments,” said Allison Muhlendorf, Executive Director at the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. “But that’s far from the only significant result. They also require less in terms of special education services, have fewer discipline problems in school and are less likely to be held back a grade. They gain confidence and social skills, which are just as important at that age as academic skills.”
However, access to this incredible program is limited, especially in our part of the state. The Early Learning Action Network brings together non-profit partners, funders, businesses, childcare centers, and state officials to expand access by helping childcare centers transform themselves and transition into early education centers through the First Class Pre-K Program. To date almost 200 more children can access this life-changing program every year as a direct result of the Early Learning Acton Network’s efforts.
Over the past five years, Bold Goals Coalition has worked to build partnerships throughout our community that together can create a better future for Central Alabama. At the Community Lab, we challenged everyone to grow these collaborative solutions with us to reach everyone who needs them. As we move into the next phase of our work, we are involving even more partners so that we can further expand opportunities, giving all Central Alabamians, regardless of income or zip code, the chance they deserve to succeed in life.