• Care Ring

What's up Charlotte? I Thought Everything was all Good?


The United Way of Central Carolinas, is taking bold steps to increase graduation rates, reduce homelessness, and empower healthy lives in the Greater Charlotte region.

Just last week the United Way announced a $16.5 million investment in agencies across the region, with special emphasis on interventions that work collectively to address some of our most difficult challenges.

And we’ve got some big problems to tackle.

So what’s up, Charlotte? I thought everything was all good?

Charlotte is one of fastest growing metros in the US. Our rise as a financial powerhouse, magnet for millennials, and catchment zone for retirees is attracting folks looking for year-round pleasant weather (just don’t tell them about the miserably hot mess that is Charlotte in July and August) and a great place to raise a family.

From on the cusp of having our own Kimpton Hotel (yes!), to seemingly weekly announcements of new breweries (double yes!), the good news just keeps rolling in for Charlotte.

But what happens when researchers from fancy universities start poking around and find out that while the city keeps booming and people keep coming, when you look under the hood there are deep and pervasive challenges that are keeping large segments of the population from enjoying the goodness of growth?

In typical Charlotte fashion, we appoint a task force.

Which is not always a bad thing.

When confronted with a series of incidents leading to racial division in our community in the 1990s, the Community Building Task Force was created to respond and set a course forward for our community. Today’s Community Building Initiative is the proud heir of this initial work, continuing to be a beacon of justice and a force for collaboration on a host of critical social issues confronting us today.

As Charlotte more recently became attractive to newcomers bringing different cultural norms and experiences, an Immigration Integration Task Force was formed, providing coordinated research and recommendations for Charlotte to excel in embracing our new neighbors.

So when it was revealed a few years ago by researchers at Harvard and UC Berkeley that Charlotte ranked dead last (50 out of 50) of US cities based on the possibility for economic mobility up the ladder of success for those on the bottom rung, Charlotte’s Task Force DNA sprang into action.

Why is it so difficult for those born on the bottom fifth of incomes in Charlotte to climb up the economic mobility ladder? What is it about Charlotte that makes us perform especially poor (among other large US metropolitan regions) at helping those with the least have a realistic chance of escaping poverty?

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, pulled together by leadership from Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, and multiple local philanthropic powerbrokers (including Foundation For the Carolinas), set a bold course to figure out why Charlotte does so poorly on measures of economic mobility, and to advance initiatives and programs designed to improve Charlotte’s performance.

In addition to hearing about the need for high-performing schools for all, the Opportunity Task Force is surely recognizing the enormous challenge we face in Charlotte with having individuals trapped in a number of pockets of deep poverty in neighborhoods across Charlotte.

The solutions for those living in deep pockets of poverty will require more effective collaboration and coordination across multiple sectors – public, private and philanthropic, if we are to make a difference.

United Way on the leading edge

For those with limited resources living in high poverty communities in our city, there is not a single bullet solution that will erase decades of neglect. Making serious, substantial, long-term change will require breaking barriers across agencies. We will have to think differently about how we create an environment that provides economic opportunity for all.

It will require a new ethnic of partnership and cooperation, and a new way of thinking and acting collaboratively to serve those in greatest need.

While the Opportunity Task Force’s work will continue into fall of 2016, and final recommendations may not come out until early 2017, through the United Way’s laser focus on making a collective impact in three core focus areas (increasing graduation, reducing homelessness, and empowering healthy lives), we have a community roadmap for how community problem solving can happen.

As the Opportunity Task Force pushes on with their important work, our local United Way has provided a handy guidebook on how we can tackle these issues together.

Our region is fortunate to have our most essential collective giving agency – the United Way of Central Carolinas – providing us the vision and the support for us to create a community that can thrive for all.

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