Laura Clark: "Putting power in our neighborhoods"
Note: This blog post is a companion piece to Care Ring’s “Seeking the Heart” podcast series in which we talk with leaders from across the region about their ideas and insights on how we can create a better health care system for ALL. To listen to “Seeking the Heart,” simply click here, or search for “Seeking the Heart” on your favorite podcast platform.
The United Way tackles many of today’s most difficult challenges, bringing people and resources together to find and implement solutions. Leading the way at the United Way of Central Carolinas is Charlotte native, Laura Clark. Laura leads a team focused on improving education, health, financial stability and basic needs for folks with limited resources across our region.
Laura’s research background and experience in Charlotte’s nonprofit community prior to coming to her leadership role at United Way informs her perspective. Having overseen research, evaluation and policy advocacy with the Council for Children’s Rights and then leading a holistic community redevelopment strategy as CEO for Renaissance West Community Initiative, Laura has a deep appreciation for how our neighborhoods and the places we live, work, and play impact our overall quality of life.
She recognizes that far too many of our neighbors were born in zip codes in the Charlotte region with some of the most intractable poverty rates in North Carolina. Laura believes it is “not OK to have people left behind in our community” based solely on where they were born or where they now reside.
Laura is optimistic that with the pioneering research and agenda-setting of the Leading on Opportunity movement there is now broad and deep support from businesses, the public sector, local houses of worship and area philanthropic leaders that our community must come together to address many of the root causes of poverty.
Any fixes that come forward will need to take a long-term view and have a long-range commitment. Inequities established over hundreds of years of history won’t be fixed overnight. Improving policies and practices across the range of issues impacting individuals with limited resources – including transportation, housing, food insecurity, and certainly health care – are essential if we are going to make lasting improvements.
Focusing on the neighborhood level through investments to support local leaders establishing local priorities and coming up with local solutions drives the United Way’s funding efforts. Rather than dictate how local neighborhoods must change, under Laura’s leadership new neighborhood revitalization efforts advanced with United Way support in neighborhoods like Grier Heights and Renaissance West are taking hold. These reforms and changes advancing in neighborhoods across our region offer clues on how we can build the best system of health care for all.
Author: Donald K. Jonas, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Care Ring