In November, we formally wrapped up our celebration of 100 years at our Centennial Gala. The gala was a chance to reflect, celebrate, and a chance to look into the future. To summarize my sentiments, I'll use a phrase popular among young people, "I was feeling all the feels!"
(Above is a picture of my toast, along with our Board Chair, Dr. Cliff Mohn, thanking the attendees for their century of support)
To the attendees, I remarked that Crystal's story is the story of our first century. It is a story that shows CSL's power of bringing together individuals, service providers, funders, and many others to make meaningful and lasting change in people's lives. My hope is that you'll take a few minutes to read the entire story. If there was just one story that defined CSL's first 100 years of existence, it would be Crystal's story, and I'm so pleased that she has allowed us to share it with you. It is the story of her, the story of CSL, and the story of you.
I won't recap the entire evening, but I'd like to share with you some of my vision for the future of Community Services League, and our shared work in strengthening our communities.
CSL has the opportunity, through public policy, to improve the lives of low-income citizens. Many times the poorest people in a community are also the most politically disenfranchised, and they don't often have a voice. CSL can work with local leaders on policies that help strengthen families that are economically-challenged. For example, we're working to limit the availability of toxic lending operations in our communities, and helping to encourage equitable banking practices.
We see advocacy opportunities in making sure rental housing is habitable, energy efficient, and affordable. Coupled with that, we want to work with utility companies to ensure that rates are fair for all consumers, and that undue rates and fees aren't placed on low-use users (many times low-income families are low-use users).
Along with other partners, we want to be a voice for equity among all people.
For our first 100 years, most people looked at CSL as a single-service provider. This means a person seeking help would come for food, clothing, medicine, or employment support, but was only engaging with us to address one need in their life. Our work shows that the overwhelming majority of our clients served need multiple layers of assistance. We must help our clients in several life domains.
CSL is implementing an Integrated Service Delivery Model that allows us to effectively provide many services to families.It redefines how we will help families, and gives us an infrastructure to address Income Supports, Employment, and Financial Coaching. No longer can we just send families out the door with a box of food and hope they are soon out of poverty. We must thoroughly assess their situations, and provide intensive support (for upwards of five years or more) to help make meaningful and lasting change in their lives.
For years, we've listed lots of statistics about our services, which amounted to an impressive array of work accomplished. However, that information never really told us how well we were doing. It was simply an accounting of food and other services provided. It was an output (work accomplished) as opposed to an outcome (measure of effectiveness).
In 2017, we will begin a full-scale integration of new data to CSL that will track outcomes in three domains. We will measure how much we've helped improve a household's income, a household's net worth, and an individual's credit score.
We'll keep doing a lot of our same, great work (with other exciting new program offerings), but we'll look at it through the lens of economic empowerment. CSL deals with families that are economically deficient (among other challenges). Shouldn't we then be measuring our work by how much we're improving their income, net worth, and credit scores?
In summary, I pledged to our gala attendees that CSL would do more than ever with their dollars invested. Our next century will be defined by more impact and more meaningful and lasting change. Throughout 2017, I look forward to sharing more about our vision for the future.