In spite of the valiant efforts of many caring people and organizations over a long period of time, life has not improved for many Milwaukeeans. Our city continues to set records of the wrong kind: Often when a new study is released, Milwaukee is at or close to the bottom of the pack on key indicators.
And how bad is it? Take the 2016 Distressed Cities Index — Milwaukee is 7th worst in the ranking of most economically distressed large cities. We have some of the lowest reading and math proficiency scores in America. There’s more: The most segregated metro area in the United States. A black poverty rate of 40%, the second highest among the 40 largest metro areas. And, in Milwaukee County: The worst incarceration rate for black men.
If things are going to really change, we need to shift attention from modest service goals providing temporary relief for some to courageous actions that challenge and change the economic, social and political systems that are the root cause of the many problems we face.
For this shift to occur, we must reassess our work in the nonprofit sector — especially those nonprofits working in low income communities. Nonprofits need to direct more efforts at actually changing the underlying systems. Good is not good enough: While we continue to provide services to individuals in desperate need, we must now reposition the community based nonprofit sector as a powerful force for social change at the underlying systems level.
For nonprofits that want to move in this direction, there are key strategies that can help them move more of their impact to the root cause level.
- Uncover the root causes of community problems, rethink the focus and impact of current programming, and develop/redesign programs/initiatives in order to address these root causes
- Increase advocacy and public policy work by nonprofits
- Carry out ongoing nonpartisan voter registration and education efforts at the neighborhood level
- Connect community-based nonprofits to efforts already underway ― like expanding public transportation to link the unemployed to jobs; to living wage campaigns like the Fight for $15; and to other initiatives tackling racism, income inequality and poverty at the root cause level.
And for each of these strategies, there are resource organizations ready to help nonprofits move their impact to the root cause level. Attend the May 24th presentation to learn more about these strategies and the resources available that can make it happen in Milwaukee.
Attend the May 24th presentation to learn more about these strategies and the resources available that can help make it happen in Milwaukee.