Five years ago, Atlanta-based Market Street Services cautioned local workforce planners that an increasingly low-income population and a growing percentage of limited English-proficiency K-12 students make training our future workforce a serious challenge. They recommended developing a “cradle to career” initiative.
Sioux Falls Thrive was the result.
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on our more diverse, less-advantaged families makes that challenge even more striking and deserving of attention than ever before.
One-third of our school-age children face disadvantages that make achieving their educational and career potential difficult. And those obstacles – lack of stable housing, income and opportunity disparities, food insecurity – won’t be solved by merely creating more programs.
The key to our children’s and our economy’s future success lies in working upstream to turn existing social services into effective systems.
As best-selling business author Dan Heath observes in his book “Upstream,” systems problems are notoriously tough to solve. That’s because
- We can be blind to them. The majority of Sioux Falls kids and families who are most challenged are living in neighborhoods north of 18th Street, where access to affordable housing, after school programs, and food resources are scarce. Yet, for many of us, these families are out of sight and out of mind.
- The systems that need fixing are complex. With so many players involved, no one organization – not the school district, nor the city, nor nonprofits, faith-based groups, or businesses – is responsible for how the systems evolved.
- Time is in short supply. The very people who could play a role upstream in fixing broken systems are working on overload just to find solutions to today’s problems.
Three things we want you to know about Thrive
- Thrive is all about working upstream. Our upstream focus starts with a clear, evidence-based understanding of the gaps in social systems and the determination to confront problems before they become crises.
- Thrive doesn’t dodge complexity. Our action teams target and resolve a myriad of systems issues no other organization wants to claim or has the power to fix.
- Thrive is productive. Our action team members know that the time they spend in Thrive-facilitated collaboration leads to real change and system innovation. This past year more than 110 volunteers dedicated their time to the challenging and sometimes frustrating job of upstream systems improvement.
From its beginning, Sioux Falls Thrive has been committed to alignment of all sectors of our community in confronting the challenges faced by underprivileged youth. Thrive’s efforts have produced meaningful results by helping social services programs to see themselves – not in isolation – but as part of a system, and then working collaboratively to improve that system.
It’s been hard work, but Thrive’s efforts are producing real benefits. You’ll be hearing more about our progress in the coming weeks when we share important success stories resulting from Thrive’s work.
Meanwhile, thanks for all you do to keep Sioux Falls strong and vibrant!