This article was written by David Bjorkgren. It was originally published on July 30, 2020 by MontcoToday.
The coronavirus pandemic offers a chance for us to do things better.
Its impact has been felt by everyone— in families, in homes, in the workplace and in the community.
Some have felt its sting more than others.
The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth (TLC), a nonprofit that provides alternative education, coaching and counseling services, is partnering with HealthSpark Foundation and 40 other organizations in an effort called Build Back Better.
The concept behind Build Back Better is to reduce the negative impacts of the pandemic and avert future crises by building a stronger social safety net system that could withstand sudden physical, social, and economic shocks.
To achieve this, HealthSpark and its community partners are looking at ways to reduce vulnerabilities in existing organizations and systems, while building community resiliency.
The Lincoln Center, with offices in Audubon, believes that working together enables every organization to serve the community more effectively. If one part of the social safety net fails, the rest of the community suffers.
The Build Back Better project closely aligns with The Lincoln Center’s vision of an empowered community of individuals and families with the will and skill to reach their full potential.
TLC offers innovative alternative educational practices to families facing education obstacles in the Greater Philadelphia Area, and as they plan for the upcoming school year, they’re also looking for ways to improve access to their counseling and mental health services.
“While TLC’s team has the skills to support children and adults who struggle with significant mental health concerns, we do not have the resources to address every challenge,” said Robert Givens, TLC’s Strategic Initiatives Manager. “That is why we are excited to be part of this effort. We must all unite and work to build back better together.”
Givens is representing The Lincoln Center at Build Back Better meetings.
‘A better normal’
At the core of Build Back Better is the idea that it’s time to rethink the bigger picture, to create a “better normal.”
The scope of Build Back Better includes nonprofits, government, faith, and business communities. It will ultimately lead to a set of policies, practices and structures that make the social safety net safe, secure and capable of catching everyone when they fall.
The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of a social safety net that was designed to protect individuals and families already living on the edge from job, income, food, and housing loss.
Instead, that safety net is overwhelmed by a flood of requests for unemployment benefits, food services, health care, mortgage and rent relief and mental health services.
The pandemic highlighted the differences between people who were deemed essential workers and those who could work remotely. Access to childcare, safety gear, and educational resources all became incredibly high stressors for our essential workers.
How Build Back Better Works
To tackle these inequities and determine what resources might be needed to build a stronger community, HealthSpark has developed Design Teams that will assess, identify and develop financial, human and technical resources needed to “build back better”.
The teams have representatives from nonprofit, government, faith and business communities.
Build Back Better uses a three-phase approach:
Phase 1: Learn and Discover
The teams are using survey data, including a Build Back Better Community Survey, to see how the social safety net is functioning during the pandemic. It examines challenges, opportunities and ways to do things differently.
Phase 2: Design & Plan
Based on community and survey data, a set of guiding principles and recommendations is being developed, covering food, housing, health, legal and policies. The teams are in this phase now.
Phase 3: Share & Act
The Build Back Better Design Teams will share their recommendations with the community, including concrete actions for the HealthSpark Foundation and its community partners.
HealthSpark will align its grant funding in late summer with the Design Team’s recommendations.
To find out more about Build Back Better, click here.
To find out more about The Lincoln Center, click here.