United Way Mentors Groups with Innovative Ideas

by ekramer on December 16, 2009

Winners named earlier this month for Metro United Way’s Social Innovation Prize met today for the first of many planned discussions. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Among the five winners are Breaking New Grounds, which works to create jobs through sustainable urban agriculture; The Stewards Staff, which works to develop leadership skills among young people; and the Americana Community Center’s family education project working with immigrants and refugees. Each winner was required to illustrate how they are working to creatively address social problems in the community.

Metro United Way is now working with these groups to mentor their development, says Howard Mason, the organization’s director of community building.

“We’re creating a learning community,” he says, “a community of practice to support these folks by connecting them to new knowledge, hearing how other people are solving problems that they may be facing, helping them learn new things that might make them better and more successful.”

Mason says all five have several common attributes.

“They have a very clear vision of what an issue is that they want to do something about; a very strong vision of what the solution is,” he says. “They also have perseverance. They know how to get people excited about what they’re doing. And they know how to see things through different eyes.”

Among those at this first meeting was April DuVal of the Council on Mental Retardation. It’s innovation was to establish The Weber Gallery this year in Old Louisville.

“We are committed to folks with disabilities being included in the broader community, so our gallery features both the artwork of well-known artists here locally and regionally as well as folks with disabilities,” she says.

DuVal says the council wants to use the gallery to create awareness about mental disabilities and some revenue for the organization through the sale of art. She says the gallery has helped the organization forge partnerships with local visual arts groups including the Louisville Visual Art Association and Pyro Gallery.

Metro United Way will continue meeting with them through June to help them develop their organizations.

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