Each July, community action professionals gather for the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) Conference to share best practices and get updates on impactful trends, and the changing roles of government in assisting the poor. Panel discussions, plenary sessions, workshops, and networking events brought focus to a wide range of complex and challenging issues that many Ohio communities are facing.
As someone new to the conference, I was impressed by the depth of commitment demonstrated by many Community Action Agency representatives. Some have been continuously involved in community work for 50 years and about half the attendees had 20 years or more of experience. Through my own grassroots service as a member of the Weinland Park Civic Association, I am keenly aware of how important active local civic organizations are to helping neighborhoods thrive. On a larger scale, the organizations represented at the conference serve a vast variety of missions to meet the wide-ranging needs of their communities – from employment assistance, and health and wellness, to housing, financial literacy, education and early development.
David Bradley, Executive Director of the National Community Action Foundation, addressed the status of the “War on Poverty”. This multi-day session examined how U.S. Presidents and Congress have contributed to anti-poverty legislation and policies over the decades to reinforce the work of the Community Action Program. During multiple conversations, it was clear that Community Action Agencies are confronting new and old societal issues. For example, supporting more low-income housing has always been an initiative, but today, there is even less transitional housing available for the working poor.
I am encouraged to learn that some agencies are starting to take advantage of the new funding model for Head Start which now covers child care for a whole work day. This will allow working families to re-enter the workforce full time sooner.
Also of note, session leaders shared insights into the changing roles and responsibilities of Board governance, and how to cultivate a culture of compliance and high ethical standards. As public scrutiny increases and resources stagnate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for nonprofit agencies to grow. Board leaders can play a significant and helpful role in increasing public awareness of agency successes.
In addition, financial experts provided attendees with guidance on financial reporting, risk assessment and performance standards. Other speakers explored pretrial justice challenges and juvenile detention alternatives.
Finance Fund provides predevelopment and economic development grants to help mission-driven Community Action Agencies and Community Development Corporations create long-term private-sector jobs to strengthen their area’s economic base. If you’d like more information, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org