In a recent meeting of public relations professionals in Dallas, I asked the question — does Dallas want to be known for doing things BIG or for doing GOOD better?
It is an interesting question to ponder as we start the new year. Given the recent disheartening news that Dallas is leading the nation among large cities in childhood poverty, we may need to consider a new game plan for 2017.
I asked friends and colleagues their hopes and plans for Dallas and crowdsourced the following five resolutions for #DallasDoingGood in 2017:
No. 5 — Supporting Tri-Sector Collaboration
Pressing social issues require creative solutions, and those solutions work best when they are rooted in collaborations between the public, private, and social sectors. We made some good starts in 2016.
For example, we have seen efforts to form a city-county commission on homelessness. Recently, council member Philip Kingston and school board trustee Miguel Solis proposed a city-school district partnership to provide more mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods where Dallasites can live and learn together.
And, taking idea to action, The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas, the Caruth Foundation, Dallas County, Dallas-Fire Rescue, and Dallas Police Department will be launching their innovative Smart Justice project in early 2017 to better handle behavioral health emergencies.
These are positive trends that should be applauded and accelerated in 2017. If we want to move the needle on homelessness, poverty, or education, it will take tri-sector leadership and strategies from government, business, and nonprofits.
No. 4 — Proposing Long-Term Investment
Long-term investments have a greater chance of yielding game-changing returns than quick fixes do. In 2016, we saw interest in addressing early childhood education as an investment strategy based on the idea that the more we invest in the future of Dallas children, the better their future and our future economy.
Long-term investments have a greater chance of yielding game-changing returns than quick fixes do.
Early Matters launched in the fall with a number of forward-thinking policies, such as sorely needed funding to scale quality early childhood in Dallas ISD. We only have to look at our counterparts, such as Cincinnati Public Schools with its Preschool Promise, as a guide. Voters passed Issue 44 in November, a school levy which generates $15 million each year for a five-year preschool expansion.
Quality preschool is one of the soundest economic investments you can make, with returns estimated at $2–4 for every $1 invested. The same argument could be made for criminal justice re-entry programs. Rumor has it that Tarrant County is working on an innovative Pay for Success model where the return is almost 7 to 1.
In 2017, we hope our leaders play the long game and begin to invest in ideas like these that have a long horizon with huge future payoff.
No. 3 — Scaling Place-Based Success
When we come together with a comprehensive place-based strategy to address the interrelated issues of poverty, education, and workforce, research shows that we are twice as likely to be successful. Over the past few years, we have seen great examples of place-based work, e.g., Bachman Lake Together, led by Zero to Five Funders Collaborative, and The School Zone in West Dallas, led by The Budd Center at Southern Methodist University. In 2016, the city of Dallas prioritized three areas of Dallas for intense support through its Neighbor Up program. In 2017, we hope we will take this work to scale in other areas needing comprehensive support.
No. 2 — Selling Dallas as a (Social) Innovation Hotspot
Thanks to the great work of The Dallas Entrepreneur Center and Tech Wildcatters, Dallas has become a technology and innovation hub. Equally important, yet lesser known, Dallas is starting to attract national attention for our social innovation.
In a new economy, companies are attracted to communities that are thriving economically, but also have a thriving social structure.
Dallas ISD recently got word that it will be one of the top metropolitan areas receiving a planning grant from the Wallace Foundation to support the groundbreaking work on social and emotional development.
Dallas has also attracted national nonprofits, such as City Year, Year Up, and Per Scholas, to open new offices. In a new economy, companies are attracted to communities that are thriving economically, but also have a thriving social structure. In 2017, we need to brand Dallas as not only BIG, but as doing GOOD better.
No. 1 — Making Dallas the City with the Biggest Heart
Historically, the national giving rate in the United States has hovered around two percent of GDP. The same is true for Dallas — even with amazing fundraising efforts such as North Texas Giving Day from the Communities Foundation of Texas and United Way’s Giving Tuesday.
What would happen if Dallas become the most generous city in the world? What if we raised our percentage to three percent or even five percent? We could unlock our potential and invest in important social programs that could change the future of our city for generations to come.
Dallas already gets so much right. But, this year, we want to do a little bit more.
Be more collaborative. Give your time, treasure, and talent. Invest in Dallas’ future. In 2017, let’s all resolve to make Dallas the city with the biggest heart.
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