United Way, local nonprofits convene for ‘United Front’ conference

(l-r) MPR’s Toni Randolph, panel discussion moderator, Cathy ten Broeke, director of Minneapolis-Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, Jonathan Sage-Martinson, Central Corridor Funders’ Collaborative, and Les Fujitake, superintendent of Bloomington Public Schools Photo by James L. Stroud, Jr.

By James L. Stroud, Jr.
Contributing Writer

On October 6, the Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW), Minnesota Public Radio and the General Mills Foundation sponsored, hosted and presented United Front 2011: The Power of Collective Impact. The half-day gathering was held at the St. Paul RiverCentre.


The concept of United Front was first introduced by the GTCUW in 2009, as a response to the dramatic downturn in the economy and its impact on programs and services offered to those in need. The goal of United Front organizers is to bring together corporate, education and government leaders, foundation executives and nonprofit board members to examine and highlight the successes and failures regarding the “Collective Impact” concept across the nation and in Minnesota specifically.


According to keynote speaker Mark Kramer, who is the co-founder and managing director of FSG Social Impact Consultants, cofounder of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and senior fellow at Harvard University, most people think Collective Impact means do more with less, but it means something very different. United Front organizers believe that “No one organization is responsible for any major social problems, nor can any single organization cure it.”


In his keynote address, Kramer says that no one corporation, government or nonprofit organization can solve a large-scale social problem. “You can’t think about alleviating poverty without thinking about the role of corporations. You can’t think about providing health care without thinking about the role of government,” Kramer said.


The United Front general session speakers included Sarah Caruso, president and chief executive officer of the GTCUW; Ellen Luger, vice president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation; and Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota.


Toni Randolph, who is an editor for new audiences at Minnesota Public Radio, moderated the general session panel discussion on cross-sector innovation and redesign efforts. The three panelists were Les Fujitake, superintendent of Bloomington Public Schools, Jonathan Sage-Martinson, director of Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, and Cathy ten Broeke, director of the Minneapolis-Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness. This segment of the conference offered testimony from the panelists about current success with implementing the Collective Impact model in their everyday operations.


“We are very pleased at the response and turnout for the United Front gathering,” said Marsha Pitts-Phillips, senior public relations manager for the GTCUW.


The United Front 2011 conference is available for viewing online at www.unitedfrontmn.org.
James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to jlstroud@spokesman-recorder.com.