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The Power of Collaboration

Evaluating progress is essential to creating meaningful change.

That’s why in January 2022, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey formed the Knowledge Center—an evidence-based hub dedicated to sharing learnings and shaping practices to improve life outcomes for our neighbors most in need.

In June 2023, under the leadership of Chief Knowledge Officer Dr. Andrea Anderson, the Knowledge Center released a report that examined key learnings from year one of the Family Stability Challenge, which is part of The Promise—a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to combat poverty in Philadelphia—powered by United Way and the City of Philadelphia.

Through year one of the Family Stability Challenge, community partners worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure families received the benefits and tax services they were entitled to.

The early implementation report prepared by the Urban Institute, Collaborative Approaches to Benefits and Tax Credit Access, unpacks the unique challenges faced by the Family Stability coalitions and how they managed to overcome them to serve clients during a worldwide emergency.

While the report offers several lessons, one theme stands out among the rest: All participating service providers saw value in working collaboratively with other community-based organizations.

By working within a collaborative model, community partners better understood the City’s benefits landscape and work together to address challenges faced by their clients rather than compete with other organizations. A relatively underutilized strategy in Philadelphia, this collaborative approach strengthened organizations’ overall capacity-building efforts, including increasing the capacity of grassroots, community-based organizations to provide intensive support, including for non-English speakers.

In the first year of work, during the COVID pandemic, the Family Stability coalitions helped more than 13,000 households throughout Philadelphia file their taxes and access more than 10,000 tax credits. The Family Stability coalitions also helped Philadelphia families apply for more than 10,000 ongoing income-supporting benefits, ranging from utility assistance to nutritional assistance to health insurance to income assistance—like unemployment benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance. In total, the Family Stability coalitions served 53,400 households throughout the City, connecting people with a wide variety of benefits and services.

As we reflect, we are tremendously grateful for the collaborative efforts displayed by the Family Stability coalitions. Under extremely difficult circumstances—when staff were working remotely and needs in Philadelphia's poor communities were at an all-time high—the Family Stability coalitions did a momentous amount of work to serve clients, all while juggling developing coalition relationships and processes during the start-up year of a new initiative.

Their efforts and dedication created a strong foundation to build upon and expanded insights and learnings for other coalitions to practice moving forward.

Read the full report here.