by Kiley Gosselin
Executive Director, Partnership for Strong Communities
Somehow it has happened - another legislative session is upon us!
This year is a short session. This means the session runs from early February until early May (long sessions go from January to June). The short session is generally seen as a time to make adjustments to the biennium budget during the prior year’s long session. That being said, it always seems like there are just as many new bills and fiscal asks – just compressed into a shorter timeframe.
The truth is that legislators won’t be able to move as many ideas forward or to dig into those ideas or funding requests in as detailed a way as they might during a long session. This means we all must work twice as hard to be heard and make sure we’re connecting with them year after year, repeatedly educating and updating them on the issues affecting the vulnerable people we care about.
The agenda that many of you and the Reaching Home campaign help develop every year, is based upon all of your work, input, copious amounts of data and conversations with outside key stakeholders and state officials. It represents the best of what Reaching Home and the Collective Impact model is all about – coming together under one goal – making homelessness rare, brief and one-time by 2023, and agreeing on legislative steps and funding we all feel are the most important to get us closer to that goal.
I can tell you from my work in other states and at USICH, that most states don’t work this way. Without that collective impact approach and trust between partners that comes with that approach, providers, advocates and state agencies often find themselves at odds, each vying for funding or legislation for various subpopulations and programs, and legislators confused about which groups or advocates to believe and get behind and frustration about the lack of coordination.
The Partnership and Reaching Home were created to avoid this and to bring all advocates, providers and state partners around shared goals and a shared legislative agenda. When 120 organizations focus their time and energy on the same objectives, good things happen. Indeed, much of the legislative success we’ve seen – from creating new funding and programs, working to help organize our Coordinated Access structure, thousands of units of new affordable and supportive housing and protection of key resources in times of austerity, is because so many of you have chosen to fully engage in Collective Impact. That often means setting aside individual or organization-specific priorities for this one goal. It means continuously communicating with one another through our workgroups structure and outside of that so that we remain aligned and avoid work that is duplicative or conflicting. It means steeping ourselves in shared data and measurement tools to jointly hold ourselves accountable. Most importantly, it means building trust among ourselves and bringing others along, even if that means progress sometimes feels slower that you might like.
Thank for continuing to engage in this valuable Collective Impact effort. When other states reach out to the Partnership to ask about Connecticut’s notable and nationally recognized successes in reducing homelessness, they always want to learn more about Reaching Home, Collective Impact, and how we’ve done it. I’m always proud to talk about all of you, the hard work of this 15-year effort, and the trust we’ve built along the way. The conversation always ends with those other states saying, I wish we could get everyone on the same page like Connecticut does! It’s not easy, as you all know, but it’s working. Keep up the great work!