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“We’re not organized to achieve this. We’re organized never to achieve this.

If you were to draw an organizational chart of the way we are organized, in pretty much every major and mid-sized city in America, it would look very, very long, and very, very flat. No height to it, only length. Think a long piece of string. Along that long piece of string, you’d have individual, largely isolated points like these:

  • Three or four large hospital systems (e.g., Lee Health, NCH and ProMedica in southwest Florida, or Eskenazi Hospital, Indiana University Health, Community Health, Franciscan Health and St. Vincent Hospital, and again ProMedica, in Indianapolis)
  • The local children’s hospital
  • The municipal public school system
  • The local school committee
  • Charter schools
  • The mayor’s office
  • The city or town council
  • The municipal chamber of commerce
  • The local police department
  • Local transportation improvement initiatives
  • The courts
  • Prosecutors
  • The state legislators for the district
  • The state department of economic development
  • The state office of child and family services
  • The state public housing authority
  • The state police
  • The Governor’s office
  • State transportation improvement initiatives
  • County offices and officials
  • The congressmen/women for the district
  • The U.S. senators for the state
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • The Department of Education
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Veteran’s Administration
  • Federal transportation improvement initiatives
  • Federal job creation programs
  • The Unemployment Office
  • One to three regional community foundations and their local initiatives outside of and beyond their donor-advised funds
  • Hundreds of local donor-advised funds
  • One to five large private foundations
  • Ten to 100 medium-size private foundations
  • One to three local United Ways
  • A handful of large corporate foundations
  • Dozens of smaller corporate and business foundations
  • Five to ten large nonprofits (all woefully underscored to the sizes of the problems they face) and the big health and human services agencies with bigger budgets
  • Local parent-teacher associations
  • A dozen or more addiction recovery nonprofits
  • A handful or more nonprofits serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • A handful of cancer support and advocacy charities
  • Dozens of single-disease-focused local nonprofits working on everything from epilepsy to autism to childhood leukemia
  • Hospices
  • Bereavement charities
  • Dozens of nonprofits serving the disabled
  • A handful of local nonprofits serving veterans
  • A handful of local nonprofits working on housing and homelessness
  • Dozens or more nonprofits serving a variety of children’s needs
  • The local museum of science
  • Nonprofits that serve the elderly
  • Dozens of nonprofits working on nutrition, food and food deserts
  • A handful of small mental health nonprofits
  • A few nonprofits working on mindfulness for the underserved
  • Nonprofits serving the LGBTQ+ community
  • Nonprofits working on racism
  • Nonprofits working on police brutality
  • Nonprofits serving specific ethnic communities
  • Nonprofits working with immigrants
  • Nonprofits working on economic development
  • Nonprofits working on AIDS and HIV
  • Nonprofits working on the environment, climate change and climate justice
  • Nonprofits working to reduce recidivism
  • Nonprofits working on domestic violence
  • Hundreds of other small, local nonprofits working on the issues above and many others
  • Hundreds of local nonprofit fundraising events, from walkathons to gala dinners to golf tournaments
  • Established and evolving national nonprofits with promising, disruptive ideas for local communities, like XQ: The Super School Project seeking to reinvent high school; One Love Foundation trying to address domestic violence by teaching middle and high-school kids how to have healthy relationships; Glu helping people with Type 2 Diabetes by aggregating personal data and experiences; The Bail Project trying to end the injustice of the cash bail system; FoodCorps trying to change our approach to nutrition in schools; No Kid Hungry attempting to end child hunger in America by helping states access federal funds for in-school feeding programs and enroll teachers in the idea of helping kids to get fed in school; Crisis Text Line using texting and crowd-trained mental health workers to help people in mental health crises in real time; Community Solutions working to address homelessness; NeighborWorks working on housing; City Year working on getting young people involved in education; Black Lives Matter; GirlTrek trying to raise awareness about the importance of exercise and walking for African American women; Social Venture Partners working to find and fund innovative social entrepreneurs; and many others, each with a local presence
  • Dozens of iconic national social service nonprofits, some with local service and/or fundraising affiliates, often with large local footprints, like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Catholic Charities, the Jewish Federation, the YMCA, Goodwill International, the Salvation Army, The Red Cross, and many more
  • Dozens of social entrepreneurs
  • Dozens of churches and charismatic church leaders
  • Other iconic local leaders and gadflies
  • Candidates for political office and the implications of their policy ideas at all levels on local quality of life
  • One or more community-wide data-gathering initiatives and many more siloed, single-issue data-gathering initiatives
  • Episodic local initiatives of iconic billionaires, like the seven-year, $1 billion Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching effort by Bill Gates centered on improving teacher effectiveness (which didn’t succeed); Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million initiative to improve education in Newark, New Jersey, which also failed to succeed; the $2 billion initiative by Jeff Bezos to help homeless families and underserved preschoolers; Blue Meridian Partners’ $33 million to improve pregnancy and other health outcomes for 100,000 young, lower- income, first-time mothers and their children; and Steven and Alexandra Cohen’s $275 million gift to create a network of 25 clinics that treat veterans who have post-traumatic stress and other ailments
  • Large grants and initiatives by iconic national foundations aimed at local progress
  • The influence of the initiatives of large companies like Apple and Google, and the influence and implications for education of their technology offerings, like iPads, iPhones and Chromebooks
  • National experts with disparate advice on approaches to public education, STEM, STEAM vocational education, higher education, nutrition, health, minimum wage, racism, social justice, police brutality, transportation, climate and more
  • Collective impact initiatives aimed specifically at education, like the Strive Together partnership efforts to address education cradle to grave in Cincinnati
  • Local banks and local lending
  • Community colleges
  • Local university research efforts
  • The business community, and specifically, its intersection with job creation and housing issues

Now, add up all of the people and full-time employees embedded in this list. How many tens of thousands of people are we talking about?

Each of these people and organizations has a critical role to play in the mission of creating a whole person. And this is largely a categorical list. If you break it down into individual entities and set it in twelve-point type, which is the point-size of the type in this article, you’d likely have a flat org chart that stretches the length of a tractor trailer truck. So, what’s wrong with a flat org chart, you might ask? Beyond the obvious, the problem is—and it’s a big one—it is completely unattended at the top. Above this completely flat organizational chart the length of a tractor trailer truck is a gigantic blank. There’s no entity responsible for the task of coordinating these thousands of efforts toward any specific end result, and there’s no entity thinking about the creation of such an entity.”