Over the course of 2021, we will feature 100 Heroes who have been instrumental in our fight for the basic needs, education and financial stability of our neighbors for the past century. To learn more about how we are continuing to serve the Bluegrass in 2021, click here.
Today we are interviewing Christian Motley, the Chair of the Policy & Advocacy Committee and member of the Community Impact Task Force.
What is your role with UWBG?
Broadly, United Way is well-positioned to have a deep impact in Lexington, particularly in the broader Bluegrass, as it relates to education and economic mobility. We have used the model Collective Impact nationally as a strategy to not only improve outcomes for young people but to also close disparities.
I work for StriveTogether. StriveTogether is a place where we’ve built real expertise around learning what it means, here in Lexington and in about 70 other communities throughout the country, to leverage cross-sector partnership to support young folks from cradle to career. United Way has visited other communities to bring together a set of partnerships to help United Way think about what the strategy could look like here in the Bluegrass region.
We are currently really excited about the WayPoint Center strategy. This strategy includes neighborhood hubs that people can visit and have any number of needs met. It takes the work into the community in a deep and impactful way. We have some really strong partners, including YMCA in Paris-Bourbon, and we’re working in the north/west end and east end in Lexington. We hope to continue to build partnerships, but the key to that work is putting the right set of partners together, serving the community and also participating in the systems change that is necessary to remove barriers for young folks and working families.
Recently, United Way created the Policy Advocacy Committee and implemented it around the country. Many have this sort of committee of folks who are practitioners, some who have a policy background and particularly folks who have expertise in early childhood. We have a really good crew here in the Bluegrass area. This committee looks for opportunities where system leaders, policymakers, and practitioners can be brought together to support kids at important times when neighborhoods and sectors, such as the childcare sector, have been destabilized. Times such as the pandemic. We’ve come together around a set of policy priorities that we think are important with the support of additional investments. For example, in the early childhood space, we are working to increase access for families and to professionalize the sector.
We are working to ensure these things even in response to COVID. Initially, childcare workers were not included in the “educators” who were prioritized to get the vaccine. We had people who brought that as a concern to the policy committee. We’ve been able to talk to a bipartisan group of legislators that represent the Bluegrass region. Soon after, the Governor made the change to include childcare workers. We are doing our best to have the right conversations, with the right set of leaders, to ensure we meet the needs we see in local communities.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
The Collective Impact Task Force has been important because it has supported United Way staff in starting the new strategy and it supports the strategy. They have helped with representation across the region among cross-sector folks by talking about what Collective Impact means to our community. I am looking forward to getting on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and reviewing with the Collective Impact Task Force how we did. For right now, COVID-19 has been a real disruptor. United Way has done a really good job being a strong community partner and getting resources out to the community during this time. They’ve been a good partner to the Blue Grass Community Foundation by having the Coronavirus Response Fund. In our meetings, we get to report back on those actions as we continue to work with the new strategy.
The Policy Advocacy committee started to meet just before the pandemic and it has been hard to get stabilized after COVID. However, in the run-up to the legislative session, it was important for us to have the conversations we have had. We work to identify the policy priorities. We know that the early childhood space and economic mobility are important and that it is important that working families get the resources they need. Once we identified those priorities, we were able to come around to a policy agenda. We’ve been having conversations with elected leaders since the start of the legislative session. Our long-term hope is to have yearlong interactions with policy leaders. We want to ensure that we’re doing the work to embed the items we think are important into the policy agenda. In the future, we hope you will see us having conversations with policymakers during sessions, having committee conversations and possibly having gatherings with policymakers at every level of government for them to hear more about our policy agenda. We hope to have multiple touchpoints with the folks making policies.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
Their ability to converse with cross-section leaders. It’s essential and they have the wherewithal in our community to pull together the right table of leaders. I think this is essential to be able to do anything well.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
I think United Way has been a powerful advocate as it relates to what some would call a 2-generation approach and in finding the investments and resources to support children in their earliest years of life. They also support working families and I think we will lean deeper into this particular mission as time moves on. Some of United Way’s most powerful work is around children and families.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
I have to say, I am a proud alum of Berea College, so Madison County. While Berea College itself is my favorite place, Berea, Kentucky is my favorite city and my favorite place in that city is the Pinnacles.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I’d have to say going to University of Kentucky basketball games.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Christian! We appreciate you and all that you do.
Do you know someone who has worked alongside United Way of the Bluegrass in the past century who should be considered for our 100 Heroes series? Please email us at email@example.com to share your nomination!