Capital Region CATALYZE

Fresh Take ft. Rosie Allen-Herring

October 05, 2021 Season 1 Episode 14
Capital Region CATALYZE
Fresh Take ft. Rosie Allen-Herring
Show Notes Transcript

This Fresh Take interview featured Rosie Allen-Herring, President & CEO, United Way of the National Capital Area. JB and Rosie discussed the intersection of public-private partnerships, philanthropy, and business strategy in building an inclusive Capital Region and the United Way NCA’s ongoing work to promote inclusive growth across the region.

Hosted by JB Holston.  Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez.

Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.

About our guest:

Rosie Allen-Herring is a national expert on public private partnerships, philanthropy and business strategy.  She currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA). Rosie is recognized as a thought leader who demonstrates the ability to convene public private entities to leverage talent and resources and create collective impact in communities across the region and beyond.

Formerly, Rosie was the Managing Director of the Community Investment and Engagement Division at Fannie Mae. In that role, she led Fannie Mae’s corporate philanthropic strategy and oversaw the organization’s social responsibility investments and employee-engagement efforts nationwide. Prior to Managing Director at Fannie Mae, she served as the National Regulatory Compliance Manager, Housing & Community Development. She was also the Senior Deputy Director, Washington, DC Community Business Center.

Rosie holds key leadership roles with several business and civic organizations, including serving on the Board of Directors for the Greater Washington Board of Trade, MedStar Health, Inc., WesBanco (formerly Old Line Bancshares, Inc.), Board of Trustees at A.T. Still University, Prince George’s Community College Foundation and several additional organizations. She also served as a board member for Washington’s exploratory Olympic committee, Washington 2024

She earned a B.A. in Economics from Howard University, an M.B.A. from Strayer University and was an International Fellow of the United States-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values at the University of Cape Town (SA) Graduate School of Business and Duke University Graduate School of Public Policy.  She is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-profit Management Program.

Rosie Allen-Herring  0:00  
Looks like a dichotomy almost. Is it a tale of two cities? Because what is it that we're saying. So I say, let's focus on the gap. When you look at where all of those things are, that are great attributes for us, and we look at those that may not necessarily have the ability to be able to tap into those assets, then let's look at that gap. And for some, that gap is very, very wide. So let's go there. Because we know that if we're able to shorten that gap, lesson it, those lives are going to be changed and put on a trajectory to success that they could not have gotten on their own.

JB Holston  0:38  
Welcome, everyone, this is fresh take. It's our regular interview series with leaders from the region and around the nation on critical topics that relate to our mission here at the Greater Washington Partnership, which is to help make sure that this region is the most inclusive growth region in the country. And so we're, we're excited to have all of you join us today. My guest today is Rosie Allen, herring, and Rosie if we go Hello, Rosie, great to see you. Hi there. JD Good to be with you. Great. Thanks again for for taking the time to join us. today. I'm going to give folks a little bit of background about you and then we'll we'll jump right in. And I've shortened the bio a little bit because you've done so many things and you want somebody accolades because they'll read it. So I won't have a chance to go through all of it but a couple of things for folks. Rosie on hearing is a national expert on public private partnerships, philanthropy and business strategy. She currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of the National Capital Area, you know, way NCA. Rosie has more than 30 years of experience in the areas of corporate finance, strategic leadership, public and private partnerships, corporate philanthropy and Community Investment formula Rosie was the managing director of the Community Investment and engagement division at Fannie Mae rose he holds leadership roles with several business and civic organizations including serving on the board of directors for the Greater Washington Board of Trade medstar Health wesbanco, the Board of Trustees of at still University Prince George's Community College Foundation, and several additional organizations. Rosie has been vetted by many for many things, including Washingtonian of the Year in 2020. And HBCU alumni of the Year Award for community involved involvement in 2019. She exemplifies a servant leader philosophy and all she does, and we've been delighted to have her help us with our work on inclusive growth in particular, here at the partnership, but I know you were engaged back in the day of the Olympic bid, as well. So we're absolutely delighted to have you on the program. Thanks very much for joining us, Rosie. 

Rosie Allen-Herring  2:51  
Again, thank you for having me looking forward to a great conversation, 

JB Holston  2:54  
as am I. Well, let's start off with with with the easy ones, which is I've been thinking about this a lot. But where are you going to travel first, now that now that now that these restrictions are coming off, and we're able to do that again? 

Rosie Allen-Herring  3:09  
You know, I guess I have to say that I cheated. Two weeks ago, my husband and I, for our anniversary did travel. And we went to Antigua. It was a milestone anniversary, we figured it was not a crowded place. It wasn't a lot on the plane. And we were sort of kind of just sequestered at a local resort. And so we were very happy to have that get away. So we went big, I guess when we came up for air.

JB Holston  3:38  
That's a great way to put it. I like that it went big when you came out for how was it a day go? By the way it was it? Was it what you had hoped? It was? 

Rosie Allen-Herring  3:46  
I had never been there before. So it was just great to be there and to look out and you just can't look at it that much water and not know that, you know that life is just great. And we're all fortunate. And what we have in health is is something that we can all be thankful for. 

JB Holston  4:02  
Yeah, well, that's fantastic. It probably no cicadas down there. 

Rosie Allen-Herring  4:05  
There Were None. And we left plenty here buzzing all around our house, and they are disgusting. Let go.

JB Holston  4:14  
Well, that's great. Well, I'm glad that congratulations on that anniversary, Rosie, and it sounds like a fabulous, fabulous trip, you'll have to share photos when we get a chance. It's also not a place that I've been.

JB Holston  4:27  
I wanted to talk if we can a little bit about for the grip the United Way. I think it's one of those organizations that a lot of people think they understand what it's about, but they haven't actually thought necessarily about it. Could you talk a little bit about what the United Way is and how its organized and then maybe some of the work that you're doing here in particular with the United Way?

Rosie Allen-Herring  4:45  
 Sure. You're right, you know, United Way is a brand. It's a brand, a storage brand that's been around for 130 years, quite honestly. And so people know the name even if they don't know what you do. And most of the time the engagement have been primarily from a workplace. You know In a corporate setting, aren't you all the, you know, $100 per pay period payroll deduction team that sends the money to my kids soccer team. And for many years that have been, you know what United Way was. But you know, when I came to United Way of the National Capital Area, it was really about transformation. And to evolve, certainly not from a philanthropic organization of being able to do those things, but to be more of a collective impact organization, where we're really going to be focused on particular issues that are facing this region. And how do we move the needle and bring thought leadership solutions to many of those challenges. And so your United Way's continue to evolve as well. And so now, we I'm proud to say we have gone through that transformation over the last, I would say, six or seven years. And it's really is a top notch, I believe, high performing organizations that I'm privileged, but honestly, to work with a great group of professionals, who look to bring those solutions to some of the toughest challenges. And we do it in a way that is very succinct, but also very focused, very strategic, and intentional, meaning that we can't be all things to all people, and we can't be everywhere. But we've decided that there are three key areas for us. And it's dealing with health, education, and financial stability issues, because we believe that those three, certainly not withstanding that others are necessary. But those are three what we believe critical challenges to having a thriving region. And so that's where we'd love to make our investments. That's where we try to solicit, you know, partnerships. And again, we don't do anything by ourselves, we only do it in partnership with others. 

JB Holston  6:43  
Right? Well, I love to come back to those three areas as we as a conversation continues, because as you know, those are areas that are near and dear to the partnership, as well. So we'll have a chance to dig into those. Let's talk a little bit about what brought you to this work. Rosie, if you wouldn't mind, talk a little bit about your journey.

Rosie Allen-Herring  7:01  
You know, most people, if they've known me for quite some time, then they'll know that I'm not alone time United Way. I am not a philanthropist, if you will. I'm really a transactions girl. And so prior to coming to United Way, I spent 21 years at Fannie Mae, on the corporate side. And so my background is in corporate finance, and in doing structured transactions, doing debt equity, and mezzanine deals and as well as doing dealing with securities. And so for me, I grew up at, you know, having spent the bulk of my career there, literally, through a myriad of roles. I will say that, you know, I had an opportunity to do some things that I didn't think that I could do be on the radar of people that I did not know, were looking and having had just some great opportunities to just grow as a professional, but also to work for an organization because a lot of times there were some confusion about Fannie Mae too. And I've had a good girlfriend say, why would Rosie leave a job at the bank of what was now Bank of America to go to work for Candy Company, which

JB Holston  8:05  
I had never done before. That's great. 

Rosie Allen-Herring  8:07  
And so but, you know, at Fannie Mae, it was a great opportunity and a great lifetime experience, because was a congressionally chartered organization, and company that was publicly traded. And it's a trillion dollar company that was chartered to simply help every community. And so you literally cannot pick winners and losers in terms of community, you literally had to be everywhere. And there was a congressional mandate that you help everyone, because affordable housing, whether it be rental, or homeownership is a right that everyone has a safe, affordable place to lay their head. So I cherish my time at Fannie Mae and had to be lowered away because I thought I'd literally retire there. But I grew up there. And I'm very grateful for the exposure, the experiences and the learnings. 

JB Holston  8:55  
Yeah. Well, you know, we're certainly fortunate to have you and I wanted to talk a little bit about the strategic direction that you've taken United Way here. But before we do that, I just veer a little bit. It seems like HBCUs are having something of a renaissance in terms of funding and interest and understanding how critical role they play. Could you talk a little bit about your view on that question? 

Rosie Allen-Herring  9:21  
Well, I have to tell you, you know, HBCUs, are near and dear to my heart, as a Howard University graduate, and I know we have a great rapport with Dr. Frederick now joining the council as well, and I adore him. And he's doing a great job on HBCUs because for so many years, especially in the African American community, they were the only options for education. And and for those who know me, my background is I'm originally from Mississippi, and I'm the youngest of 10 children, and our parents gave us the gift of education, but for all of us, when we took the opportunity to get you know, go secondary education. It was really at an HBCU. So my entire family has now between you know, children and grandchildren about 32 degrees. And and I would say probably all, but about maybe, you know, six or seven of them are from HBCUs. And so we are three sisters tougaloo College in Mississippi, my brother went to Fisk, another brother went to Alabama a&m, and my sister and I went to Howard. And since then we now have about five Howard degrees three Spelman degrees. And again, you know Grambling in Louisiana. So you name it. We are an HBCU family. And we just believe in the power of it, understanding its historical significance, but also recognizing that it prepares you for the world. So I believe, for me, I got the best training at Howard University, it was an environment that was nurturing for someone making that trek coming from from the deep south. But it's also made Washington my home, because I came here and literally never left. So it's been I've been here more than I've been, you know, anywhere else. And so I'm grateful for, but I do believe that they are experiencing a renaissance because they're just seen as master teaching grounds as well. And it's now open HBCUs are not just African Americans anymore. There are a plethora of diversity and inclusion in our HBCUs. And that makes them in my estimation even better. 

JB Holston  11:22  
Yeah. That's great. Well, you mentioned Dr. Frederick. And, of course, we're thrilled that he's that he's joined the board. And remarkable, remarkable individual and remarkable institution as well. So thanks for spending some time on that question. Let's turn back to the areas of work for the United Way. And I know, strategically, you've moved it toward a much more data driven, collective impact kind of model. Talk a little bit about about what that means, because I think you're right, I think when people think about the United Way, they don't think about the organization thinking about where it can have the most impact, and then kind of collaboratively and collectively organizing to what what does that look like? Yes, day to day is how I, how I'd asked the question. 

Rosie Allen-Herring  12:09  
Sure. You know, again, as I said, at the outset, I have the privilege of working with a phenomenal group of professionals that really, truly, I believe, you know, raise the caliber of what you expect, they could literally be working anywhere, and they've chosen to simply do their life's work and the nonprofit or philanthropy arena. But when we talk about evolving and the transformation, again, you know, United Way had been so for so long, that passed through, so you give through, not necessarily give to United Way. And and as a part of my my time there, when I came, I said, you know, to the to the board at the time, you know, if we're looking this can't be your grandfather's United Way. So if we're looking to make this leap, I want to know, are you serious about it? And and they were, and they supported this transformation. And in doing so, all we said is, you know, we decided to look at what's our brand, and we came to understand how people saw us and perceived us. But then we said, we know, what do we want to be known for? And how can we make a difference. And one of the things that I think makes us unique, and that we are, you know designed for this is the fact that we have the far reach I call us the three C's were convener, a collaborator, and a catalyst, meaning that convening we can bring those sectors of the community together, be at the business sector, the corporate sector, the nonprofit sector, the funding sector, philanthropy sector, we can bring those all together with a little bit of a hybrid organization, when we look at it that way. We collaborator we do nothing alone, we always do it in partnership with others. And we want to be catalytic, meaning that we want to bring innovative thought leadership solutions to some of the toughest challenges that are facing our region. And we do that in a very data driven evidence based manner. Because we believe that if you understand your why, if you're looking to move the needle, if you understand where you're trying to go, then you can hold yourself accountable, there's greater transparency and being able to do so which makes you a greater, you know, a better steward of those resources that have been entrusted to you. But even better partner, to those that you promise service to in other ways, though, our business model has evolved and changed because I am that transactions girl. And I believe that when you have that data available to you, then it makes sense as to why we've chosen those three strategic pillars of education, health, and financial stability and not something else. We know that people love their animals. But we're not going to do that because we believe that somebody else can probably do that better. We know that people love the arts. But we're not going to do that because we believe that someone else can do it better. But when it comes to education and financial stability and health, we believe that we were built for this. And honestly we're able to come through because of that 130 euro history where people will know us and hopefully be able to get that message out. But the organization has evolved with our community commitment. Having very specific investments and very specific outcomes, not outputs, but outcomes where we see people's lives different and better. And and of course, over the years have taken on on racial equity effort, because we just simply go where the need is.

JB Holston  15:18  
If we talk about health as one of those categories, Rosy and racial equity and health, and obviously COVID, has raised the profile of the need there, even even more, but how does the United Way affect positive change in that category and health for racial equity? 

Rosie Allen-Herring  15:41  
Sure, you know, just in health alone, you know, over the years, it has always been about dealing with some of the chronic diseases that plague our community. And here in the Washington Metropolitan Area, we tend to really use what I call the Chamber of Commerce lingo, meaning that, you know, we're in six of the top 10 highest earning incomes in the country. So people would think, you know, there is large s here, you know, it's one of the fittest cities, you know, and then it becomes, you know, sort of kind of low unemployment, all of those attributes, that may I say one thing, okay, well, that's a place that I want to go and be. But what I've chosen to focus on is yes, we have all of those things, which are great. But then you have to look at for those who can't take advantage of, of the the jobs that we have here, which are generally higher order higher thinking jobs, because there are certain segments of our community that are very low literacy rates. We also for those that are fit, and have no health challenges, there are those with highest, some of the highest chronic disease rates in the country. We're the number two food desert in the country, Mississippi, of all places. And so when you look at issues like that, with, you know, the highest infant mortality rate in the country, and so when you look at those things, it's almost looks like a dichotomy almost, is it a tale of two cities? Because what is it that we're saying, so I say, let's focus on the gap. When you look at where all of those things are, that are great and attributes for us, and we look at those that may not necessarily have the ability to be able to tap into those assets, then let's look at that gap. And for some, that gap is very, very wide. So let's go there, because we know that if we're able to shorten that gap, lessen it, those lives are going to be changed and put on a trajectory to success that they could not have gotten on their own. And so that's part of the calling of what we need to do. And, again, when it comes to the racial equity piece, people, you know, of course, in the last, you know, 12 months or so, it's become sort of a calling card. But it's something we've been doing now for about five, six years, because it wasn't as explicit, or we're not calling it out because of what happened with George Floyd's murder. But if you have seen, you know, where those gaps exist, there is a racial imbalance that's there, where, you know, they've been disproportionately impacted, even with the COVID crisis, you know, eight of 10 COVID tests, I mean, COVID cases, and COVID deaths in the District of Columbia alone have been that of the black and brown community. So it's not about what I feel, is not about what I think is a nice to do. It's about this is the issue that we have, it's staring us in the face, and we have to make certain that we're bringing solutions to the pain. 

JB Holston  18:41  
Yeah. If you think about recovery from COVID, small business, small business owners have been particularly hard hit and those have historically traditionally been more women owned, more black and brown. How, how are you thinking about this year, the next 18 months and the United Way mission in light of that recovery? Question? And and how far along are we do you think? 

Rosie Allen-Herring  19:09  
Well, you know, the financial stability effort is critical. Because I think when we look at the evolution of just what's happened with COVID, you know, this time last year, we were all in the thick of the crisis. Because the first part of the crisis, we're, you know, no one saw it coming. Let's be clear about that. None of us had a crystal ball. But when we found ourselves JB in the moment, no one could have anticipated that would last as long as it has. So that first and foremost is is a little bit of a shock for most. But when we look at the evolution of the of the crisis, it started off with our kids being out of school. That was the first thing we were talking about. And then what bubbled up was, oh my gosh, these children are not getting meals because the only nutritious or healthy meal they were getting is when they were in school for some of our children. And so that man became a food piece and food insecurity became the first rock And then you realize, oh my gosh, you know, they're not going back in a month, they're going to still be out. So then it became, you know, access to technology, you know, for our distance learning. And then it became, oh, connectivity, you know, I can have a laptop or Chromebook. But if I don't have internet access, what does that do, disproportionately impacting communities of color. But then as we continue to go, then we saw the jobs piece, many of our low wealth jobs, many of them from small businesses, those jobs were either considered essential, meaning that if you don't work, you don't eat and you don't get paid. And many of those wages if you don't work on not recoverable. So we then saw that economic impact. And, of course, for this region, with with so much of the hospitality industry, if you will, being dependent, as a part of our tourism, and all of that we have to do for our economy, it became a big sore spot for us as a region, because we saw our region shut down. And so when you look at what's happening with small businesses, which are the incubators for so many of our jobs, that's where the job growth sector is coming from. And so as an economics major grow, you know, in undergrad, who thought I wanted to work at the Federal Reserve, when I grew up and be a policy being counter, this is something that we have to understand what goes into how our families make these decisions. It's not just the price of a gallon of gas, or a gallon of milk, it's really looking at what are the indicators for us as a community and as a region. So COVID continues to take us in that path, the jobs issue is still very much a challenge. You mentioned it in sort kind of over the next 18 months, quite honestly, I think we'll be dealing with the residual effects of this issue for the next 18 to 24 months, quite honestly, because we are not simply going to come back to normal, this is not flip a switch when all of the jurisdictions have allowed their their restrictions to be lifted, people aren't just going to go back again, you're not going to get those wages back, those jobs won't necessarily be there. commercial real estate, many of these small businesses are going to take continue to take those residual hits. So I think that this is not about getting back to normal is not even for us talking about a new normal, it's just how do we get to a better normal? 

JB Holston  22:11  
Yeah, yeah, one of the conversations and I know you, you're doing a lot of work, of course, in education, but one of the conversations now is that if we're going to create more pathways, for more people to kind of the new world of work, the new jobs, etc. Oregon is organization companies are going to have to do a better job at providing a full suite of support. For those learners, it's not enough to just say, Hey, you know, go get this, get a computer science degree at this undergraduate institution, or whatever it may be, there's going to have to be more and you know, more than just a certification as well, there's going to have to be a commitment to higher and a commitment to train the commitment, etc. Given the work you're doing in education, how do you feel? Where are the issues or where the opportunities I should say, on that frontier for us? 

Rosie Allen-Herring  23:01  
You know, for for education, I think, again, it's across the entire spectrum. You know, JB, you know, when you're looking at, of course, k 12. You know, there's an issue where we've decided that middle school, you know, was the, you know, based on all of the social determinants, and all of the determinants of success, we're really found to happen in middle school. It's not sexy, you know, kindergarten with the babies is sexy, and, you know, checking to see, you know, the kindergarten, all you need is cute. And, and but then when you look at also High School, which is what other people go, you know, are you college or career ready. That's where, where people were, and they are generally looking at graduation rates as a determinant for that. But a lot of the data that we've went back and of course, did research and work with others found that most dropouts occurred in ninth and 10th grade. And you start to generally, you know, count graduation rates in the 11th and 12th grade. So if the majority of the dropouts have already occurred, your numbers are skewed before you even start to count. But if a child leaves, middle school, on grade level, with the academic and social supports, they're four times more likely to actually graduate on time, which then puts them in that category for you to count for college and career ready. But it's also beyond the K 12 experience when you look at the community colleges, which for so long, have either been, you know, sort of kind of a default choice for those who could not necessarily, you know, go next to the four to the four year institution, or they were looking for generally some type of labor certifications, if you will. And they will also, I think, a good hub for many of our returning veterans because this area has the largest number of returning veterans than anywhere else in the country. And so having them to be able to convert those skills from being in service and active duty. I did motor transport when I was active duty and I have to convert that now to civilian life. As a commercial driver's license, if you will. So a lot of that have been in our community college. But now we recognize, because of where we are in this region, the higher order higher thinking jobs that are very much available, and they are high paying jobs, you have to have more than the mere certification. So you have to now push for those actual degrees toward something that allows you to have a long term professional career that then of course, stabilizes families, and puts them, you know, on a trajectory to greatness. And so it's education is very much inextricably linked to the financial stability, because that's where you have your determination of how far you can actually go, when you know that a high school diploma automatically starts the ability of what you can earn over a lifetime, you have to be able to break that break that that, you know, what we've been seeing for over the last, I want to say, probably 30 years or so in education. 

JB Holston  26:00  
Yeah. As you know, the partnership has decided that inclusive growth is is really a frame for the work going forward and been pretty intentional about both words that and because the idea is that and you know, I know we've talked about it, but that the most inclusive region of the country will also be the fastest growth region in the country, it'll be the place that attracts as well as retains the most talent and we're going seems like we're going into an era where certainly a lot of organizations are believed that talent will have a lot more ability to choose than might have been the case, but you're where they work, or who they work for, and how long they do it, etc. When you think about the kind of organizations involved in the partnership, which tend to be really big employers, for the most part, and you think about this objective of this region becoming the most equitable and inclusive in the country. What is the role of the big organizations in helping to get that done? How can they How can they you know, how can we collectively I'm asking you, my homework for me, but how can we how can we collectively actually assess with respect to that objective?

Rosie Allen-Herring  27:06  
You know, I think that, you know, one of the things that I love about the Greater Washington partnership, is the fact that it is so inclusive. And when I say inclusive, it's inclusive in a number of ways. It's inclusive in terms of the number of organizations that types of organizations, yes, you do have the big organizations, but you also have organizations like mine. And it's also the region where we've gone from quote, unquote, DMV to expanding that, you know, Baltimore, to Richmond, because we recognize our commuter patterns are such now, people really do come from West Virginia, and Baltimore is just a more train ride, and people do it every single day. And so for for the role that I think we all have inclusive growth, is to recognize that we all have, you know, a contribution to be made, and we should all be held accountable to make it. It's not about cookie cutter, boilerplate. Everybody in and everybody, you know, contributes this, or everybody makes this type of investment. No, it's recognizing and meeting people and industries where they are, and asking them to bring their greatest assets to the table. And then collectively, we have covered the community, not any one entity, or segment of society has the answer. Not no one does. But collectively, there's absolutely nothing we cannot handle or succeed in, because we're bringing the genius of our entire region together. And we're bringing the genius of all of the industries. Again, as I said at the outset, I'm not a philanthropist, a transactions girl. And so if you see me and not know that I haven't been at United Way for my entire career, then you'll lose off, you know, you lose out on on some what I what I thought was some of my best, you know, attributes, if you will. But collectively now I bring the balance of that hybrid situation to the table. I think that that brings us to a point where we have to recognize that we're all not so kind of marginalized, of putting a box around what we think the other person can bring. We need to just come to the table, and you'll be amazed what you find at the table. 

JB Holston  29:12  
Yeah, I think it's been our experience to date. I think people are excited about the work and say about working together on the work. Let's talk a little bit about financial stability. You mentioned it as a third pillar of the work that you folks are doing right now. What when you think about financial stability, what what, what goes into that you mentioned, obviously, it relates to education, it relates to sufficient health provision, etc. But how are you thinking about what financial stability means and how we can help provide for that?

Rosie Allen-Herring  29:41  
 Yeah. When we, when we embarked on on a lot of our community impact work, we did what we call in our community commitment. And so that was six years ago, where we had made a commitment over five years to invest, you know, what we thought was going to be about $10 million over and above what we would normally do in these three streams tg pillars, and then our board in their infinite wisdom, heard, you know, okay, well you got to do this and you got to meet some of the education, middle school students and Title One schools where there's a high propensity for free and reduced lunch, what some of the community challenges that may come with them, that all happened, but some do. And they said, No, you're not going to meet 50% of that, you got to do 100% of those. And it went from 10 million to $12.3 million. But in doing so we started what we call our financial empowerment centers. And we have five now, the first one started on the campus of Prince George's Community College. Second one, after getting a call from Sharon velva, who was then Fairfax County's Chair of their board of supervisors said, I heard what you're doing in Prince George's, I want I understand that there's another one coming, the next one will be here. And here's where I want it to go. And so we were like, Yes, ma'am. And so now we have one and Fairfax County on the route one corridor and Alexandria, then we have Prince William County, and then the District of Columbia over and Marshall heights in Ward seven. And our fifth one we just opened softly in montgomery county. And what we said with the financial assessment permit centers, are they our one stop shops, all free of charge, that allows individuals to come in and be able to access any particular service that helps them with their financial stability. So it's everything from credit, help to get access to mainstream banking services, because we recognize some in our communities are not comfortable with, or there's a hesitancy about mainstream banking services. And so they use fringe services, the ones that can least afford it are doing that, because it's the check cashing place or the title, company, business plans. For those who want to start small businesses, we help them actually craft business plan. And then to be able to access you know, those particular resources in a very, you know, I think qualified, but also non punitive manner. So we've see our job as being that quote, unquote, bridge. And those financial empowerment centers are, you know, workforce related, if you're looking for Workforce efforts, helping you to to determine where you want to go education wise, and they are literally thriving, saying on average, 13 to 1500. Families, and that, so that's, you know, for each one of those centers, per year, and so we see, you know, where there's a great deal of need, where there's a great deal of interest. And so we will continue to do that. And so that first five year commitment ended last June of 2020. And July 1 of 2020, we started our next five year commitment. And so we find ourselves now about to wrap up, you're one of them. 

JB Holston  32:43  
That's great. You mentioned one of the community college systems, Prince George, what role do they play in the delivery? Is it at their physical locations? Or how do you work with those institutions?

Rosie Allen-Herring  32:53  
actually, at their physical location, and one of their newest buildings and their and their Health Sciences and Technology Center, we have a team that's there every day, sometimes in late hours, because we recognize that people work different hours, and where they get that confidential, one on one, coaching, counseling, access to information our partners offer and provide services there. And sometimes there are workshops there and the like. But the Kelly has been a partner with us significantly, because one is not just the space. But it's also they served over 40,000 individuals that needed those services, in addition to the education that they were getting, as well. So it became, you know, what's the location near Metro accessibility? Where do people trust? Where are they willing to go? And so having that space with them on the college, and at that time, Dr. Charlene Dukes, who was the president, was just a phenomenal partnership that continues today. And now with their new president, who is in her first year, Dr. Felicia Williams, the partnership is certainly valued. And it certainly continues. And so it's been our model. But again, each center is not cookie cutter, we go with me tells us and so they have quite a bit of banking services and credit counseling and things of that nature in Prince George's, but also at Prince William, our partnership with skill source, there has been a really around workforce. And when we look them with happening in Fairfax, there's a lot of workforce but affordable housing and meet there. So it's just whatever the community needs are because we know that we are a very diverse region and we try to meet people where they are. 

JB Holston  34:34  
Yeah, that's great. Well, then we have a chance to talk about that, because that's a that's a critical frontline program for for addressing these issues. One of the rosy one of our speakers at our last board meeting for the partnership was the new Managing Director, global Managing Director for McKinsey economy and Bob sternfeld. And Bob was talking it was interesting, we talked about inclusive growth and he said that one of the. He's finding and as he talks to the 2700 partners in McKinsey around the world, I can't imagine getting emails from 2700 McKinsey partners, but he, he gets to do that. But one of the things that he's hearing from them and more importantly from the client organizations is that they're increasingly focused around what they're calling sustainable, inclusive growth. So he's adding to this notion of inclusive growth, the whole question of sustainable infrastructure, resilience, climate change, etc. And that's something that we're increasingly talking about of courses at the partnership as well. But if you think about sustainability, and you think about climate, and you think about the work that you folks are doing, and you think about our region, what comes to mind? Are we doing enough on that, on that side of things, how, how important a set of issues, does that represent for us beyond those that we're already dealing with?

Rosie Allen-Herring  35:51  
 You know, I think that that's, you know, where we have to go. And when we talk about sustainable, what we're saying is, this is not a one and done. And what we're saying is, we can't do one part of it, recognizing it's part of a larger system. So for, in my estimation, when we think about what's sustainable is something that's systemic, that we institutionalize it. So that is not seen as a one off, if you will, I'm going to help just this segment of civil society with this one particular issue. And I have no idea, you know, how it, you know, pertains to another part of this particular equation, when we build thriving communities, you can't do it, you know it with just one shot, you can't do it just with education. And you can't just do it with a job. And you can't just do it, ensuring that everybody gets health care access, if you will. So to me, when I think about what sustainability what's sustainable, is saying that it's institutionalized. Meaning that this is going to be a part of how we look at all that we do, and not have it as a quick fix or band aid. So that in the next two to three years, we have the same problem again. So sustainable says that we're going to continue to evolve and making certain we tackle all of the challenges along the way, knowing that we're on our way to everyone being able to have the same access. But knowing that they're going to start at different paths and start at different different start points. But if we're able to do that, and systematically, or institutionally deal with the barriers that have prevented us from being there in the first place, I'm a root cause kind of girl. So if you actually understand why you are where you are, then you'll know how to get from, you know, from where you are, to where you want to go. But if you never ever understood why root cause, then everything else is simply a bandaid. But I will tell you, it's tough. Those are some of the difficult decisions that have to be made JB and most, are very reticent about it. Because it's usually a big bit that you hope works out. And most people want low hanging fruit so that they can say, here's our next success so that we can feel empowered to be able to move on. But you have to have courage, quite honestly, you have to have courageous leadership to say that this is a long slog. And it's not going to be resolved anytime soon, institutionally, where we are as a country, we've been on this journey for a number of years, and how our students get to where they are why we have the disparate, you know, status that we do for many Did that happen overnight, for all of our financial stability issues and jobs. And as they continue to evolve from, you know, again, a workforce that was much more labor intense, to now much more educationally refined, we have to understand where what happened, who got left behind, and how we bring them back up to bear. You know, we have to look at health care. You know, again, we talk about what happened with COVID, with those that have the higher number of deaths, but we understood that many of those deaths was because that was the segment of society that had the most underlying conditions. And we knew that they simply couldn't fight COVID off, but they were more apt to be a low income or low wage earner that helped it felt essential that has to go and ultimately became exposed. So the very ones who could least fight it, were the ones who were probably more broadly exposed. So when we look at things from that root cause way of saying, Hey, what's the real issue here we're trying to solve for, then you're generally gonna get there, but it's going to take courageous leadership that says we're going to go at this from a systematic manner, institutionalizing this and that it's going to be a long haul.

JB Holston  39:36  
We're unfortunately going to run out of time, but I got three more questions for I know it just flies by Rosie but sorry. No, it's terrific. I appreciate I wish we had longer. But I wanted to just quickly go back to the food desert point I'm really struck by that statistic. I was really amazed by it. And I think a lot of people will hear that and say, well, boy, that should be solvable. Right? You think you'd think Why is it so hard? Or what are what are some of the constraints and, 

Rosie Allen-Herring  40:03  
you know, you talk about investments, you know, as a former, you know, housing and real estate person, you know, in terms of investments, you know, you have these these food deserts. Because we've had the disinvestment of something as simple as a grocery store, you have, you know, again, how far people have to go, to get to fresh fruits and vegetables to help them make healthy choices, we have to look at the cost. If I'm a family on a minimum wage, I'm not necessarily you know, and my choices are, I can go to Whole Foods, and pay, you know, $5, for a head of cabbage, or lettuce, or what have you, versus the Dollar Store carry out, that's going to likely be some fried food that's unhealthy for me. And over time, if I continue to make those choices, and then I have now those health challenges that come with that. And it's because it wasn't readily accessible for me, it wasn't available to me, it wasn't affordable for me. And so when we think about, you know, again, some of those kinds of systemic challenges in terms of food deserts, that's where they are. And for many, in Ward seven, or eight, where they had no grocery stores for a period of time in the District of Columbia, in Prince George's County, where certain segments of the county, especially inside the beltway, don't have a grocery store. And when you're talking about getting to the next one, it's to bus rides away the choices, you know, so it's not always that people make poor choices. Sometimes it's simply the choices they have. And so that, to me, has contributed to why we have some of the highest chronic disease rates in the country, we know pretty much where they are centered, you can write this story a million times over. But the question is, why do we want to write it over and over again, if we know better, we have to do better. And so that's why we have to say, the data tells us that we have to get fresh, healthy choices, to these segments of our population is not about who's favorite more than someone else. It's simply says, this is where you have to go, if you really want to deal with a food desert issue. But that came back to us. And we were like, let's go back and look at these numbers again. I was like Mississippi were second time. And of course, being my home state. I wasn't shocked by that. But I was shocked by the District of Columbia. But it's such a critical part of the region that I know you. And the Greater Washington partnership team looks like, looks at every day. It's the nucleus, it's the core, I'm looking at even the pieces behind you, you know, Baltimore, Washington nucleus almost, and Richmond, and you can't have one without the other one segment can't succeed without the other, we need them all collectively, to be the 

JB Holston  42:49  
100%. And, you know, if it's not working in Ward seven, it's not working anywhere. I mean, I think we have to just have that, have that have that philosophy? Rosie, if you look back at your tenure with the United Way, and you can change, anything that you've done, what would you change?

Rosie Allen-Herring  43:05  
Oh, JB, right, I didn't write that down for you. We didn't, you know, so that got our one of those thrown in for each of these conversations,we're gonna change, I think, if anything, I probablywould have moved a little faster, you know, I think, you know, I'm, I'm also somewhat deliberate, and I will find that I've become more courageous as time has gone on. And in terms of making those career decisions, or making those decisions for the organization that I think are in the best interest of moving it forward. So I probably would have moved a lot more bolder. But a lot more, you know, a lot faster. Um, and I probably would have tried to work myself out of a job, which is what I'm trying to do now, sooner, quicker, faster, but these issues remain. And I'm committed to them. But I think that, you know, I probably would have put myself on a tighter leash in terms of timeline for seeing something come to fruition. Yeah, that's great. Well, and much appreciated. 

JB Holston  44:09  
I think, you know, every leader of every organization has those challenges. That was another thing that came up in our last board meeting, just be bold. It's, it's hard to do, but usually the right, the right, the right choice. Last question. rosianna wanted to thank you again, for the for the time. What did you learn about yourself as a leader through COVID? What did COVID teach you about yourself as a leader?

Rosie Allen-Herring  44:34  
Well, I think, you know, I always thought that I had a level of empathy, you know, in terms of just being in philanthropy, but I think it's taught me to be even more empathetic. It certainly taught me to not take health for granted. And it taught me not to take the team for granted. You Every day, I had an opportunity to work with a great group of people who chose to bring their talents to United Way and the obligation that I had for them. I felt that burden every day, because it wasn't just the person who worked for United Way, it was the families that were counting on them, the families that love them, that we needed to keep them safe and exponentially, you know, you're talking to hundreds of people who love and care. And so I felt that responsibility is not a burden, it's what I asked to do. But I felt it probably even more so and COVID because there was nothing worse than hoping and praying that no one gets sick, and try to take every precaution. And then because we are so donor driven and dependent, that we didn't have to make any, you know, deep choices and cuts and things of that nature that impacted these families that then put them out there and meeting some of those those same services that we're trying to provide for others. So I think it just raised my level of empathy. But it also laid raised my level of gratitude for what I do why I think I've been called to do this we all have our purpose in life. And and I believe that I found mine to bring you know, business to the community and community to business, and keeping that document so that we can make the right choices to be able to help those to get on their trajectory to whatever greatness means and and is for for those families.

JB Holston  46:27  
Well, that's inspiring. Thank you, . Thank you for those words. My guest has been rosy on herring is the president ceo of the United Way of the National Capital Region, more importantly, one of the great citizens of the region. So, Rosie, thank you for all that you're doing. And thank you for spending time with us today on fresh take. 

Rosie Allen-Herring  46:46  
JB, thank you. And thank you to all of the team members of the Greater Washington partnership, including the board and and the council's for what you do, and bring us together as a region because of that. I know and feel quite confident that we are indeed on the trajectory to success. Thanks very much, Rosie. Have a great day. Thanks. Be well, you too.

Nina Sharma  47:13  
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Justin Matheson Turner, Christian Rodriguez and Nina Sharma. If you liked what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington partnership dot com