Nonprofit focuses on Waco development

Prosper Waco aims to end poverty in the Waco area and is convening cross-sector community partners around the city to achieve this.

Prosper Waco is a community-wide initiative that models a collective impact structure focused on bringing together collaborative, cross-sector partners to find strategic ways to measurably improve the education, health and financial security in the city of Waco.

A current project within the education initiative goal is the push for families to use a free parenting app ‘Vroom’ to help children be ready for kindergarten. The app encourages families to use household items that families already own to teach children colors, shapes and other things of that nature.

Within Prosper Waco’s health initiative goal, community partners are looking to implement a ‘community health worker program’. The community health worker would be a grassroots community member and not necessarily a healthcare professional. The worker would act as a healthcare liaison for the people of Waco and point them in the right direction toward information about healthcare and other resources in Waco.

Financially, Prosper Waco is working on a Campustown Waco initiative. The initiative aims to retain students from all three college campuses in Waco by connecting students to meaningful opportunities such as internships, volunteer options and recreational activities.

A collective impact initiative has five conditions: common agenda, backbone organization, continuous communication, shared measurements and mutually reinforcing activities.

Prosper Waco serves as the backbone organization for the collective impact initiative.

Prosper Waco has several goals within the group’s three main intiative goals of improving education, health and financial security. The two goals under education are increasing kindergarten readiness and increasing post-secondary school success. Under health, the goals are to have better access to care of citizens, decrease obesity, improve women’s health and improve mental health. Within financial security, Prosper Waco wants to increase employment, increase income of citizens and improve wealth of citizens.

Prosper Waco hopes to achieve these goals by 2020.

“If you look at the overall goals, this is the most meaningful way we can impact the quality of life in Waco,” said Malcolm Duncan Jr., Waco mayor.

Prosper Waco brings together many nonprofits, employers, religious organizations, civic groups, government agencies and others in the Waco area that have already been doing good work and helps them work together to achieve these goals.

“In the community, for decades we’ve had this constant poverty issue, around 30 percent right now,” said Christina Helmick, director of communication at Prosper Waco. “There are hundreds of nonprofits doing really good work, and with this new way of thinking, we hope to move the needle in the right direction by bringing everyone together.”

Prosper Waco does not start programs or reinvent programs but simply reinforces work that is already happening.

To do this, Prosper Waco uses steering committees and working groups. Both the steering committees and working groups are made up of community members, and some people are in both groups.

A steering committee is a group of about 40 community members. There are three steering committees each focusing on education, financial security or health.

The working groups are groups of about 15 to 20 people. Within each goal, there is a working group whose role is to collaboratively develop ideas and strategies to help address the goals.

Prosper Waco also has a community engagement council that consists of representatives from East, North and South Waco. This group hosts small, intimate house meetings to help make sure the community voice is what drives the initiative forward.

Prosper Waco came to fruition from the work of the Greater Education Alliance, collaborative groups within the health sector of the Waco community and the Poverty Solutions Steering Committee.

On September 19, Prosper Waco will host an annual summit event where community members can come and be part of the conversation of how to improve Waco. The event will be at the Waco Convention Center from 4 to 8 p.m.