A year of work among Loudoun’s nonprofits and human services agencies has produced a set of overarching strategies to better coordinate the work of the county’s humanitarian organizations.
The new Loudoun County Human Services Strategic Plan, unveiled at the Board of Supervisors meeting June 2, is a massive list of 103 projects around five goals over five years. Those five goals include closing service gaps for vulnerable or underserved people; addressing social determinants of health in Loudoun, the conditions under which people live and the affect those conditions have on them; integrating Loudoun’s human services to optimize access; developing and coordinating resources and funding to meet the county’s growing needs; and strengthening the community and network among human services providers in Loudoun.
It was developed with work from more than 120 experts from 67 organizations, as well as input at eight community workshops and from more than 400 people in an online survey.
The plan also comes with a new committee, the Loudoun County Human Services Strategic Plan Advisory Committee, which is being assembled under Assistant County Administrator Valmarie Turner’s leadership. It will include senior government staff members from county departments like Family Services and the Health Department alongside nonprofit leaders, the schools, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from among the people served by Loudoun’s human services organizations.
The Loudoun Human Services Network, a growing group of area nonprofits, played a central role in devising the new plan. Chairwoman Carol Jameson, the CEO of HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, said, “there’s a lot of enthusiasm among the members.”
“We now have 50 members, so we’re really large, which is great,” Jameson said “I’m just so over the moon that we have so many nonprofits joining us. So, with 50 members, that’s a lot of potential folks that I want to serve on the advisory committee.”
But nonprofits outside the network may still help, particularly in subcommittees and working groups to tackle specific topics. Then, Jameson said, the work of that advisory committee and its subject-specific subcommittees can help lay out a five-year roadmap.
“That will enable us to start building more concrete, measurable objectives that we want to try to reach,” Jameson said. “And key in any strategic planning is you set yourself an objective, you implement it, see how did it goes, how do we measure it.”
The plan also highlights the collaboration among Loudoun nonprofits—while they often must compete for funding, including from the county government, they often also find ways to cooperate.
“I think the conversation has been more about the enhanced impact that can be had when organizations work in at least a cooperative fashion, and may be moving toward a more integrated fashion where they’re serving clients,” Jameson said. She pointed to a collaboration between her organization and Loudoun Hunger Relief, which operates a food pantry at HealthWorks. Many of the people who visit the center, which provides healthcare to people with limited or no health insurance, may also need help with food.
“It’s opening up those sorts of doors to think how do we complement what we each do,” Jameson said. “At the end of the day, we’re doing this to better serve the community.”
“It unlocked huge opportunities,” said Amy Owen, Executive Director of the nonprofit funding organization the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, which also played a central role in creating the plan. “In fact, we at the Community Foundation anticipate that some of our donors will look over those action items and see where they might plug in their personal philanthropic resources to see where the greater good can be met, so I think it really opens doors.”
But Owen is concerned the plan’s sheer scope and size may make it unwieldy.
“I think the biggest challenge we were faced, because so many individuals and businesses and nonprofits and government leaders were involved, was to stay focused,” Owen said. “… To some extent we may have failed, we may have created such a large list of things to do that it may feel overwhelming for the next committee that takes it on, but staying focused was important to be sure that they identified low hanging fruit, things that are easy as well as really high-impact opportunities.”
That will fall to the advisory committee, which will come up with an action plan. Turner said she hopes to have the committee up and running by September.
During the Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) wondered how supervisors should make sure the plan turns into action instead of getting lost. And Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) cautioned “any time you do one of these things, now it’s only as good as whether you actually implement it.” He said he would like to make sure supervisors are referring back to the strategic plan—particularly during annual county budget deliberations.