Strengthening our Culture of Collaboration: A Message from Gil Preuss

Strengthening our Culture of Collaboration: A Message from Gil Preuss

Friends,

Like many in our community, I recently crossed the threshold of 100 days spent mostly at home. These have not been easy days for our community as many people have faced significant challenges arising from COVID, the economic crisis, and the continuing racism and bias in our society. At the same time, this season has forced swift changes that illuminate who we are as a community and what we can become.

Like all families and organizations in Greater Washington, Federation has pivoted and shifted our work to reflect the changing world in these last 100 days. Interestingly, most of the changes made since March are not radical shifts but rather an acceleration or reimagining of work that we had already begun. That is because our work is deeply rooted in the strategic lodestar of bringing people together to identify and address the most critical issues faced by our diverse community. This defines who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

For nearly 100 years, Federation has brought together people, organizations, ideas, and resources to address systemic challenges. Historically, Federation’s value-add was the leverage of aggregated donations—by focusing resources on a few organizations, the collective impact of communal contributions was greater. Federation continues to bring together critical resources. But today, we also convene ideas, develop integrated strategies, and build new platforms to move our community’s collective agenda forward in a way no individual or organization can do on its own. Instead of simply supporting organizations, we strengthen the whole fabric of our community.

This collaborative approach has been accelerated as we learn and make adjustments in a time of sustained crisis when resources are increasingly limited, and demand is growing. For example, 703-J-CARING: the Jewish Community Support Line, created by Federation in partnership with JSSA, was born of agencies sharing ideas, risk, data, and resources. The process strengthened interagency relationships and more importantly, made accessing critical support even easier for those in need. Already, Federation’s Emergency Campaign has provided critical cash and food assistance to 1,080 individuals across 59 zip codes. The Support Line will make it that much easier to help the next 1,080.

A second acceleration in the last 100 days has been the move towards using data to help identify the most critical issues facing our community. The 2017 Greater Washington Jewish Community Demographic Study, commissioned by The Morningstar Foundation, provided information that drives our work, shaped the heart of our strategic plan, and led to new kinds of partnerships with nearly 30 different community organizations.

In the past 100 days, we ramped up the speed of data collection with the COVID-19 Impact Study, a joint initiative with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University that seeks to understand the pandemic’s impact in our region and enable data-driven support to those who need it. Knowing more about our community makes us collectively smarter and more effective in our work.

Inevitably, immediate problem-solving will continue to be needed to address new and perhaps thornier challenges. While we can’t rely on the same strategy working for the next 100 years, or even 100 days; we can rely on the same openness to change, the same commitment to strategic planning, and the same dedication to convening our community as we work together—even during difficult times, towards our vision of a thriving, engaged, connected, and caring Jewish community.

Shabbat Shalom,
Gil