Impactful project: Race to Equity

Illuminating differences with race
Impactful project: Race to Equity
(L-R) Torry Winn, Erica Nelson, Wenona Wolf and Michelle Robinson

Impactful project: Race to EquityThe Madison area has a reputation of being among the best places to live in America, yet studies show a disparity between whites and people of color when it comes to employment, education, health, child welfare, juvenile and criminal justice and other areas. Race to Equity, a project of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, in 2013 released a report that illuminated these stark differences, especially in the African American community. The project’s staff members have since been working on ways to improve the well-being of families and children in Dane County through research, data collection, community engagement and advocacy.

Erica Nelson, project director for Race to Equity, says she and her three staff members are building on the work that has already been done by others in the community regarding these issues. Among the groups she credited with laying the foundation are the Urban League and the YWCA. “What we’ve seen since the release of the Race to Equity report is that there is sort of a redoubling of efforts to address equity in all sorts of different areas,” Nelson says. And it’s not simply the nonprofit and policy sectors that are addressing the problem, she says, but also the business world and the community at large. They are looking at “how they do their work, who they’re serving and how they’re contributing” through “a racial lens.” Nelson says she and her team members–Torry Winn, Michelle Robinson and Wenona Wolf–work collectively with dozens of organizations and hundreds of people to try to address the problem.

What is social innovation?

According to Stanford University’s Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a “novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions” and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth

Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.

Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.

Can’t be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The M List
Madison Magazine‘s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year’s list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Click here to return to the 2015 M List.