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Face facts: While task forces convene, Charlotte’s neediest stay that way

Audience members listen during the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force presentation last March.
Audience members listen during the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force presentation last March. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

In response to “In Charlotte, we need research and action” (Dec. 23 Opinion):

It is not surprising that Foundation for the Carolinas CEO Michael Marsicano authored a defense of the use of task forces to solve community problems. He is the ringmaster of the circus of community task forces our community has blindly followed as he has led us through one failed process after another.

Consider former FFTC-led efforts like Project LIFT, Community Building Initiative, Voices for Choices, Executive Leadership Corps, CMS Education Task Force, the Executive Leadership Council and the United Agenda for Children. These efforts drained millions of dollars from our public and private coffers and produced little to no impact for the people they were intended to help. Perhaps these efforts were not “top of mind” when Marsicano penned the defense of his work.

It’s long past time to pull back the curtain and expose the sad truth. Despite years of work addressing reading and upward mobility, our children still can’t read and we are still last among major cities in opportunities for upward mobility. Child abuse, neglect and hunger are on the rise. Homelessness has not measurably improved, and racial tensions are arguably at an all-time high. Success cannot be claimed until credible data can show improvement in these areas.

The task force model consistently used by the FFTC can be effective when designing a park, a walking trail or an art gallery. The outcomes of these types of efforts do not affect the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors. When it comes to human services, however, the outcomes are truly a matter of life and death. And, as has been shown time and time again, task forces are not the answer! We have had enough activity – what we should demand now is impact.

willmiller
Will Miller

When the Opportunity Task Force was being formed, a key community leader confided to me that “we already know the answers – we just need to go through this process to ensure everyone’s buy-in.” Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Charlotte’s leaders are guilty as charged.

It is time to face the truth and admit that we have failed our most needy. The only way for us to create meaningful and systemic change in our human services delivery is for new, strong leaders to focus resources on evidence-based, best practices which can easily be discovered using Google.

Charlotte is in desperate need of new leadership. It is past time to turn the reins over to people like Amy Chiou and others who think like her. We need more leadership like hers for the good of everyone in our community.

Miller is the founder of Social Venture Partners Charlotte. Email: willmiller22@gmail.com.

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