We recently posted a Challenge with Community Foundation of North Louisiana, to help them Create a Community of Successful Readers. We asked Paula Hickman, Executive Director for the Foundation, to talk to us a bit about this Challenge.
Hi Paula. Thanks for spending time with us today. This is a really interesting Challenge, with the potential to have a huge impact on both students and communities. Can you tell us a bit about your organization?
2011 actually marks the 50th anniversary of The Community Foundation of North Louisiana. Since 1961, we’ve acted as a public charity, strengthening the community in North Louisiana through philanthropy. To date, we’ve awarded nearly $40,000,000 in grants and scholarships – an astounding feat when you consider The Foundation was created with just $21,000. Fundamentally, our goal is to improve our community and the lives of those in it, and we do that through our generous donors and by convening nonprofit organizations and supporting their valuable and varying missions.
One of the goals of your Challenge is to increase graduation rates in Northern Louisiana. Why are you focusing on 3rd graders instead of high school or middle school students?
As responsible stewards of the monies entrusted to us, we have a vested interest in maximizing both the efficiency and effectiveness of the work we do and the projects we support. We’ve seen compelling evidence that suggests third grade reading levels share a strong connection with high school graduation rates. If third graders are not reading to level by the end of the academic year, there is a strong possibility they’ll never graduate from high school. This evidence suggests that by focusing our efforts on children up to third grade age, we can augment the chances that these children will be more successful throughout their academic careers.
What are the factors behind Northern Louisiana’s high dropout rate?
Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn’t unique to North Louisiana. We see it in communities throughout the United States. Our hope is that solution our Challenge produces will be adopted in other communities as well. We’d love to be in touch with those communities and compare notes and outcomes in the implementation phase.
How do you expect the community to support this program?
We stand ready to partner with those in our community – whether it be the school board, business or not for profit entities – charged with implementing the solution or solutions offered. We’re expecting creative solutions to a problem that’s plagued many communities nationwide and believe our generous community will respond in concert with the Foundation to provide the necessary resources to make the chosen ideas a reality. Knowing the community here in North Louisiana as we do, we expect people to be very excited and very motivated to take the steps outlined to help our schoolchildren and support their graduation from high school. We serve a dedicated, big-hearted community.
Why did you choose to look to InnoCentive Solvers for a solution to this problem?
This problem isn’t new. It’s affected communities across our country for years. Choosing to work with InnoCentive is like casting the widest net you have in order to capture as many ideas as possible. I’ve said before in our business, it isn’t about deciding between good and bad ideas, but better and best ideas. We’re looking forward to exploring those best ideas!
What role do you think Challenge Driven Innovation can play in finding solutions to complex social problems such as this?
A Challenge is not undertaken lightly and without preparation. When you know others are out there, competing for the same prize as you, it inspires your peak performance. The intensity of this Challenge is magnified further when you realize the competition isn’t local or even national…it’s global. To state it succinctly: we’re expecting some fantastic ideas.
What do you plan to do with the solution(s) that you select?
We are serious about finding resolution to the high school dropout epidemic. We plan to work with the appropriate sectors of our community in Caddo and Bossier Parishes to see the solution implemented. Ultimately, we’d like to serve as the example for other communities on how to fix this problem.
Thanks so much for speaking with us today - and good luck with your Challenge!