Nonprofit Matters - Dr. B.J. Bischoff


Nonprofits role in making Sonoma County healthier

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has a vision to make Sonoma County the healthiest county in California by 2020. To help make this goal a reality, the county Department of Human Services is managing the implementation of Sonoma County Upstream Investments, an initiative that encourages nonprofits and public agencies to provide quality programs that will result in achieving four goals.

Those goals are: (1) the whole community is engaged in supporting the healthy development of children; (2) community members have access to education and training and are adequately prepared for the challenges of the future; (3) all community members are well-sheltered, safe, and socially supported; and (4) Sonoma County has a thriving economy that produces economic security for all.

Since the Upstream Investments policy was launched in April of 2010, 62 Sonoma County community-based organizations have signed Resolutions of Alignment indicating their support of the Upstream Investments policy. Two of those organizations are based in Sonoma Valley: Kid Scoop News, a monthly newspaper for children, and the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center.

Kid Scoop News founder, editor, and President Vicki Whiting said, “Aligning with Upstream Investments was a clear fit for Kid Scoop News as our focus is to advance youth literacy in Sonoma County schools. These are the facts about Sonoma County: 54% of third-graders are not reading proficiently and 73% of economically disadvantaged children are not reading proficiently. Literacy is a key indicator for many things, both good and bad, including the quality of healthcare, interest in reading about civics, employment, and the future size and cost of our criminal justice system.  There is no time to waste.  The majority of these students are now at risk. Given the size of the upcoming low-literate population, we saw a perfect fit for our literacy work to align with Sonoma County’s Upstream Investments initiative.”

In an effort to have more Sonoma Valley nonprofits and public agencies aligned with Upstream Investments, County Supervisor Susan Gorin and the Sonoma County Human Services Department will host a workshop at La Luz, November 14, 2-5 p.m., for Sonoma Valley community-based organizations to learn about the Upstream Investments initiative and how their organizations can participate in creating community change.

Sponsoring workshop partners include the Sonoma County Community Foundation, the Sonoma Valley Fund, the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Sonoma Health Action.

During the first half of the workshop, Oscar Chavez, assistant director of the Sonoma County Human Services Department, will highlight progress being made toward achieving the county’s goals and how Sonoma Valley community organizations can participate as partners. During the second half of the workshop, Human Services Department staff will address the importance of implementing evidence-informed programs and the benefits of including programs on the Portfolio of Model Upstream Programs.

To be included on the Portfolio, a community-based organization that is providing services based on best practices, promising practices, or emerging practices may submit an application to the Sonoma County Department of Human Services for review by the Board of Supervisors-appointed members of the Portfolio Review Committee. The application elements include: a description of the program; a literature review that verifies the program’s foundation is built on evidence-informed practice; the program’s logic model identifying ways the program works to solve a specific community problem; an evaluation plan or actual evaluation report; and the program manual or policies and procedures.

To date, 73 Sonoma County organizations have approved evidence-informed, prevention-focused programs included in the Portfolio of Model Upstream Programs. The three organizations that are operating Portfolio-approved programs in Sonoma Valley are the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley; Santa Rosa-based Social Advocates for Youth (SAY); and the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

Oscar Chavez stated, “As a county department we value the work our nonprofit community does every day. We want to ensure that organizations have the tools and capacity to deliver strong evidence-informed programs. As they sign a Resolution of Alignment and submit programs to the Portfolio of Model Upstream Programs, the Human Services Department is better able to offer them support implementing evidence-informed programs, building capacity and serving the people they work with.”

For information about how to complete a Resolution of Alignment or how to apply for a program to be included in the Portfolio of Model Upstream Programs, visit Sonomaupstream.org. To register for the November 14 workshop, call 707.565.8797.

Dr. B.J. Bischoff owns Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm that builds the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies to better serve their stakeholders. She is Past President and Board Secretary of Impact100 Sonoma, and assist the Sonoma County Department of Human Services in its implementation of the Sonoma County Upstream Investments initiative. Contact her at bjbischoff@bjbischoff.com.

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