‘Elephant’ event convenes social services to discuss RNC impact

Hannah Lebovits HeadshotBy Hannah Lebovits, Manager, Knowledge Building, United Way of Greater Cleveland

“If you want to know the value of one month, ask the mother of the premature baby…if you want to know the value of one hour, ask the lovers waiting to meet.” — Marc Levy

I would add to Levy’s thoughts that if you want to know the value of a week, ask the many Cleveland residents who are gearing up for the Republican National Convention from July 18-21.

For some of us, a weeklong event downtown might mean a longer commute, an opportunity to work from home or a well-deserved vacation. However, for many Cuyahoga County residents and the nonprofits that work tirelessly to assist them, seven days of affected service delivery and fewer frontline workers during the RNC will bring great challenges.

United Way of Greater Cleveland does more than raise funds and disperse them; we are dedicated to working with our community partners to monitor, assess and respond to internal and external changes that present obstacles and opportunities for our sector. For months, the governmental, economic and medical centers in Cleveland have been gearing up for the RNC, but it seemed there were few forums addressing the needs of the social service sector during the RNC.

That’s why on May 4, United Way of Greater Cleveland convened more than 130 people from various fields to discuss how our sector can get ready for the RNC. The event, “The Elephant in the Room,” was co-hosted by the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and the Center for Community Solutions, in an incredible partnership that combined expertise in research, higher education and nonprofit management.

The event began on the logistics side as county and city administrators advised attendees they don’t need as much information about the week as they think they might and that most of the information needed is already available. Speakers and panelists encouraged attendees to be proactive and begin preparing but to trust that the services they regularly rely on will be in place. After hearing about the potential risks the RNC might bring, a marketing and communications specialist highlighted the benefits of a broader audience and how crucial the week can be for agencies looking to promote their work.

The speaker drew a parallel to the lasting changes to Public Square; the RNC gives the incentive to create a more robust communications plan but the conversation should not end on July 21.

At the breakout session following the presentations, attendees sat in small groups to digest what they had heard and think of ways to collaborate. A few groups stayed after the event ended to discuss their plans and map out key players and next steps. United Way of Greater Cleveland thanks all of the participants and attendees who made the event a success. As Levy reminds us, time is relative to impact, and its value can only be determined by the person who sees the most potential in their timeframe. We hope those who attended The Elephant in the Room have a greater understanding of the potential the RNC is bringing to Greater Cleveland and its social service organizations.

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