How the Thurston Asset Building Coalition Uses an Equity Lens to Support Community Hubs
Some of the best, strongest, and most fulfilling things in life are partnerships. From bees and flowers to life-long friendships, combinations of talent, skill, passion, and resources make everything better. Locally, the Thurston Asset Building Coalition serves to bring organizations, businesses, groups, and people together with a bold vision of “a Thurston County wherein all individuals and families are able to live, work, meet basic needs, and prosper.”
The Asset Building Coalition began in 2007 as a community initiative and is self-described as a “cross-sector coalition working to propel critical conversations and projects related to building assets among individuals and families in our community who are marginalized because of poverty and other systemic barriers… We define asset-building broadly as the strategies and supports that augment and stabilize an individual or family’s resources—whether it be income, savings, housing, healthcare, education, or food—so that they may lead healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.”
One key aspect of the Coalition is the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I.). Communications and Coordinating Director Mayra Pena explains that having a “D.E.I. strategy allows us to bring an equity lens into all areas of our work, particularly with our community hubs.
We approach asset-building holistically by focusing on and convening four diverse hubs; health, housing, food security, and economic advancement.” Pena says “Having an equity lens is evident in the work we do throughout the community. For example, we recently held the Opioid Use Reduction and Recovery Alliance Forum to bring awareness to the social determinants of health surrounding opioid use, and shared harm reduction and trauma-informed approaches to support individuals moving from recovery back into the workplace.” This event was hosted in collaboration with our health hub, the Safety Net Council, and our Economic Advancement Hub.
To address emerging needs and issues in the community, they have hosted collaborative learning events for industry experts, Coalition partners, and the public. In 2015 and 2016 they presented the Moving Beyond Poverty series in partnership with United Way of Thurston County, Community Foundation of South Sound, and others; in 2017 they collaborated with their food hub, South Sound Food System Network, for the South Sound Food Summit; and in 2018 and 2019 focused on paid sick leave, behavioral health and the opioid crisis.
They also work in partnership with the AARP Foundation to host free tax-preparation sites and tax education. From 2016 to 2018, these helped more than 9,000 people in Thurston County alone and brought in nearly $7 million in tax refunds thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Pena explains that the Asset Building Coalition is under the fiscal sponsorship of the Thurston Economic Development Council’s Center for Business and Innovation. Over the years, the Coalition has added more than 100 nonprofit, for-profit, and government groups to their list of active partners and community hub leaders.
Upcoming partnerships will focus on more traditional asset-building during these uncertain economic times. The Coalition is partnering with Enterprise for Equity to help teach financial education and know-how that will serve and support Thurston County’s low-income community. Enterprise for Equity has a mission “to ensure that people with limited-incomes in the South Sound region have access to credit, technical assistance, training and support for small business development. These services are provided with the belief that people can and do transform their lives as they bring their strengths, initiative and dreams to their entrepreneurial efforts.”
Hillary Detamore, CEO of Olympia’s YWCA and part of the Coalition family is proud of the work they do. “At [the Asset Building Coalition] we know that we have to focus on uprooting the deeply embedded causes of inequity while at the same time supporting community partners that are responding to the day-to-day struggles of individuals and families. We’re working together to focus on both aspects of this important work.”
Read more about this amazing partnership at www.ThurstonABC.org and welcome in a new D.E.I. to Thurston County families and communities.