In October, Independent Sector member Alliance for Strong Families and Communities announced it had joined together with the Council on Accreditation (COA) to become Social Current. The announcement followed a nine-month integration process and a prior year-long exploration and due diligence process overseen by both organizations.
Social Current represents a network of thousands of social sector organizations working together to activate the power of the social sector. To learn about what led to the merger and aspirations for the new organization, we talked with Social Current team members:
- Jody Levison-Johnson, President and CEO
- Michael De Cicco, Senior Director of Marketing, Communications, & PR
- Undraye Howard, Senior Director for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Special Advisor to the CEO
- Ilana Levinson, Senior Director for Government Relations
IS: What is your organization’s mission? Tell us about the communities you serve and how your work relates to the goal of a healthy nonprofit sector so that everyone can thrive.
SC: Social Current’s mission is to advocate for and implement equitable solutions to society’s toughest challenges through collaboration, innovation, policy, and practice excellence. We work across the full spectrum of the human and social services sector: social, public, educational/institutional, healthcare, for-profit, and individual community advocates. The organizations that make up our network are diverse in their causes and the communities they serve.
As Social Current, we offer many ways for the sector to contribute and participate with the network and to exchange knowledge. One of our primary areas of focus is sector health and excellence which emphasizes a shift away from the starvation cycle that has plagued the sector for decades. Our practice excellence and policy/advocacy work will offer solutions that we believe can lead to thriving communities and a thriving sector.
IS: Why did the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the Council on Accreditation decide to merge, and how does the merger help the once-individual organizations pursue their missions better?
SC: Both organizations share a long history and vision of partnering with human service organizations to strengthen the sector. The Alliance was one of the original founders of COA in 1977. Coming together allows both organizations to harness their collective assets and rich experience and expertise to accelerate impact in the social service field and advance equity commitments.
The new organization, led by Jody Levison-Johnson, who was president and CEO of the Council on Accreditation, will engage an even larger cross-sector network of partners (beyond existing COA-accredited organizations and former Alliance members) and deepen the impact that either organization could have had alone.
IS: How did the pandemic impact your individual organizations and your plans to merge together?
SC: Plans for the merger had started before the pandemic, and the value of combining the two organizations’ work had a solid foundation established before all of the changes from the pandemic. While we did have to rethink how our organizations and our newly merged organization operates, both organizations were, fortunately, well positioned to make the shift to remote operations and it did not change the strong staff commitment to our shared work. The pandemic re-illuminated some of the harsh realities the sector faces and reinforced our commitment to come together to be a stronger force for sector excellence.
IS: How did you develop Social Current’s organizational values?
SC: Social Current’s values (unified, intrepid, just, purposeful) are closely tied to our new name. We engaged a branding firm to support the process of merging and rebranding. They worked together with the CEOs, boards, and staff of both organizations, as well as conducted surveys and stakeholder interviews. The naming taskforce helped decide on a name that conveyed change, a path forward, and the potential of activating the sector. Social Current embodies that, and our values speak to our commitment to be bold, disrupt the status quo, and advance our field and sector in new and different ways.
IS: How does the organization plan to advance racial equity?
SC: We will continue to advance our equity journey with a focus on racial equity as Social Current. In partnership with our network, we are co-creating a better society. Equity is core to who we are and what we stand for, and we use a “person, organization, systems” framework that is results-based.
We offer consulting services. resources, organizational assessments, and more to support our network in this work and to help create a sustainable pathway forward for the sector and advance leadership in this area. Racial equity is part of the work of the entire organization, embedded in all of our activities, and within every member of our team.
IS: Talk to us about the specific goals of Social Current, and your specific engagement and advocacy initiatives. How does advocacy help advance your organization’s goals?
SC: Social Current is focused on activating the power of the social sector and social sector leaders through a just and purposeful network. We promote policy issues that support the sector and put equity at the center, with an application of a trauma-informed and brain science lens. Through our policy work, we seek to achieve social sector health and excellence, improve health and well-being in people and communities, eliminate disparities, and increase economic opportunity and mobility. Advancing policies that strengthen economic mobility like the expansion of the child tax credit and supporting community-based interventions, such as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act are examples of areas we will focus on.
We also look forward to continuing to work with Independent Sector and other partners to encourage Congress and the administration to prioritize investment in support for nonprofits (#Relief4Charities).
IS: Social Current and Independent Sector seem to have shared goals of addressing society’s toughest challenges and applying the full force of the sector through collaboration to address those challenges. As an IS member, are there opportunities you see going forward for the two organizations to work together to advance all people thriving?
SC: We welcome the opportunity for collaboration and for leveraging the diversity of our collective networks. We also see a potential for continued collaboration on our policy work and EDI initiatives, to name a few. We see Social Current as positioned to support individual organizations and other networks – whatever we can do to contribute to a healthy sector and equitable society. Our goal is to augment and complement other organizations working in this space. There is plenty of work to do and we are eager to partner to achieve our mutual goals.
IS: The world is a busy place. How does Social Current hope to harness the collaborative attention of members of the social sector to take steps for progress?
SC: We are seeking to be less prescriptive and more balanced by offering engagement opportunities with the understanding of the demands on social sector leaders. The new organization is more tailored to interests, accessibility, and driven by a better understanding of different paths for being connected.
We believe the time is now to offer multiple avenues to be involved. More than ever, collaborative effort is needed to take bold actions that stop perpetuating the status quo. Social Current is committed to have true integration between research and action, particularly in support of our advocacy and practice excellence efforts.
IS: Is there anything else you would like to share?
SC: One of the great values of engaging with our network comes in experiencing peer-to-peer connection, mentorship, and a network of supportive colleagues. The expertise and experience of our network colleagues is foundational to our work. We wouldn’t be who we are without them and feel privileged to have such a strong, diverse network of passion and expertise to tap.