Building a Bright Future Together: The Nonprofit Sector & The Arizona We Want

by Sybil Francis

The nonprofit sector plays a critical role in advancing the issues that matter most to Arizonans and helping us realize The Arizona We Want.

At the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA), we are committed to bringing Arizonans together to build a bright future for our state. This commitment is embodied in The Arizona We Want, a shared vision of success around what matters most to Arizonans and that expresses their highest aspirations for the future. This vision has been developed through a 10-year journey of polling, dialogue, listening and expressing what Arizonans say matters most to them.

But this journey has prompted an interesting question: If we know what Arizonans want, how do we know what progress we are making? CFA has launched a robust set of tools — the Arizona Progress Meters — that help us measure and report on how we are doing in the eight priority areas identified by Arizonans of critical importance to the future of our state: jobs, education, young talent, health and well-being, natural resources, infrastructure, civic participation, and connected communities.

The Arizona Progress Meters are designed to be easily understood, supported by regularly updated publicly available and trusted data, and useful as a guidepost for assessing policy and practice. CFA is working across the state to introduce the progress meters as tools to frame conversations, support longterm planning efforts, provide measurable benchmarks and support data-driven decision making statewide, regionally and locally. All in service of The Arizona We Want.

Arizona’s nonprofit sector will continue to play a critical role in moving the needle on the issues critical to Arizona’s success. Research from the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits has shown us that “Arizona nonprofits contribute 7.9 percent of Arizona’s GSP and are responsible for 12.1 percent of its jobs, 11 percent of its wages and 9.5 percent of its taxes.” Moreover, we know the power of the social return on investment of the nonprofit sector has yet to be fully captured.

This echoes what we are learning nationally, where research has found that states with stronger nonprofit sectors have seen greater economic resilience. In fact, one study found that for individuals who held jobs in 2008, “the odds of becoming unemployed were cut in half if they lived in a community with many nonprofits rather than in one with a few.”

The nonprofit sector plays an essential role as part of our civic and community fabric. At CFA, we believe that we need strong civic health and problem-solving capacity statewide to achieve success on the issues that matter most to Arizonans. We know that our communities are home, how we connect to others, and are at the center of collective decision-making. And we know that nonprofits are often at the center of our communities.

One thing has become very clear to us through our work: We all want to be listened to. We are hungry for data to help make informed decisions. And we want to come together to solve problems. Nonprofits across the state of Arizona will be critical partners in that journey.

by Sybil Francis, Ph.D., President and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona.

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