I am that rare person who was born and raised in Las Vegas. That's one reason I relish my job at UNLV's The Lincy Institute. The institute was founded through a major donation from the Lincy Foundation just three years ago. It is a central resource and research hub that helps local nonprofits tackle our community's qualityof- life issues in health, education, and social services.
One statistic stands out in particular because it affects every sector of community well-being: Nevada is dead last among the states in receiving federal grant funding. Our tax dollars do not come back to us in social services funding. In essence, we are subsidizing the services that residents in other states enjoy.
Why? In part, it has to do with our infrastructure lagging far behind growth. That is where The Lincy Institute comes in. Here's how we're helping:
Improving Grant Competitiveness
Sadly, Nevada has been leaving money on the table simply because we didn't have the data that other locales have at their fingertips. Under the leadership of resident scholar Fatma Nasoz, the institute has made information technology a priority and is building a data repository so nonprofit agencies don't have to go to six different sources just to complete an application. For example, a faculty-led collaborative is bringing together 22 agencies to substantiate the service gaps in our local mental health programming. We also recently helped the Child Advocacy Alliance acquire, for free, a data management system that would have cost the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shaping Agency Programming
With better data and strategy help from The Lincy Institute, agencies are able to shift programming to achieve specific outcomes. A good example is the work we've done with the Clark County Department of Family Services. Two years ago we helped to forecast the money available out of Washington, D.C., to improve child well-being and assist foster youth with transition into adulthood.
Child well-being is one of those programming areas in which Nevada is struggling the most. Our efforts included co-writing a $2.5 million grant application in which we organized data to conceptualize the problem, articulated it on paper, and then proposed an innovative program model that established a new way of improving child well-being.
Bringing Better Data to Policymaking
Those of us working in social services, education, and health in the past understood the issues agencies faced, but to be honest, we often couldn't cite hard evidence. A good example is the need for resources for English language learners in our schools. This year, with the help of studies done by UNLV professors, Lincy scholar Sonya Horsford, and the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, we framed the issue by illustrating the broad impact of under-investment in education. An underdeveloped workforce is a consequence of inadequate educational support. When students are not prepared for employment they are not the only ones who suffer. Our local and state economy suffers. We use data and research to better inform the conversations that take place in Carson City, and the Legislature approved $50 million for ELL programs.
I could go on with countless examples of how the institute is using research to build vital local human service capacity and infrastructure. In fact, this summary does not even begin to scratch the surface of the impact that we are poised to make in the area of health under Marya Shegog, Lincy's director of health programs. While the full impact of The Lincy Institute won't be seen for years, I believe we're finally moving the needle. Past efforts have relied on consultants swooping in from out of state, making recommendations, and leaving town. With the community and the university's smart partnerships, Southern Nevada is tackling its own challenges.