THE MIDLANDS LITERACY INITIATIVE AND ITS PARTNERS
In recent years, the MLI has moved into a new phase of its development: working on state policy regarding adult education and literacy. MLI board members and partners believed that their initiative was successful, that their approach to curriculum and instruction worked, and they wanted to see their ideas reach a broader audience. They found a willing partner in South Carolina's state Division of Adult Education. Working with the directors of adult education, first Dr. Samuel Drew and now Dr. Cherry Daniels, MLI board members helped create a state plan for adult education in 1999-2000, a process that met the requirements of the federal Workforce Investment Act. As a result of MLI's influence, the state now requires all instructors who teach in a workplace to complete a training program—the same type of training program MLI developed for its instructors. Participation in the development of the state plan brought the MLI into the policy arena.
MLI board members also served on a committee to assess the strengths of communities across the Midlands. Committee members brought together relevant research on topics such as education, health, families, and economic development. They also looked at data on poverty, high school graduation, literacy levels, family violence, access to health care, and access to affordable housing. The resulting report, Facing Facts: A Study of Issues That Shape Our Region, is a blueprint for the work of United Way and its partners. To view this report, visit http://www.uway.org/needs.asp.
EARNING CREDIBILITY FIRST
Members of the MLI board knew from the start that working on policy would be vital to their long-term success. They waited, however, because they also knew that they first had to build credibility in the adult education and business communities. By providing high-quality services, the MLI made itself a worthwhile investment for businesses and demonstrated clearly the link between adult education and a stronger workforce. Credibility came with the visible success of their workplace and family literacy projects.