Completing the plan: How the More for Memphis plan is meant to be iterative and fluid

Over the past several months, the High Ground Team has focused on diving deep into the More for Memphis plan: What it is, why it is, and where it's taking us. This week, we hone in on how the plan will be carried out as the community works together to improve the social and economic systems and policies in Memphis. 

Backed by $8.5 million in national and local investments, More for Memphis, formerly known as Place Matters: Memphis, is a collaboration of more than 300 community partners working to improve social and economic mobility in Memphis and Shelby County.

The coalition is comprised of community members, nonprofits, businesses, and public organizations all working together to define the challenges and provide solutions for the social and economic systems and policies in Memphis. 

According to Seeding Success CEO Mark Sturgis, “We are working with a group of partners to create a governance model involving children and families in the decision-making process with local government and school districts so that everyone is on a shared agenda and living experience weighs in.” 

Sturgis also stated, “We are setting up the implementation structure to reach our priority neighborhoods and creating a selection process for service providers and organizations who can best execute the work proposed in the plan.”  

In terms of funding, the plan is still in its fundraising phase. 

“The More for Memphis plan is a $1.5 billion investment. To get started, we are raising $50 million locally to meet a match challenge from a national partner,” said Sturgis. “This $100 million will jumpstart the prioritized strategies in the plan so that we can demonstrate progress quickly and use that to continue raising money.”

With research and community engagement at the forefront and led by diverse workgroups called “Anchor Collaboratives,” this new initiative is focusing on six areas including Community Development, Education & Youth, Economic Development, Health & Well-being, Justice & Safety, and Arts and Culture. 

“Everyone agrees that we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Sturgis. “There will always be differing opinions on exactly how some challenges get addressed but this plan lays a strong foundation for sustainable solutions.”

To improve connections between systems that support families and create better pathways for opportunities, the overarching plan is meant to be a working document that can be changed and adapted depending on the need and what’s working. 

Sturgis added, “We’ll all work from the same data and feedback loops to assess what’s effective and where we need to pivot. It’s iterative, and we’ll be learning every step of the way. There’s excitement, optimism, urgency, and resolve to make this a true turning point for Memphis.” 

Social determinants can dictate and determine how well someone lives. From housing and education to healthcare and transit, they all can affect quality of life. The More for Memphis plan is an effort to address these barriers head-on and provide solutions. 

According to the More for Memphis website, the ultimate goal of the plan is to create long-lasting sustainable improvements to the resources that all Memphis residents rely on for their quality of life including education, legal, and healthcare systems. 

“Our mission at Seeding Success has always been to improve outcomes for children from cradle to career and ensure that institutions, community organizations, policies, and resources all serve that shared goal,” said Sturgis. “This is where I always hoped our work would lead to; building a new system of social impact for the benefit of children and families so that everyone has a chance to succeed.”  

While the plan is still being tweaked, some strategies are already in motion. For example, the Community Schools model is already being implemented in Shelby County, and multiple schools are in varying stages of setup because of a federal grant awarded last year.

The More for Memphis plan calls for approximately 50 Community Schools to be established over the next five years. 

Other existing collaborations will feed into the plan as well such as the regional proposal led by the Greater Memphis Chamber to pursue the EDA’s Recompete Program grant and drive $20M into Shelby County’s economic development. And there’s the legislation developed with state partners to spend down TANF reserves to support pilot programs. 
Mayor Paul Young.
Memphis Mayor Paul Young is heartened by the plan and the wide array of partners working together. 

“I’m encouraged about what the More for Memphis plan could do to align services and resources for our community,” said Mayor Young. “The collaborative aspect of this plan resonates with me and with my vision for how to change the trajectory of our city.”

The community is encouraged to get involved and can do so by learning about the plan and signing a letter of support

“We want More for Memphis to be a movement where everyone can connect and contribute in their own way and there will be multiple ways to plug in as implementation gets underway,” said Mayor Young. “But for now, we aim to get 10,000 signatures in support of the plan so that as we’re raising money and working with elected officials, we can point to it and say, “Here’s what your constituents have said they want. They believe in this plan, and so should you.” 
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Read more articles by Jeff Hulett.

Originally from Chicago, Jeff moved to Memphis in 1990 not really knowing much about the south. In fact, the first week he lived here he was suspended from school for not saying, "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am." Jeff has since developed a passion for Memphis and especially Memphis music. A member of several bands including Snowglobe and Me & Leah, Jeff works as a communications consultant with many non-profits including Playback Memphis, Church Health, Room in the Inn-Memphis and BLDG Memphis. Jeff lives in the Vollintine Evergreen neighborhood with his wife and two daughters.