Community Gaps - Social Innovation Accelerator

Community Gaps

We’re eager to support any effort that puts opportunity in the hands of all North Texans. However, we’ve identified some key areas of need in our community and organizations that address these needs will be given special consideration in the application process.


  • Higher Education Persistence
    • Within the United Way service area, 57% of graduating seniors are not college-ready.
    • Between 2010 and 2015, only 59% of first-time, full-time enrolled students seeking a bachelor’s degree graduated within six years. Those statistics drop for minority students—only 41% of African American students and 52% of Hispanic students graduated in the same time frame. When students seeking to earn an associate’s degree are factored in, only 29% completed within three years.
    • 21stcentury jobs that pay a living wage increasingly require some form of higher education. For the next generation to be successful, we need to support them until they earn a credential, not just a high school diploma.
  • Career Exploration For Youth
    • House Bill 5 established a new set of criteria for students to identify areas of career interest early and connect them with career pathways. Pathways are in one of five endorsement areas: STEM, Business and Industry, Arts & Humanities, Public Services, and Multidisciplinary.
    • Beginning in middle school, students begin to explore endorsement areas and complete career surveys.
    • For our youth to learn and be exposed to real-world settings, we seek programs that can help connect students with opportunities to explore careers in new and exciting ways.
  • Teacher Externship Opportunities
    • Many of our educators follow a traditional path to become a teacher. They attended a k-12 system, graduated high school, went to college to earn a bachelor’s degree, and then returned to the k-12 system as a teacher.  Along their journey they may have even gone on to earn a master’s degree as part of their continuing education and professional development. But, what many of them have not done is work in any environment outside the educational system.
    • Teacher externships are designed to engage educators in activities in business and industry and help them learn how classroom content and learning strategies can be applied in the workplace.
    • Externships allow teachers to improve their practices by incorporating new methods and current workforce information and seeing what skills employers need to help fill the jobs of today and beyond. All of this increases a teacher’s ability to connect theory and practice with an understanding of workplace practices and policies to increase the relevance of student learning.


  • Building Personal Financial Capability

    Access to high quality financial education classes, counseling and/or coaching can make all the difference for low-to-moderate income families. Learning the tools and techniques to managing your family’s financial future is the first step to financial stability.

    • According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), 39% of families in the City of Dallas live in asset poverty, which means they would not be able to live above the federal poverty line for three consecutive months if the major source of family income were lost.
    • 68% of Dallas residents have subprime credit scores and 16% don’t have a relationship with a mainstream financial institution.
  • Giving Kids the Tools to Save for the Future

    Studies show that children with savings accounts are twice as likely to develop the expectation to attend college compared to children without savings accounts. Providing youth of all ages access to high quality, evidence-based, age-appropriate financial education programming and access to college savings accounts give them the tools to build a better future.

    • The average grade in the most recent Jump$tart Survey of Personal Financial Literacy for High School Students (2008) was an F (47.5%).
    • 91% of undergraduates have at least one credit card yet only 26% of teens report understanding credit card interest and fees.
  • Meet Employees Where They Are with Financial Education

    The workplace is a prime location for providing adults with financial education. Training programs at work can be specifically designed to meet the skill needs of growing local industries.

    • 48% of working-age individuals in Dallas lack education beyond high school yet a growing number of living wage jobs require some form of post-secondary education.
  • Offer an Alternative to Payday Lending

    Payday lenders prey on low-income individuals in our community, trapping them in a vicious cycle of debt. We need innovative programs, services and/or products that extend credit, small-dollar loans or small business loans to individuals who either have poor credit or would alternatively rely on payday lending institutions.

    • The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) identifies “curb excessive payday and auto title loans” as one of three primary recommendations for improving financial stability in Texas.
    • 68% of Dallas residents have subprime credit scores that typically disqualify them from accessing credit at mainstream financial institutions.
  • Connect Workers with Education and Training for Middle Skill Jobs

    Middle-skill jobs, which require education past high school but not a four-year college degree, represent the fastest growing segment of jobs in the local economy. Nearly 42,000 middle-skill job openings are projected every year through 2018. The median hourly wage of middle-skill jobs is $24.47, so many offer good wages and a path to financial stability. Flexible training options, aligned with employer needs, to help more adults build basic skills and earn technical credentials at an accelerated pace would help increase the middle-skill workforce.

    • Local employers have trouble finding skilled workers for these middle-skill positions. In healthcare, many middle-skill positions take 50% longer to fill than the regional average duration for open positions.
    • In Texas, middle-skill jobs account for 55%of total jobs, but only 43% of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level. In this region, too many adults lack even the basic academic skills required to start middle-skill job training. Approximately 950,000 or 22% of the DFW adult population lack a high school diploma.


  • Promoting Access to Mental Health Services

    We need solutions to ensure that all residents are able to access affordable, high quality mental health programs. High uninsured rates combined with critical shortages in available services makes mental health care incredibly difficult for most low and moderate income families to access.

    • 1 in 5 children (0-11) experience a mental disorder in a given year (MHPI 2016)
    • 27% of youth experience disorders so severe that their ability to function is severely impaired (MHPI 2016)
    • According to US Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans have PTSD in a given year (MHPI 2016)
    • 1 in 5 Texans have mental health needs (Texas Mental Health Landscape 2016)
  • Ensuring Equitable Access to Healthy Food for Children and Adults Throughout Our Service Region

    One in four Texas kids is at risk of food insecurity each year and these numbers are even higher in certain communities. Solutions might be impacting local production and distribution, accessible and affordable food retail, or finding other ways to get healthy food to the people who need it.

    • 1 in 5 Dallas County residents is food insecure (Map the Meal Gap).
    • Texas is 7th in the nation for child food insecurity (Map the Meal Gap).
    • 70% (262,000) of Dallas County kids are eligible for free or reduced price meals.
    • Only 12% of eligible Texas kids participated in the Summer Meals program in 2014.
    • Kids who eat breakfast are 20% more likely to graduate from high school (No Kid Hungry 2013).
  • Continued Support of Programs Addressing Childhood Obesity

    Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults and are at increased risk for a host of poor health indicators. Though this health crisis is receiving more attention, systemic changes are needed to help kids be healthy and successful.

    • 46% of Dallas County kids are overweight or obese, according to FitnessGram data.
    • Fitness is positively associated with academic achievement, attendance and behavior.
    • Obese children are 70% more likely to become obese adults.
    • Obesity has a strong economic impact on job performance and overall wellness.
    • Obesity has a correlation with negative health outcomes such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and even certain cancers.
    • According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 90% of Americans believe that schools should be implementing programs and policies to combat childhood obesity.
  • Focus on Healthy Early Childhoods and Healthy Families

    Our community needs solutions to ensure that children are healthy and safe in the early years of their lives.

    • Dallas County has an infant mortality rate of 6.6, which is higher than the national rate of 6.0 (Texas Department of State Health Services 2013).
    • The leading cause of infant mortality is low birth weight and premature birth, the likelihood of both can be reduced with appropriate prenatal care.
    • However, the study found that after 2010, the “reported maternal mortality rate for Texas doubled within a two-year period to levels not seen in other U.S. states.” (ReWire)
    • Children with engaged fathers are healthier overall and their families are financially better off (National Fatherhood Initiative).
    • Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 2012), more likely to participate in federal programs (NCPTP 2016) and children born to teen mothers are less likely to receive appropriate health care and nutrition (
    • The immunization coverage rate for 2-year-olds in Dallas County was 73.2% in 2012 (Centers for Disease Control).
    • Only six programs were funded through the UWMD CIG Prevention panel.
  • Promote Equitable Access to Healthcare Services, Health, Education and Health Information

    Despite improvements in recent years, Texas still has among the highest rates of uninsured individuals. Even many with insurance struggle to find affordable and accessible health care. The health care system in this country is complicated and complex and our community needs solutions to ensure that all individuals are able to access health care and health information in a way that is useful and understandable for them.

    • Women, minorities and low income individuals are disproportionally impacted by health disparities (Texas Center for Health Disparities 2016).
    • African Americans, in particular, fare worse than the majority population on nearly all measures of health, including infant mortality; life expectancy; cancer, heart disease, stroke, and trauma incidence and mortality; and self-rated health status (National Center for Health Statistics 2005).
    • Non-Hispanic black women have the highest prevalence of obesity at 49.6%, compared to a prevalence of 35.5% for all women (Kitzman-Ulrich 2015).
    • Only 12% of U.S. adults have proficient health literacy (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion2016).
    • Multiple research studies suggest that improving health literacy could help to reduce health disparities (Saha2006).