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Change and Empowerment – United Way of Greater Cincinnati – C to C, The Commitment to Community Podcast

May 10, 2022

Our newest episodes of C to C take our “show on the virtual road” expanding into Oswald geographic markets. This episode brings two amazing leaders together, who just happen to also share the same name. Thank you to Moira Weir, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, and Moira Lyon, Senior Vice President and Market Leader, Oswald Companies.




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SCHMITZ: Hi, it’s Christina. We’re back with another episode of C to C the commitment to community podcast today. We’re here with Moira Weir and Moira Lyon. So it’s a double feature. It’s coming from Cincinnati. We’re so excited to have both of you. How are you today?

WEIR: I’m great. Thank you. It’s nice to be with you. And it’s nice to meet my friend Moira.

LYON: And likewise. Thank you, Moira, for joining us today for this podcast. And certainly we’re excited to learn more about what United Way in Greater Cincinnati is doing and all the initiatives that you have driven here for our community.

SCHMITZ: Would you mind starting off by introducing yourself, your role, your career path, and how did we cross paths with Oswald?

WEIR: Yes. Well, my name is Moira Weir. I’m the President of United Way Greater Cincinnati. I’ve been in this role a little over two years. I started on March 16, so right in the beginning of what became a major pandemic. I think many of us didn’t expect it to continue on as it has. But it’s been a very challenging yet exciting opportunity. I started in this field, so to speak. I was initially in the business sector and was a mentor to a foster child. And that experience was just so moving to me in ways that I’m forever grateful. I say that because I’m able to do something I’m really passionate about every day at work. But what I saw in that experience was a foster child who had really no control over her destiny and needed her family. She was oftentimes the only black person in the room, and people were making decisions about her. So I really became passionate about advocacy on her behalf. Then I thought to myself, well, if I’m really that passionate about it, I need to do something about it. So I ended up trying to get a job in social work couldn’t because I didn’t have the credentialing, so to speak, the degree.

So I ended up getting my bachelor’s, and my master’s in social service administration. Then I really flipped my career and was on this management track. I had a business degree and MBA, and I became a front line social worker in child welfare. And I found that to be the best job I ever had. And then it taught me a lot about humility. It taught me a lot about resilience, seeing families have tremendous pain and suffering and trauma, yet hope and the ability to overcome obstacles that I often wondered if I could even do. So this opportunity and I worked my way up to the child welfare system, the public sector work for more than 20 years, and then really thought about how we really changing systems and getting ahead of the challenges because so many of our families were so deep into crisis by the time they hit the public sector. So this opportunity, the United Way, has been really awesome. Because I’m able to navigate about true system change and like how we’re really disrupting systems and breaking down barriers for families. And in this role, I got to meet my friend Moira Lyon because she has been an awesome supporter and I have been very involved in the work that we do was leading a couple of different initiatives before I even arrived Tocqueville Soceity…and we have these wonderful lunches and she was helping to guide us through that. So we connected early on and since then has developed not only a business relationship, but I’d like to say a friendship. In addition to that, Moira and her expertise also helped me navigate some challenges that we were having at the United Way around insurance, healthcare, and lots of things like that. She jumped right on and her team was awesome and really helped us plan our benefit package, as well as other things to make sure we were more efficient, we were more cost effective, and they’ve been awesome partners and really helping us think through strategically how we can better position ourselves so that we truly save the donor dollars for the program and the needs of the community. So that’s my story. I’m sticking to it.

SCHMITZ: That’s awesome. Moira Lyon, can you share a bit about your experience?

LYON: Thanks, Christina. So as Moira mentioned, I have been involved in the Tocqueville Society as one of the co-chairs prior to Moira’s arrival as our new CEO. And ever since then, to her point, we have been fast friends and certainly business partners in many areas and leaning on each other for challenges and new ideas. And it’s been really fun to see her success in our community and making a different impact than we’ve ever seen before for the community with United Ways leadership. We are very grateful for Moira’s leadership and the team that she continues to develop for United Way of Greater Cincinnati. And we will continue to support their mission and all they do for our community, definitely.

SCHMITZ: And many of our viewers or from across our firm have different experiences with United Way in their own community. Who specifically do you serve? Maybe from an audience, geographic territory, range of program services? Can you help paint a picture of your organization?

WEIR: Yes, I’d be happy to. So we call ourselves a Greater Cincinnati, but we serve nine county areas. So Hamilton, Claremont, Brown. Then in Kentucky we have Kenton, Campbell, Boone, Grant, and then in Indiana, we have Dearborn and Ohio. So we’re nine counties. This United Way has deep history, been in our region for more than 100 years, and we do both a variety of investing in organizations that are working with us in our mission around economic well-being for all in our region, as well as delivering our own services, whether it’s through two, one, one, or some specific projects that we do, whether it’s for the Project Lift, which is really maximizing public private dollars to help families remove barriers or a black led social change or a stable family. So we have some of our own programming. And we also at the heart of what we do really too, is around policy and advocacy. How do we take what we’re learning to really, truly see system change by having a robust advocacy and policy agenda for our region.

SCHMITZ: What about in the diversity, equity and inclusion space? What are some of your efforts, commitments or the role within your community in this area?

WEIR: So really, if we think about equity and inclusion, that’s at the heart of our mission. When you think about inequalities and how systems have things unintentionally baked within them, much of the work that we do in our hallmark areas, I like to call them around quality education, basic needs, financial stability, as well as health. It was really baked in. That is the need to make sure you always are providing equity and inclusion. And we know historically that Black and Brown communities have not always been at the table or feel like their voices have been heard. And we also know they have been disproportionately impacted, particularly through COVID. Disparities became even wider than the gaps. So we’ve been really intentional as we build upon our history to make sure that we are addressing those gaps and really inviting those in community to help co create solutions. How do we talk about these injustices and how we break down these barriers and really think about how we can lean in together and learn? And some of the things that I’m super excited about, we have a couple of different programs specifically. One is called Champions in Change, and the other one is Black Empowerment Works. That’s where we started. That really before I even came to United Way in 2017. That was really about engaging Black organizations and leaders, making sure we’re being intentional about not only funding but also system support and then redesign and also making sure we are getting coaches and mentoring so that entrepreneurial shift and things like that could be more robust and supported in those areas.

SCHMITZ: Moira Lyon, can you talk a bit about just having that connection within the community from a corporate partnership standpoint, we know that United Way is much more than a fundraising campaign, and Moira and her team are transforming the United Way into an impact organization. Can you shed some light on this?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, and thanks, Christina. The initiative that Oswald has heavily invested in for an insurance perspective is our partnership with Taylor Oswald. That relationship that is minority run and operated is a critical part of our business at Oswald companies to make sure that the business and the communities that we serve look and feel like the people that they work with. We are very strategic in making sure that the alignment of not only our work from an insurance perspective, but where we invest our employee owner dollars into the communities reflects the diversity and inclusion of our communities and all that we serve. I’d love for you to highlight as well the major donation that was made locally and how that came about and where those funds are going to be spent and what you’re excited about most that going towards well, thank you.

WEIR: So, yes, as Moira Lyon mentioned, we were surprised. Last year, MacKenzie Scott gave us a 25 million donation unrestricted for system change work. And specifically, she really was interested in how we were talking about not doing just programming. Programming is important, but really how are you going in and talking about addressing the barriers to keep families where they are? So that was part of we had been talking since I arrived at the United Way about really doing things in a constructive way. How do we deconstruct the system so that all families can thrive? So we’ve been messaging that our framework has been all around that. And part of that became even more relevant when we saw during COVID that we know that families go to those they trust most, which is those in the community. And that’s perhaps not the well branded organizations. Maybe they’re not so well branded. They’re faith based leaders. So we’ve been very intentional when you think about equity inclusion, about engaging over 155 either faith based leaders, nontraditional organizations and brought them to the table. So MacKenzie Scott s really liked that model and wanted to support us. So we’re using her dollars as well as the dollars we raised in the community about how do we then co create solutions with families and individuals.

So we spent the last year collecting rich conversations opportunities from families who are telling us what they’re seeing is the gaps, what they believe are the barriers. We measure that up against the data. And we also talk to the provider community and say, what do you see as the gaps? And we then co created solutions around the community. So we are laser focused on making sure that we are, of course, always wanting to make the immediate need. But then how are we all laddering up to really break through the barriers that keep families from having true economic mobility? So the MacKenzie Scott money is going to help us do that. And we’re excited to be able to measure system change. Work can take generations, but we want to be able to measure incrementally how we are changing poverty rates or how we’re changing home ownership or black led business ownership. What are we doing to really make sure all children are thriving in school, whether they’re in early education or they’re graduating from high school. So those are the areas that we tend to really focus in on.

SCHMITZ: That’s incredible and transformative. Thank you for sharing that. Is there anything else before we break today that our audience should know about your organization or community or what’s next on the horizon.

WEIR: Lastly, I’d like to say just to Moira Lyon’s credit is Oswald is very much involved in the community. They show up at lots of different opportunities, whether they’re helping through volunteerism engagement, financial investments and they’ve been great partners not only to the United States, but to many nonprofits in our region because they really see that as an opportunity for them to be community focused. And it’s really the companies in our region that make us successful and so we’re super grateful for the partnership.

SCHMITZ: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for taking the time today and sharing with us. We look forward to sharing your information and social media so people can continue to follow you in the future. Thanks again.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and web formatting.

Introducing the C to C podcast, an oscast by Oswald production

Commitment to Community is a core value of Oswald; it’s the foundation of who we are and the purpose behind all we do. The C to C podcast provides a platform for nonprofit partners to share their stories and discuss the critical issues facing their clients. Our goal: create a halo effect of service and support, inspiring our audiences to align with causes that speak to them and take action in their companies and communities.

Hosted by Christina Capadona-Schmitz, VP and director of marketing communications and leader for community engagement, this podcast series features in-depth interviews and highlights the good works happening throughout our communities.