Back in March, when it became clear that 2020 was going to be a very difficult year for so many people, I convened our team at Stand Together. We assessed the capabilities of the organization and the thousands of social entrepreneurs with whom we partner. Then we asked the question that so many Americans were asking themselves: What can we do to help?
Our best-laid plans — devised before COVID, before the worst economic crisis in a generation, and before the country’s crisis of conscience over racial injustice — were no longer the most valuable way for Stand Together to make a difference.
We reminded ourselves of what’s made us so effective over the years: The recognition that while our principles don’t change, our strategies must.
And change we did.
Stand Together and the organizations in our community helped tackle challenges we had not anticipated but were well equipped to take on. We did it by applying the core principles that have come to define our work:
A deep belief in people: When we saw that up to 60 million K-12 students would fall behind as schools closed, we made big bets on educators, families, and students to expand learning options tailored to each student’s interests and aptitudes. We’re now working with more than three dozen new transformational education projects, led by innovators like Sal Khan, that are working to usher in an era of education that helps all students realize their potential — one far better than what existed before COVID-19.
Empowering people from the bottom up: When the pandemic’s economic fallout began, we joined with our longtime partner the Family Independence Initiative to launch #GiveTogetherNow, empowering thousands of people across the country to help families hardest hit. They contributed more than $120 million to nearly 240,000 families.
When people needed immediate access to health care, Americans for Prosperity successfully advocated to remove restrictions on telemedicine and nurse practitioners, empowering more medical professionals to safely provide care for patients.
Uniting with anyone to do right: When the nation looked like it might come apart this summer, we joined with Bishop Omar Jahwar and Urban Specialists to launch Heal America, a nationwide tour bringing together a diversity of voices for frank discussions about race and racism. Together, we surfaced solutions to address deep-seated injustices in policing, education, and the criminal justice system. With each step, we helped to move our country closer to the ideal of equal rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
These are just a few examples of the thousands of initiatives our partners made possible in a year that nobody saw coming.
On that day in March, Stand Together committed to do all we can to help our country emerge stronger from this crisis than we were heading into it. Nine months later, as we turn the page on 2020, that charge continues to guide our work.
And we approach the new year having emerged stronger as an organization — with more partners, stronger capabilities, and a proven track record of bringing people together to make a difference when it matters most. At a time when others dwell on problems, we’re focused on finding solutions — and 2021 will be our biggest opportunity yet to put our principles into practice to empower the social entrepreneurs who will help lead our country forward.
This year, Charles Koch, our founder, and I also published a book. Believe in People: Bottom-Up Solutions for a Top-Down World is a call to action for anyone who wants to make a greater difference. The book is dedicated to “all those who have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place.”
There are more people who fit that description in this country today than at any time in our history. It’s because of them that we’re optimistic about our ability to overcome the serious challenges facing our country. Because there is no limit to what free people can accomplish when they are empowered. And when we Stand Together.