The Power of Partnership: Faster Alone, But Further Together

At So What Else, we’ve always believed that collaborative solutions are the key to moving the needle and making lasting changes. Since our founding in 2009, we’ve maintained the core philosophy that we don’t want to “reinvent the wheel.” There are plenty of other nonprofits, NGOs, community organizations, and government initiatives doing incredible work. The world doesn’t need another iteration of the same program; it needs an organization to fill in the gaps, amplify work that’s already being done, create partnerships that mutually uplift one another, and ask charities already committed to this work, “So what else can we do to help?”.

From our youth programs to our food giveaways and even our volunteer projects, our partnerships are at the center of every initiative we embark on. Every ounce of food sourced, every diaper distributed, every classroom filled, and every day of service held is the result of the hundreds of partners working together around the shared mission and values of So What Else. 

Our numbered partnerships often take many different forms. Take our partnership with the Educational Sustainability Mobilization Program at EssentialNow. Committed to addressing poverty and preventing displacement for Maryland and DC residents, the EssentialNow team, led by Eneshal Miller, worked with our staff to distribute free computers at our North Bethesda Pantry every single week for over a month. In a digital era where access to technology is vital for day-to-day necessities and professional opportunities, Eneshal’s support will have a lasting impact on our clients, many of whom have never and would never own their own computer. By distributing computers in our pantry, EssentialNow could reach more clients in more locations, expanding the scope and reach of its impact. By hosting EssentialNow in our pantry, So What Else could offer new resources to struggling clients. By partnering with organizations in this way, So What Else has been able to offer dozens of additional resources and services to our clients, including vaccine clinics, haircuts, blood pressure testing, and more.

We don’t just work with organizations to provide clientele for their resources; So What Else also works with groups to mutually uplift both of our client bases, which can be seen in our partnership with the Personal Care Foundation, for example. Committed to improving the physical and mental health of survivors of domestic violence and their children, the Personal Care team now shares space with us in our North Bethesda Pantry, providing hygiene kits to So What Else clients who have suffered from domestic abuse while bringing out Personal Care clients in need of food and clothing to our pantry. In doing so, we’re able to better support one another’s clients with resources the other lacks, creating stronger, more resilient client communities.


Hygiene item giveaway with the Personal Care Foundation


Sometimes our partnerships take the form of operational support, creating better, more robust programs for all parties involved. For example, in 2023, the So What Else Baltimore Food Program began partnering with Love and Cornbread, a group working to improve food equity and health outcomes in underserved areas of Baltimore City by providing delicious, ready-to-eat meals and immediate access to healthcare services. By working together, So What Else could provide Love and Cornbread with free, recovered produce, dramatically reducing the cost of food they had to purchase to create hot meals. In return, Love and Cornbread could create additional, ready-to-eat meals for So What Else food distributions where clients had limited access to electricity and a kitchen, limiting their ability to cook with our recovered grocery items. Since the partnership’s implementation, both programs have been a success, allowing Love and Cornbread to scale up their work while making food more accessible to So What Else clients.


Distributing hot meals in front of EastView Communities with Love and Cornbread


While these are only three out of many partnerships, they highlight the critical value of working together. Giving back isn’t a zero-sum game. We have more to gain by taking the time to work in tandem than by competing with one another for limited resources. We wouldn’t be the organization we are today without the care and support of the many groups that support us. And to all of our partners, EssentialNow, the Personal Care Foundation, Love and Cornbread, and the many hundreds we have not named, thank you for believing in us and putting your energy into our movement.

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