2014 Annual Report

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CAN - proud legacy and a  promising future 


CAN staff: Kevin Paris, Research Analyst; Mary Dodd, Assistant Director; Vanessa Sarria, Executive Director; Hannah Brown, Program Coordinator
This will be my last Annual Report for CAN, as I have accepted a position with Austin Mayor Steve Adler's Office. We are in a time of great change but also great opportunity to shape the future of our community.  It will be a privilege to serve in the Mayor's office and use the knowledge, relationships and skills gained through CAN to help our community pave "a new way forward". 

I have served as the Executive Director of CAN since March 2007. What I have been the most proud of all these years is the continued commitment of CAN's partners. The fact that so many "show up" for the dialogue and are willing to learn from each other gives our community greater hope of serving families in a holistic way and closing the opportunity gap. Our community's challenges can only be confronted through collaboration across jurisdictions, disciplines and issue areas. And this takes developing "relationships" and "trust" which are fundamental to CAN's work.


In looking back over our accomplishments this past year, what comes to the forefront in my mind is the extent to which CAN partners are committed to addressing the issues of equity and opportunity, both in their organizations and through CAN.

I have great faith in CAN's amazing, talented team.  They are committed to this work.  Never before have I felt that CAN was as well staffed, organized and supported as it is today.
Thank you for giving me this amazing experience and for supporting CAN's work.

Vanessa Sarria 
CAN Executive Director 





Highlights of 2014 Accomplishments 


CAN Dashboard: Setting a Common Agenda

CAN published the fifth annual CAN Community Dashboard Report. This report and its accompanying website, www.cancommunitydashboard.org, have become a signature product of CAN. This year, in addition to providing data and analysis of demographic trends and data updates for each of the indicators, the report also summarized the key barriers and policy recommendations to address our community's changing needs. 


Vulnerable Populations: Barriers and Solutions

The CAN Community Council hosted 8 forums on vulnerable populations, deepening CAN's understanding of issues and needed system changes related to the aging, children & youth, immigrants, people with disabilities, people with criminal histories, and veterans.  The Community Council shared what it learned from these meetings in a presentation to the CAN Board of Directors. The findings, data and recommendations shared at these meetings are now being incorporated into the CAN Dashboard website. 


The State of the Safety Net 

Almost 500 people attended four Safety Net Forums that were hosted by CAN in 2014.  These half-day forums were a follow-up to a CAN report published in January of 2014, "Our Community is Changing - Are We Ready? The State of the Safety Net for the Austin Metro Area." The Safety Net Forums brought together policy makers, service providers, consumers and community members to share information about resources available in our community and to talk about how we can better address the needs of this changing community. These forums resulted in the development of 7 person-centered themes for changing the way organizations serve our changing community.  The following video provides an overview of the forums...  

Overview of CAN Safety Net Forums 
Overview of 2014 CAN Safety Net Forums


Voices from the Street Community Engagement Summit

For the past several years, CAN has convened a Place-Based Planning and Community Engagement Work Group comprised of community engagement professionals, planners and neighborhood leaders.  Participants have shared information about place-based planning efforts in Rundberg, Rosewood, Dove Springs, St. John's, Colony Park, and other neighborhoods.  A subcommittee of the Work Group helped to plan and convene the Voices from the Street Community Engagement Summit in November of 2014.  About 115 people who "do" community engagement in their work, neighborhoods, schools and places of worship came together to network, share ideas and learn from each other.  


Cultural Competence, Diversity & Inclusion 

CAN's Cultural Competence, Diversity & Inclusion Work Group helped update and expand CAN's Cultural Competence, Diversity & Inclusion on-line tool kit.  The Work Group supported CAN's Safety Net Forum on Cultural Proficiency and Language Access in September. Two projects that will continue into the new year are a Language Access Survey and plans for Cultural Competence, Diversity & Inclusion training for senior staff in the CAN partner organizations.   


Prevention and Intervention 

CAN conducted an inventory of local prevention and intervention service providers to inform development of collaborative action needed to prevent adverse childhood experiences and provide intervention services. The survey instrument and process was developed with an advisory committee comprised of Children's Optimal Health, Children & Youth Mental Health Planning Partnership, ReadyBy21, Texans Care for Children, Austin/Travis County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, and the Trauma-Informed Care Consortium of Central Texas. CAN conducted interviews with 100 people and 70 organizations to obtain responses to the inventory. This inventory subsequently lead to a series of presentations that helped enhance awareness of adverse childhood experiences and prevention/intervention efforts underway.  A presentation of key findings made to the CAN Board in August of 2014 is linked here.


Ready by 21 
CAN updated the Ready By 21 Dashboard of indicators that helps our community gauge whether our children and youth are ready for school, work and life.   

Continuing to set the table for dialogue

Many of the conversations of last year will continue into this year. The CAN Board of Directors approved this  2015 CAN Work Plan.  



 CAN Partners


Austin Chamber of Commerce

Austin Community College

Austin ISD


Austin Travis County Integral Care
Capital Area Black
Chamber of Commerce
Capital Metro

Central Health

City of Austin
City of Pflugerville

Community Justice Council
Del Valle ISD
Goodwill Industries
of Central Texas
Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce
Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Huston-Tillotson University
interfaith Action of    Central Texas
Manor ISD

One Voice Central Texas

Seton Healthcare Family


St. David's Foundation


St. Edward's University


Travis County


United Way for Greater Austin


University of Texas at Austin


Workforce Solutions - Capital Area


  CAN Vision
Our richly diverse 
community will be healthy, safe, educated, just and compassionate where all people work together to achieve their full potential and celebrate their lives.
CAN Mission
CAN is a partnership of governmental, non-profit, private and faith-based organizations which leverage mutual resources to collectively improve social, health, educational and economic opportunities in our community. 
   Connecting and Informing


Stay connected with and informed about community issues and planning efforts...


 Summary of 2014 Accomplishments 


 2015 Work Plan 




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Appreciating CAN's Legacy      


A brief history:  
At the CAN Appreciation event on Friday, January 9th, we were fortunate to have 17 of the past and current Chairs of the CAN Board in attendance. This allowed us to get the great photo you see below, but it also reminded us that CAN has a rich and important legacy in our community.
Front row
Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire (1995), Austin Mayor Gus Garcia (1996), Earl Maxwell (1997), Travis Froelich (1999), District Attorney Ronnie Earle (2002), Austin City Council Member Raul Alvarez (2004)

Second row
Joene Grissom (2005), Austin Community College (ACC) Board Trustee Mark Williams (2006), David Balch (2007), Travis County Attorney David Escamilla (2008), Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen (2009), David Evans (2010)

Third row
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt (2011), Ashton Cumberbatch (2013), ACC Board Trustee John-Michael Cortez (2014), Erica Saenz (2015), Jeremy Martin (2015 Vice-Chair)

Former Chairs unavailable for this photo
Austin Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman (1998), Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe (2000), Sandy Dochen (2001), Mary Daigle (2003), and Alan Miller (2012) 

*Many of these community leaders served in various elected positions in past years, so we chose to list them by their most recent elected position.
In 1975 (40 years ago), the Social Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) was formed by the City of Austin, Travis County, Austin Independent School District and the United Way. SPAC was formed to collectively consider applications for social service funding, influence local social policy, identify common priorities, and gain a common understanding of community need.

In 1992, the organization was expanded to include other partner organizations that influence social service delivery and was renamed the Community Action Network. In 2013, CAN was renamed Community Advancement Network to better align with its new mission to "collectively improve social, health, educational and economic opportunities in our community". CAN's membership was further expanded and is now made up of 25 partner organizations.   

CAN Welcomes New Leaders for 2015    

Jeremy Martin, Vice Chair; John-Michael Cortez, Past Chair; Erica Saenz, Chair
CAN Board of Directors
Erica Saenz, Assistant Vice President for Community and External Relations for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, will Chair the CAN Board of Directors in 2015. Jeremy Martin, Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Regional Infrastructure for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, will serve as Vice Chair of the CAN Board of Directors in 2015. 

CAN thanks John-Michael Cortez, Community Involvement Manager for Capital Metro, for his service as Chair of the CAN Board of Directors in 2014. 

The CAN Board of Directors is made up of Board members and executive leaders of the 25 CAN partner organizations. 
Eileen Schrandt, Vice Chair; Anne H. Harutunian, Chair; and Kirsha Haverlah, Past Chair

CAN Community Council
Anne H. Harutunian, Director of Harutunian Engineering, Inc., will serve as Chair of the CAN Community Council in 2015.  Eileen Schrandt, Director of Community Development for the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, will serve as the Vice-Chair of the CAN Community Council in 2015. 

CAN thanks Kirsha Haverlah, Director of Government Relations for Travis County Constable Precinct 5, for her service as the Chair of the CAN Community Council in 2014.  


The CAN Community Council is a self-appointed board of individuals who reflect the diversity of interests, concerns, organizations, issues and populations of the Central Texas community. The role of the Community Council is to provide a link between the community at large and the CAN Board of Directors.  Click here to learn about applying to serve on the CAN Community Council.