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Building a Future of Equity and Justice for All: Cincinnati's Collective Impact

2/1/2024 10:00:22 AM

This blog was written by Dr. Meredith Shockley-Smith, Executive Director of Cradle Cincinnati, Founder of Queens Village and 2023 Dress for Success Cincinnati Fashion Show Honoree. With a background in Black Studies and Women and Gender Studies, she is a leading force in local initiatives addressing equity and infant mortality in Cincinnati. This Black History Month, we invited change-maker Dr. Shockley-Smith to guest write as she delves into the pivotal role of equity in effecting positive community change.


Equity is not a buzzword; it's a compass guiding us toward justice and inclusivity. In Cincinnati, we have chosen to redefine our narrative by addressing systemic disparities head on. Whether it's access to quality education, healthcare, or economic opportunities, our collective effort can break down barriers and create a more level playing field.

Cradle Cincinnati is a network of partners working across sectors to measurably improve Hamilton County, Ohio’s infant mortality rate and to eliminate racial inequalities in the health of birthing people and babies. We aim to do this by transforming systems, supporting families and amplifying Black women’s voices while empowering their ideas and actions.

We embrace a model of collective impact and truly believe that no single organization can tackle the issue of infant mortality alone. We value partners throughout Hamilton County who come together under a common goal—helping our babies live to their first birthday.

Dress for Success reached out to invite me to be the honoree and highlight the work of Cradle Cincinnati for their fashion show and largest fundraiser of the year. I enthusiastically accepted and looked forward to the opportunity to forge a deeper relationship with Dress for Success. Their vision is not only to provide assistance to women in need of appropriate clothing to interview for a job, but also to provide a stable, safe and caring environment for women as they reclaim their lives. The kindness of their highlight of our work has allowed us to form deeper connections and have an even greater impact on our community’s well-being. This is just one example of how partnerships form and lead to real impact.

Recognizing equity and justice as essential components of a thriving society is crucial for a city's success. By embracing collective impact, we can shape policies, influence decision-makers, and foster a culture of empathy and understanding. For example, every two years, we are awarded around $2M from the Ohio Department of Medicaid to reduce infant mortality in our county. The queens Village work was instrumental is the dissemination of these dollars. Queens Village is a supportive community of powerful Black women who come together to relax, repower and take care of ourselves and each other as well as advocate for equitable birth outcomes. Since recognizing Black women’s power as leaders in our community we ask the Queens Village Community Advisory Boards to come together and allocate those dollars to organizations in Hamilton County. That systems change and shared power is phenomenal. When the people receiving the services have a voice in how money is spent the way they view their care and services are more assuredly changed. Money has power. In addition to system level change, the work of Queens Village is centered on increasing the accessibility of protective factors for Black women. By ensuring that Black women are provided opportunities to focus on their own mental and physical wellness, we are supporting a shift from survival to thriving. This is impactful not only for Black women, but also for Black babies, families, and the community at large.

An enormous show of movement toward equity and justice is all of Cincinnati’s birthing hospitals saying “yes” to turning their hospital data externally facing on a platform, mamacertified.org, to bring more transparency to how hospitals are approaching equitable care. Hospital systems are also lifting up Queens Village advisory boards to remain accountable to their promise to Black women and equity.

These examples highlight the power of collective impact in addressing critical issues and creating a city where equity, justice, and shared prosperity are not just aspirations but integral components of its

identity. We are making progress and that is to be celebrated, but we have much work to do. To keep winning we must continue to listen to the people most impacted by the problem and be brave and committed enough to do what they ask. “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” -MLK.

Every Baby, Every Day.


At Dress for Success Cincinnati, we empower women to achieve their dreams, because we know that when they do, the impact on their family and community will be profound. We understand that their success extends beyond career goals. It's not just about securing a job; it's about fostering stability and creating a positive ripple effect. That's why shining a spotlight on organizations like Cradle Cincinnati and Queens Village is so important. By recognizing and supporting their efforts, we contribute to a well-rounded approach that tackles not only career goals but also important community issues like reducing infant mortality and promoting equity. Together, we enhance the possibility of lasting positive change and making a meaningful difference in the lives of women.