Driving The Dream envisions a Mid‐South in which all people have equitable access to the fundamental resources and support to achieve their hopes and dreams by fostering a community where the people we serve are hopeful, resilient, and self‐sufficient.

Driving The Dream (DTD) envisions a Mid‐South in which all people have equitable access to resources and supports needed to achieve their hopes and dreams.

DTD is leading a movement. Together with our partners, we are building the infrastructure to bridge across service silos and tear down systemic barriers that have prevented equitable access to resources for all Memphis families.  Our collective goal is to help families move out of poverty towards a future of their choosing.

Recognizing that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that challenges facing one family member have a direct impact on the experiences and outcomes of other family members, we have adopted a two-generational (“2Gen”) whole family service delivery model. As part of this effort, we are promoting best practice models proven to move the needle on root cause issues that perpetuate poverty.  We are equipping our partners with the tools and resources they need to change both culture and practice for the better.

Why is this so important for Memphis?

Multi-generational poverty impacts the lives of children and families who live in poverty; it also affects our community overall. Research shows that limited opportunities for individual families lead to fewer opportunities for us a city and region.

The many barriers imposed by living in a poor neighborhood make it that much harder for residents to move up the economic ladder, and their chances of doing so only diminish the longer they live in such neighborhoods. Moreover, in regions where the poor are more segregated into poor places, the dampening effect on mobility extends beyond distressed neighborhoods to lower economic mobility for the region as a whole.

We know that many families in Memphis don’t have access to the same resources. In 2017, over 24 percent of individuals and 39 percent of children were living at or below the poverty line. Access to affordable safe housing, reliable healthcare, high-quality education, job training, and reliable transportation are not a reality for a large percentage of our community.  

While our local human services sector offers many services to assist under-resourced families, a fragmented and uncoordinated delivery system creates challenges and barriers that prevent families from successfully maximizing these much-needed supports.

2Gen for Tennessee

Driving The Dream is aligned with the two‐generation (“2Gen”) whole family service delivery model that has  been implemented within the Tennessee Department of Human Services. Known as ‘2Gen for Tennessee,’ this approach is consistent with the 2Gen service delivery model, which focuses on creating opportunities  for and addressing the needs of both adults and the children in their lives together. The 2Gen approach recognizes that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that families define themselves.  Our goal is to implement the 2Gen framework within the DTD partner agencies client intake and service delivery model, where all DTD programs are aligned and in synch – ensuring 2Gen tactics are applied when working  with all customers in all aspects of case management and service delivery.

The DTD mission is to foster a DTD 2Gen community of practice where the people we serve are hopeful, resilient, and self‐sufficient.

Sector integration. The local human services sector achieves greater integration and meaningful collaboration.

Culture transformation. The culture of the human services sector experiences significant transformation from one that is transaction‐ and single domain‐focused to one that is family-centered and holistic in its way of serving customers and supporting them to greater economic security (i.e. aligned w 2Gen best practices).

Promotion of a common framework and tools. The Transition to Success™  (TTS™) model of service delivery and the CoactionNet database and referral tool have been adopted to unify the individual agencies in addressing the broad, multifaceted social needs people in poverty face

Shared outcomes and measures. Partner agencies develop and adopt shared data to measure outcomes and inform collective action.

Expanded services for families. Capacity is increased to serve more families in a comprehensive, holistic manner aligned with a 2Gen approach, leading to greater economic security for those families.

It hasn’t been a lack of effort that keeps them from achieving their goals, but rather a lack of access to resources and services.According to a study from the University of Memphis, the city of Memphis has a poverty rate of 26.2% which is 15% higher than the national average.

Several studies put Memphis at or near the top of large metro areas for overall poverty. Even more alarming, 44.7% of the city’s children live in poverty – the nation’s highest child poverty rate.

Without an organized and collaborative approach, cycles of generational poverty will continue. In response, United Way of the Mid-South has created Driving The Dream, a new, innovative system of care to address the effects of poverty and help people craft – and reach – the life of their dreams.

Poverty reduction not only transforms the lives of individuals and families, moving them from crisis to self-sufficiency; it also has the potential to be an economic engine. Instead of high poverty rates being a drag on the local economy, efficiencies in services and your targeted investment can boost economic growth.

A growing income gap and the presence of persistent poverty in our communities constrains economic opportunity for everyone. The economic gains of the past several years have not reduced poverty. The key to our economic prosperity is poverty reduction.



  • Partners with nonprofits and other groups
  • Addresses poverty and quality of life issues
  • Forms a network of professionals and agencies serving individuals and families in poverty
How it works and the expected impact

United Way estimates roughly 20,000 people in poverty can be promptly impacted by Driving The Dream in its early stages if we receive the support we need from donors, grantors, and other sources of philanthropy.

A coalition of local businesses who are all focused on investing in innovative poverty reduction solutions and economic growth strategies will create opportunities for us all. That means nearly 10% of Mid-Southerners in poverty can receive support now, and be connected to resources and opportunities to free them from generational cycles of poverty.

Families and individuals in poverty work with the Driving The Dream providers to create a “map of their dreams,” charting the order of steps, programs, and services necessary to help escape poverty and live the life of their dreams.

Leadership - System Advisory Team

Driving the Dream is guided by the System Advisory Team, which is comprised of leaders from the local health and humans services sector.  This guiding body was established to inform and influence system level practice and policy with the goal of addressing structural inequity that has perpetuated poverty in Memphis/Shelby County.


ALL DRIVING THE DREAM PARTNERS are trained to employ the Transitions to Success® care model and utilize the Arizona Self-Sufficiency Matrix (learn more & see the matrix here). Partners also centralize information, access client data, track client progress, and make/receive referrals through CoactionNet (a local, shared, web-based database).

Care Coordination Hubs

DTD Care Coordination Hubs are agencies in the network that employ care coordinators. These Care Coordinators work with individuals to create the “Map of My Dreams”  (care plan), refer families to appropriate services, and provide overall service coordination, coaching and support. The Hubs are housed at partner agency sites alongside their core programs, which increases access and eases stress for families seeking DTD services. The 2019 Care Coordination Hub partner agencies are Catholic Charities of West Tennessee, Meritan, Porter-Leath, and Seedco of Tennessee.

Referral Network Partner Agencies

The DTD Referral Partner network is comprised of human services agencies that agree to adhere to  DTD guiding principles, adopt a common referral platform, participate in an enhanced online shared customer data system, and follow formalized policies and procedures for customer referrals and warm hand‐offs. Their primary responsibilities include informing individuals of services available at the Hubs, referring appropriate individuals to the Hubs, referring individuals to other DTD Referral  Partners, and accepting eligible individuals referred through the DTD network.

Outreach and Education Partner Agencies

Outreach and Education service partners actively reach out to individuals who could potentially benefit from  Driving The Dream, educate individuals about DTD and related resources, and connect individuals to a Care  Coordination provider. Partners include agencies that frequently interface with clients, such as government agencies providing benefits or direct client services, 2‐1‐1, hospitals, childcare providers, schools, first responders, crisis centers, outreach coalitions, etc.

Driving the Dream is comprised of a number of partners
  • Alliance Healthcare Services
  • Alpha Omega Veteran Services, Inc.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Memphis
  • Catholic Charities of West Tennessee, Inc.
  • Church Health
  • Collierville Literacy Council
  • Community Justice & Mediation Center (CJAM)
  • Community Legal Center
  • DeNeuville Learning Center
  • Dress For Success Memphis
  • Early Success Coalition
  • Families Matter
  • Goodwill Homes Community Services, Inc.
  • Grace House of Memphis, Inc.
  • Harwood Center, Inc.
  • HopeWorks
  • Kids Carousel of Learning
  • Kindred Place (Formerly The Exchange Club)
  • Knowledge Quest
  • Latino Memphis
  • Le Dejour H.E.R.O. Village of the Mid-South, Inc.
  • Manassas Gardens
  • Memphis Child Advocacy Center
  • Memphis Crisis Center
  • Memphis Dream Center (faith-based)
  • Memphis Public Library and Information System (211)
  • Memphis Recovery Centers
  • Memphis Urban League, Inc.
  • Meritan, Inc.
  • Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA)
  • Mid-South Veterans Help Desk, Inc.
  • Neighborhood Christian Centers
  • New Ballet Ensemble & School
  • One by One Ministries
  • Porter-Leath
  • Raleigh Community Christian Child Care Center
  • RISE Foundation
  • Seedco
  • Shelby Residential Vocational Services (SRVS)
  • Synergy Treatment Centers
  • The Salvation Army
  • United Housing, Inc.
  • WorkSteady Works, LLC
  • YWCA of Greater Memphis
Collaborative Partner Institutions (Foundations, City/County/State Government)
  • Agape Child and Family Services
  • City of Memphis
  • Shelby County Health Department
  • Shelby County Division of Community Services
  • Stewards of Change
  • Transition To Success
  • Tennessee Department of Human Services
  • University of Memphis
  • University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center
  • Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis
Funders and Supporters
  • The Assisi Foundation
  • The Kresge Foundation
  • Tennessee Department of Human Services
  • JT and Kathy Buckman Gibson
  • The Urban Child Institute
  • The Anonymous Foundation


Cecelia Johnson-Powell




Twana Whitlock

Senior Agency Relationship Manager



Eric Burden

Data and Quality Improvement Manager