Malai Amfahr

Sotry County Reads Director with United Way of Story County and HealthConnect Fellow

Her work as a HealthConnect Fellow

(October 2019-June 2021)


Improving children’s educational success by ensuring equity in services that support children’s well-being


As an orchestrator, Malai Amfahr has experience mobilizing existing frameworks, relationships, and system elements to work toward a shared agenda. She understands how to use certain leverage points to create ripples throughout an entire system. These strengths allowed her fellowship campaign to work on two levels: building an integrated data system in Story County that collects school district and service provider data and infusing equity principles into the Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) network. Combined, these approaches are working to shift mental models at the macro level to drive structural changes at the localized level, resulting in providers making changes that will support positive outcomes for children and youth.

With the data system project, Amfahr is creating a county-wide approach to equity by pulling data from all seven Story County school districts, as well as providers that offer educational services and support to students. Leaders can use this data to see who is accessing programs and if those programs correlate with positive outcomes for students, which helps them ensure that programs are both high impact and widely accessible.

As co-chair of ECI’s equity committee, Amfahr is educating the ECI network on its equity guiding principles. The work took off once Amfahr presented the principles to the ECI State Board and the board formally adopted the principles in June 2020. Since then, Amfahr has been offering workshops and presentations to ECI’s workgroups and early childhood providers about how to put these principles into action in their work.


Amfahr is now frequently called on as an equity leader who drives change among her United Way team, in Story County, and across the ECI system.

Data Project: Amfahr secured verbal approval from all seven school districts and persuaded Iowa State University to serve as the third-party location for data storage. She secured approval from Iowa State’s Internal Review Board, established legal documents, and created a council to oversee the work. The group is now looking at specific data indicators to make decisions about interventions in schools and out-of-school learning environments.

ECI: The equity guiding principles are being infused into ECI’s workgroups and among provider networks. Amfahr is often invited to present to early childhood stakeholders, rather than asking to attend. The equity committee is adding team members with renewed energy and focus.

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