Our view: Foundation’s report a call to action, unity 

Published 9:35 am Saturday, January 28, 2017

Thursday night The Greater Clark Foundation released the outcomes of a three-month series of in-depth conversations with members of the Winchester-Clark County community. 

The report, “Waving the Community’s Flag: Winchester and Clark County’s Moment,” was prepared by The Institute for Public Innovation and was discussed by the Institute’s founder, Rich Harwood, during the Foundation’s annual AMBITIONFest!. 

The report contains direct-quotes from the more than 150 people in the community who participated in the discussions and conclusions about Winchester-Clark County’s current state and where to go from here.

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From those conversations with average people, elected leaders and high school students, common themes about the community began to emerge — there is a lack of trust; there are fault lines that separate our community whether by race and culture, where we live, our willingness to accept change and even church denominations; and people don’t feel seen or heard.

Likewise, the report makes note of some “gems” in our community, whether those are people, organizations or places.

Frankly, there are some harsh truths about how our community is perceived in the study — we have a drug problem, our youth do not feel prepared for life after high school, our neighborhoods are racially and socioeconomically divided, our leaders and movements are often all talk and no action, the list goes on. 

It might be easy to look at this study and ask where do we go now that we have this information? It may even be easy to become cynical about the project, which points out some of our community’s greatest challenges without any concrete resolutions. 

In general, what this report shows is Winchester-Clark County has its share of challenges but it also has many strengths to build on. The key to building on those strengths is coming together as a community.  

As the report states, “Making real progress is doable and achievable if people come together to act.”

But how to de accomplish this? Both the beauty and the downfall of the study is that the answer to this question lies with us.

Who better to decide how to best answer these tough questions than the people affected by the issues? We can’t expect anyone to come into our community and fix it for us. In fact, why would we want them to? 

Along with the report, The Greater Clark Foundation offers an opportunity for those concerned about the findings to learn how to “move the community forward.” The Institute will host a a Public Innovators Lab for 100 people to gain the skills needed to address these complex problems. 

This report gives our community a voice. The comments that stand out most likely echo the sentiments of many people in our community who feel pessimistic about our current condition. It’s one thing to be pessimistic, but it’s another to become complacent or apathetic. 

It’s clear there is work to be done, and we’re being offered a tool to begin repairing the connective tissue that binds our community. 

While the report is eye opening, it is also very much a call to action.

As Harwood said, “A community divided can’t move forward together.” 

It’s not about sitting down and developing a plan to solve all of our problems at once, but rather a concerted effort to acknowledge our challenges as a whole and commit to working together to accomplish change. 

One high school student interviewed remarked that Winchester’s nickname should be “Deadchester.” 

Let’s not be complacent with that attitude about our community any longer. 

The time for action is now.