Algire: Strengthening community’s connective tissue

Published 8:09 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

By Jen Algire

What does it mean to call a place “home?” Maybe it is where you grew up, went to high school, married and raised your family. Perhaps you are new to Winchester and Clark County. You moved here because it is a place you want to be.

Regardless of how you came to be in our community, you may feel that it is familiar as the back of your hand. You know about the ups and downs that we face. Maybe you talk about our challenges with your neighbors. Do you ever stretch outside your neighborhood or your circle of family and friends to explore how others view our community?

A recent report by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation has given our community the chance to reach beyond our everyday boundaries to hear what people from all walks of life, from all parts of the community see, think and feel about living here – the good and bad. Every household in our community will receive an abbreviated version of the report in their mail this week. The full report may be downloaded at ClarkAmbition.org.

Insights revealed in the report come from in-depth interviews and discussions with more than 150 Clark County residents. When you read the report, you’ll see it is clear that area residents care deeply about our community. They want it to thrive. You’ll see that people view their neighbors as kind and generous. And, that Clark County and Winchester have many assets in their favor.

The report notes well known challenges such as limited opportunities for our youth and drug abuse. It also identifies lessor known, but perhaps more important, underlying challenges such as a community-wide lack of trust and divides based on race and culture, where people live, old vs. new and church denominations.

The report is about much more than the insights it reveals. The Greater Clark Foundation commissioned this report to evaluate and document where we are now, so we can move forward together to imagine and create a better future. As author James Baldwin once noted, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Just as connective tissue holds our bodies together, we must strengthen the connective tissue of our community. We all must take our places in the community as parts of its connective tissue to play a part in our collective future.

The opportunity for our community is now. We must change the conversation and focus on shared aspirations and concerns. We must mobilize people to do work together to restore our can-do spirit. We must bridge divides that keep people separated. And we must foster a new can-do story of our community – moving away from the negative narrative that is often rooted in what’s not possible and move to new stories that emerge from concrete actions that demonstrate the possibility of a new path.

As people come together to work on these dimensions, each small success will help change the community’s story. As success builds, more people will come together to accomplish more wins for everyone.

It is time to start working now! You can sign-up now for a Public Innovators Lab that will be held in Winchester April 25-27. Participants will learn new ways to bring people together to solve local challenges and strengthen how the community works together. The Lab is an intensive 2.5 day experience where participants will learn five key steps to becoming a Public Innovator and how to deepen positive impacts in our community. You can sign up individually or as part of team – the key is to get started! Contact us at ClarkAmbition.org and tell us why you’re ready to become a Public Innovator.

Jen Algire is president and chief executive officer of The Greater Clark Foundation. She may be reached at 859-355-9054 or jalgire@clarkambition.org.