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Forward Wayne County helps make the impossible, possible. How? More on that later…

First, let us explain why having organizations like ours is important.

Have you ever tried to put together an 8-man tent by yourself? It is nearly impossible! Believe me, I tried it this weekend. An 8-man tent is big – very big – and has many parts that need to stand up at the same time while the camper threads the poles through, works the clips, and secures the flaps – all at the same time! After nearly an hour, I gave up and called out for help. With three people, we had the tent up and ready to use within just a few minutes.

I could have struggled alone for several more hours and maybe, just maybe, I could have gotten it put up. However, I realized working with others would make the impossible possible and much faster.

So, imagine the tent is our community and the poles, clips, flaps, and more are all the moving parts of a community like neighborhood development, early childhood success, the health and wellness of residents, the workforce, the schools, and more – way more! They need to be ‘stood up’, often working on all of it at the same time to make our community thrive. Just like my tent. Likewise, with the tent, getting all the moving parts working together takes more than just one person.

What is Forward Wayne County?

We are a backbone organization that supports collective impact coalitions. Curious about the term “backbone organization? We shared the details of what a collective impact coalition and backbone organization is in this 2019 article. So, why do we need a backbone at all?

Why Forward Wayne County Exists

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

– Henry Ford

This Henry Ford quote sums up Forward Wayne County. 

Coming Together Is A Beginning

Society is full of increasingly complex social issues and Wayne County Indiana is no exception. We have lower than the state average educational attainment rates, we have higher number of our residents at or below the poverty line than the state’s average, and more. Wayne County faces significant and persistent problems – often to a greater degree than other communities in the state. Years ago, a group of community members came together to identify our toughest challenges and examine what we have working for us. 

Fortunately, we have a remarkable number of assets and resources at our disposal to mitigate the problems and create a vibrant community. For example, we have:

  • Strong Not-for-Profit and Faith Communities
  • Forward-Thinking Government Entities
  • A Diversified Economy
  • Attractive and Unique Amenities

Keeping Together Is Progress

There have been many attempts over the years to address the issues. All achieved some degree of success, but none have attained a critical mass needed to affect broad-based systemic change. If you’re like me, you’ve been on a committee or a volunteer group that starts with a lot of enthusiasm but…then it fades away and the group disbands.  

It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm when the group is solving some of the most complex challenges – often challenges that take years to solve. It can be disheartening when your goals are so large.

But that’s why Forward Wayne County exists. We are here to keep up the energy and focus, so we move from collective ideas to collective action. Our community tent has two main poles, the people living here and the community itself. And, like my tent story – those two things need stood up at the same time to make a strong community. 

Working Together is Success

So, how do we keep the groups working together? Our role is to convene organizations and stakeholders to create and maintain coalitions. Those coalitions work together to solve our toughest challenges. We exist to not only keep up the energy and focus, but to also guide the work, collect data, measure results, and maintain open and continuous communication. Our team works to coordinate the efforts of the group members and ensure the activities of participants remain in concert.

One of the biggest challenges facing community change leaders is impacting systems and policies to improve the well-being of citizens. Over the last twenty years, community change leaders have engaged in single and cross-sector collaboration to begin to uncover and address some of the largest challenges we are facing like poverty, homelessness, educational attainment, and environmental impact. Achieving sustainable success only occurs when we make systems changes. Therefore, our coalitions and FWC must develop a plan for enacting policies that address the root cause of issues like poverty, lack of education, and other social problems.  

Our Way Forward

As residents of Wayne County Indiana, we, by that I mean, me, you and every other resident, are stakeholders of this community. As stakeholders, we want the community to grow and thrive. Keeping a community growing and thriving takes more than government leaders, schools, or nonprofits – it takes me and you doing our part to improve our community and a coordinated effort to ensure resources are used to make the biggest impact. 

Stay connected with Forward Wayne County by joining our Newsletter or by following us on FacebookTwitterand Instagram! Also, be sure to use the hashtag #forwardINwayne when sharing how you are forwarding our community every day!

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