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Director's Log

Interim Director’s Log | June 2022

Sarah Langer Hall headshot

The Power of Community

At IEI, we believe that local communities—with their traditions, sense of place, self-reliance, creativity and history of coming together in tough times to solve big challenges—are the unit of change to spark action. For nearly a decade, IEI has worked with communities across the state in various capacities; learning, sharing and making lasting connections along the way. We released our ReCONNECT NC report last year that highlights “Three Big Things” to consider when working in communities:

  1. Bringing more diversity in the room makes conversation harder – and makes real change more likely. Better solutions come when a team that is diverse—by race, age, income, gender, politics and other factors—takes them on. Making the teams work requires more time, greater trust, and increased willingness to listen to and consider answers and opinions you may not agree with. Our Better2Gether Champions are helping communities across the state have these conversations more effectively.
  2. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not zero sum. When community teams can build and celebrate small “victories”—often ones that build off of existing community assets, it creates team trust. As the work gets harder, that confidence makes it easier for teams to look for solutions that are less “zero-sum” and more “win-win.” The regional ENC Collaborative convened by Peletah Ministries in New Bern is an excellent example of this collective effort.
  3. Every community has something to share and something to learn. In our experience, communities both undervalue and overvalue what they know. Maybe they’ve discovered something insightful but assume others must already know, or have declared a problem unsolvable when they could benefit from the insights of others. Networks of communities can benefit everyone—just ask our Educational Attainment Cohort team, Wilson Education Partnership.

Because of our belief in the power of communities, and our organizational values of engagement, inclusion, impact, partnership and leadership, we are pleased to announce our newest peer-learning community cohort opportunity. We are seeking applications from regional teams across NC that are interested in diversifying, developing and enhancing their workforce talent with a focus on underrepresented and/or marginalized groups of workers. Five teams will be selected to join IEI’s Talent First Economics cohort. This cohort will participate in NC State University’s new NC Workforce Development Leadership Initiative where they will learn to work on and lead workforce development boards, engage with economic developers, and create initiatives that will further the entire community. Register for our July 7 virtual information session.

We’re also excited to bring back our IEI Summer Camp! This marks our third summer offering virtual community capacity building at no cost to participants. Join us on August 23 and 30 to discuss lessons learned “in these times.” Learn more and register for free.

While we continue to learn every day from communities across the state, there is one thing we know for sure: If every North Carolinian took just one step forward, we could cross the state and back five times. There’s nothing we can’t accomplish together.