In 2017, the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) used its first-ever “crowdsourcing” effort to identify the biggest issues facing North Carolina. After reaching out to thousands of North Carolinians asking, “what’s the biggest issue facing our state over the next five years?,” there was one common theme: People in North Carolina are feeling more disconnected than ever and they want to do something about it.
With the help – and voices – of citizens throughout North Carolina, IEI launched a three-year initiative focused on reengaging the state called ReCONNECT NC. Throughout the three years, IEI is hosting six forums based on the specific needs that North Carolina residents and organizations identified:
- Reconnection to community
- Reconnection between rural and urban areas
- Reconnection to job opportunities
- Reconnection to technological opportunity
- Reconnection to well-being and productivity
What are the consequences of disconnection?
Declining social trust, eroding faith in public institutions, and a rise in out-of-work and isolated North Carolinians all speak to a profound challenge holding our state back. Residents are losing ties within our communities, our jobs, and even neighbors and acquaintances. This disconnection has measurable social, health and economic consequences. Reconnection is vital to our state’s overall prosperity.
Socially, disconnected citizens are unable to tackle shared problems. Fewer than half of us (44%) report talking to neighbors frequently. Only eight percent of us work with neighbors to address community challenges, and nearly 75% don’t volunteer in the community. Small wonder that 40 percent of us report feeling “lonely” — twice the rate as in the 1980s.
Medically, disconnected individuals are far more likely to suffer chronic health problems and acute health crises. Reduced social engagement reduces lifespans at about the same rate as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This is a particular challenge in North Carolina’s rural counties where a disproportionate share of the population experiences social isolation and where medical services are often harder to access.
Economically, disconnected workers make up almost 40% of the total potential workforce in North Carolina, and the numbers are growing. About 768,000 potential workers aged 25-54 in North Carolina were not employed or looking for employment in 2017 — a substantial increase since 2000. Their absence costs billions in lost productivity and social service expenses.
The solution? Let’s Reconnect NC, together.
The ReCONNECT NC initiative involves IEI exploring the root causes of disconnection and working with citizens and organizations across the state to identify solutions for restoring civic health. Let’s work together while addressing some of our state’s most pressing issues at six forums over three years.
As you can imagine COVID-19 has impacted the remaining forums within our ReCONNECT NC Series, however, we are working on meaningful ways to develop programs to connect and move our series forward. Learn more about our ReCONNECT To Move Forward three-part virtual meeting series.