As part of the ReCONNECT to Community forum, the Institute for Emerging Issues chose five communities to tell their story of civic engagement: What they’re doing and what’s working to improve community connections in their part of North Carolina. We chose five diverse initiatives each working to rebuild important community ties in different ways. Learn a bit about them and then hear them tell their stories in person at the fall 2018 ReCONNECT to Community Forum in Asheville!

Choosing Equity Series (Asheville)

(Partners include: Asheville City Schools Foundation, Asheville City Schools, University of North Carolina Asheville)

A large-scale, community-wide collaboration to engage the community in addressing the pervasive opportunity gap that exists for Asheville’s children. The community conversations tackle the issue of students being increasingly segregated by race and income. The effects of overlapping racism and poverty are compounded for many students, most clearly illustrated in the stark disparity in the 2016-17 end of grade achievement scores for white and black students, reported at 81% and 19.7% respectively.


Rural Opportunity Institute (Edgecombe County) 

(Partners include: Rural Opportunity Institute, Edgecombe County School District, Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Department, Mental Health America, Community Enrichment Organization, Eastern Star Baptist Church, Vidant Hospital & Rural Health Network, Boys & Girls Club of Tar River Region, Michael’s Angels Girls Club)

One of the most pressing issues in Edgecombe County is high levels of unaddressed trauma and the interrelated health and social challenges that lead to this. Those involved seek to create a community that enables healing from adversity to achieve health, safety, connection and self-determination for current and future generations.


One Team. One Goal. One Community. (Elizabeth City)

(Partners include: Elizabeth City State University, City of Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County)

This group’s mantra is think big, think bold. Their intent is to design, develop and implement a civic action plan that provides greater inclusion and diversity of thought to the area. The current challenge facing the community at-large is a persistent lack of trust within the community, predominantly along racial lines.The synergy of the participants will aid in focused and forward-thinking discussions, thereby enhancing the area’s well-being.


Explore Elkin (Elkin)

(Partners include: Town of Elkin, Explore Elkin, CAVU Marketing)

The Explore Elkin movement has dramatically increased civic engagement, enthusiasm and momentum for positive change. Some of the primary goals of this initiative include providing networking opportunities that lead to community engagement and training a community of Elkin Ambassadors.


Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts (Winston-Salem)

(Partners include: Kenan Institute for the Arts, EmcArts, Mary’s Mavens, Mixxer, Hustle Winston-Salem, Happy Hill Arts)

Over the past five years, initiatives led by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts have helped leverage momentum among local creative entrepreneurs and social innovators, a population that is proving crucial to Winston-Salem’s transition from an abandoned tobacco and textile capital to the “City of Arts and Innovation.” The Institute serves as an intermediary organization that partners with other groups to improve dialogue, civic engagement and economic prosperity in the creative sector, which in turn has the power to enrich the broader community and improve the lives of all citizens.


All five community teams received storytelling training from Jeff Polish of The Monti! We can’t wait to hear their stories at the forum!