Reconnect for the Future


February 15-18, 2021

The Challenge

A pandemic. A recession. A divisive political and racial climate. Our society and our state are struggling. Seven in ten of us say we distrust each other more than we did 20 years ago. Nearly half of us say we are feeling hopeless at this moment. This time of disconnection didn’t begin with COVID-19: it’s been coming for a while. But it’s time to do something about it. In 2018, the Institute for Emerging Issues embarked on a three-year journey we called “ReCONNECT NC.” With significant challenges affecting our state’s long-term economic competitiveness and growing societal divisions across politics, geography, race, and income, it was clear that our state would be unable to move forward without repairing our connections—to one another, to our communities, and to our state. In many cases these connections must be created anew—we may need to build bridges we haven’t walked before.

ReCONNECT NC has been a fascinating journey for us. Since we began our work, we’ve discovered more than two dozen communities (or multi-community coalitions) building civic strength, finding the mutual interests of rural and urban areas, building ladders to opportunity, getting technology into the hands of those who need it most, supporting mental health and well-being; in other words, we’ve found people and places doing the hard, persistent day-to-day work that connects us, and we’ve offered them a platform to inspire others to a new sense of shared responsibility. We’ve heard from national experts and local innovators about what’s working. And we’ve brought people together (physically and virtually) to develop common-sense strategies to deepen our feeling of community.


ReCONNECT for the Future

Now we’re ready to share what we’ve learned. Over four days, February 15-18, 2021, we’ll have a series of meetings called ReCONNECT for the Future, built from the key discoveries we made during the program:

  • People in our state are looking for ways to connect with one another across lines of difference. We’ve discovered some ideas with the potential to move to action across the state.
  • The easiest pathways to move forward are often local—steps we can take in our own backyards. We’ve identified some areas that will give community groups a greater capacity to make local change happen.


Moving Ideas to Action

Creating Greater Capacity to Move Forward Locally:
During ReCONNECT NC, IEI has identified 5-6 communities doing promising work to move forward each of our focus areas. We’ve learned a lot from them. During the Forum, we will offer a series of capacity-building workshops to help other communities move forward issues they care about, drawing on our learnings from the 26 participating ReCONNECT NC community teams, as well as our parallel work with Rural Faith Communities as Anchor Institutions, Service Year NC, and other initiatives.

A Well-Timed Chance to ReCONNECT

This four-day, two-pronged approach will be unlike any other we have held in our 34-year history—fitting as we emerge from a year unlike any other and as we face challenges unlike any we have faced in the past. There’s never been a more important time to connect.