On November 6, 2019, the Delaware Community Foundation (Philanthropy Delaware member) hosted Deb and James Fallows, authors of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America as their Annual keynote presentation.
As Deb and James Fallows shared their insights of their journey, they have listed eight major things that they have learned. Their perspective allows us to sit and reflect of how Delaware communities have faced challenges and succeeded the commitment to thrive. Here are my thoughts on the eight.
1. The importance of public-private partnerships. Public-private partnerships have existed for a very long time in large scale infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, parks and more. Why should we not replicate that in changing systems that affect our most vulnerable? It makes sense when these partnerships work well when private sector technology and innovation combined with public sector incentives to complete work.
2. Community foundations and Libraries are first order of importance. Foundations that are homegrown in the community have been doing "place based" grantmaking long before it was a "thing" and continue to do so. In their backyards. My grandmother was a librarian, I grew up in a library..literally. I went there everyday after school in elementary school. It was the hub of the community, it was a place you felt welcome(unless you were noisy..the Sssshhhh days. Now they are the place where information is flowing, education is happening, children are blossoming, and so much more.
3. Opportunity and economic development plans need to be racially fair and inclusive. It is time to act with the same intentionality to do the fair and inclusive plan that was given to the unfair and exclusive plan of the past. The time is "now" to stop talking and start acting in a way that reverses the past and elevates the future.
4. Community colleges and career tech and high schools have revolutionary potential. YES. Every twelve to eighteen months, computers double their capabilities, and so do the information technologies that use them. If the average car had advanced as quickly as the computer over the last 35 years, cars would get 3,666,652 miles per gallon and cost less than $5,000 today. We need to prepare children for the next technology and find ways to empower the next generation to create the technology after that.
5. How research universities and 4-year universities have to be key players in community and not socially disconnected. Anchor institutions are vital assets to their neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions. Time is changing and academia has to keep up and invest outside their doors. There is an opportunity to move beyond observation and to connect with the communities they aim to understand. It also requires long term engagement because systems change takes years much longer than a semester, article or a degree.
6. Creating new models for local journalism. This is exciting. This week I participated in the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation Reinventing Delaware event and this was an "idea" from more than one person at my table. We need to know what good is happening in our community. We need to be more connected with each other. We need to change the narrative. Several innovators in Delaware are poised and ready to take this on.
7. Importance for cities of deliberately attracting new citizens. I think the cities in Delaware are trying to accomplish this. They are working through organizations like Wilmington Alliance, Delaware Prosperity Partnership, Dover Downtown Partnership, and more to encourage moving to Delaware to live, work and play. Campaigns like "Its Time" and "Wilm Love" is a place to start.
8. The importance of sharing playbook. Sharing your best work with your neighbor is the beginning of moving communities where "they" want to be. Transparency and honesty are crucial, just like in a relationship between two people it is the same with two organizations or communities. Nonprofits need to see that value it together for all is much better than separate for none.
We thank Deb and James Fallows for sharing their time, talents, and insights with the first state.
Cynthia Pritchard, President and CEO