Most people want to help their neighbors and community, but they don’t know where to begin to make a meaningful, sustainable difference.
You have only to look at the many faces of Hurricane Harvey on today’s front page to see how much the community has suffered. The Victoria Advocate’s special series, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” has tried to put into focus the complex social and financial issues facing our community.
This is just a start, though. To truly make a difference, the community needs to come together and work in a united, coordinated way for many years. There is no overnight fix.
Fortunately, a model for how a community can do this exists. About three hours to the north, “Prosper Waco” formed three years ago to tackle many of the same problems facing Victoria.
For this project, Waco relied on Collective Impact principles established by the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and other researchers. This approach tries to break down the silos that exist between well-meaning people working on different pieces of larger problems.
Working together is easier said than done. Many groups have tried in various ways over the years, most recently the Victoria Alliance. It espoused many of these same ideals but faltered because it set too many goals and didn’t include enough community partners in its backbone organization.
Prosper Waco set three specific yet powerful goals: education, health and financial security. It also brought in leaders from government, education, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations; civic groups; business; healthcare systems; and religious organizations.
This broad support is essential to pay for the small staff needed to keep operating and moving forward the backbone organization, whether we call it Prosper Victoria or the new and improved Victoria Alliance or something else entirely. This is too big of a job for volunteers alone.
We salute the many people who continue to work on pieces of the larger problem. It is exciting to see Victoria school district officials creating task forces and calling forums to discuss homelessness and affordable housing.
Likewise, it is right on the mark for the University of Houston-Victoria’s new president, Robert Glenn, to gather community leaders to discuss how to build a city that appeals to young professionals. Such a change goes hand in hand with UHV’s stated goal of creating a destination campus.
But such separate efforts will never realize Victoria’s full potential if they don’t come together in a structured, measured and thoughtful way. Harvey exposed and deepened existing wounds in our community.
The treatment will take time, but our collective New Year’s resolution should be to come together. Victoria is up to this challenge.