Northeast Kingdom Collaborative announces regional priority areas

in News/Northeast Kingdom
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HARDWICK — The Northeast Kingdom Collaborative is taking new steps for the future of the region. The organization, which works to build strong and vibrant communities in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, has worked over the last year to set a new path forward to strengthen the organization’s reach and impact including reformatting its governing board, hiring staff, and developing strategies for collaboration with funders.

A central part of the organization’s new strategy, initiated earlier this year, is to identify a focused set of issues for the region to align partners, leverage funding, and drive desired impacts.

“This collective impact model has been moving closer and closer for some time,” explained Collaborative chair, Sarah Waring. “The opportunity here is to align clear needs in the region with funding capacities for maximum impact. I’m very excited to watch this large-scale effort help the region move forward and improve the quality of life for all residents.”

For its initial round, from a field of a dozen pressing issues, the NEK Collaborative identified two key priority areas for the coming year:

Advancing Economic Development through the Creative, Recreation, and Food Sectors:
The Northeast Kingdom’s natural assets, along with its creative culture and farms, offer top-notch experiences for everyone from wilderness adventurers, to foodies looking for a farm to table experience, to artists seeking a creative community.

Given these strengths, a tri-sector task force will develop a comprehensive strategy to leverage existing assets to form new partnerships that will create jobs and retain and grow the region’s skilled workforce.

Strategies could include identifying opportunities and resources to energize downtown development efforts via sector engagement, promoting the sectors in industry recruitment and marketing efforts, and marketing the region as a hub for sector collaborations that will be attractive to both residents and visitors.

The task force could also help to foster growth in these sectors by connecting owners and entrepreneurs with the startup and growth capital and technical assistance they need to succeed as well as facilitate potential partnerships.

Expanding Leadership Development:

Local leadership is vital to the success of our state’s rural areas, but there is a need to strengthen the region’s pipeline of emerging leaders and to encourage young people to take leadership roles in their communities.

Expanding youth development and leadership programs will help more people become engaged with the civic life of their communities and provide opportunities for citizen empowerment. A leadership task force will advance programs for emerging and seasoned leaders that help participants build knowledge, strengthen skill sets, and cultivate a leadership network with shared goals and plans.

These programs could include increasing access to higher education and career training for youth, as well as assistance for adults looking for new opportunities or career growth and building a career development network. The group will identify and dismantle barriers to access including transportation, funding, and availability.

The NEK Collaborative will advance work in these priority areas by launching a task force made up of key thought leaders for each priority area, identify potential high-impact collaborative projects, and producing a priority area action plan.

After the development of the action plan, the organization will identify and leverage funding to support priority area projects, support partner implementation of priority area projects, and host an annual stakeholder convening to promote networking, resource sharing, communicate progress, and update the action plan.

This work will bring near-term benefits to people, communities, and the environment and improve the quality of life for residents of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, including an increase in proposals that address critical issues, funding for high-impact projects in the region, capacity at partner organizations, and jobs in priority area sectors.

“We are confident that by working together with multiple federal, state, local, private, and nonprofit partners we can strengthen communities and achieve social change in the Northeast Kingdom,” says NEK Collaborative Director, Katherine Sims.

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