Northeast Kingdom nonprofit undergoes major leadership transition

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — With Katherine Sims recently elected State representative for the Orleans-Caledonia district, the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative (NEKC) says they are now on the hunt for their next high-impact leader.

The NEKC’s mission is to improve the quality of life for all NEK residents through coordinated economic and community development.

Their vision is a strong, vibrant Northeast Kingdom where we all thrive.

Their process for sparking change relies heavily on authentic community engagement and region-wide collaboration.

The group determines priorities from the ground up, emphasizing input from those with lived experience of the challenges of living and working in the NEK.

Then, along with industry experts and a task force of community leaders, they plan, secure funding, and implement initiatives to address regional issues.

In 2017, leadership development was named a priority so the organization launched six leadership initiatives, most of which are now maintained by other local organizations, while the popular NEK Leads Summit and NEK Womxn Lead Network remain projects of the NEKC.

Jake Lester, manager of Spark co-working space in Greensboro, says he was impressed with last year’s NEK Leads summit.

“What a welcome opportunity to collaborate on a whole vision for the Kingdom,” he said. “Local leaders got me excited about general stores, schools, artists, agriculture, health care, recreation and so much more.”

High participation rates and overwhelmingly positive feedback from leadership initiatives and other NEKC projects illustrate the organization’s on-going value to the region.

Reflecting on her three years with the NEKC, exiting Director Katherine Sims says the Collaborative is not a ‘service provider’ but rather a convener, supporter, and coach.

“We are a catalyst for change then we step back,” Sims said.

Sims, who will begin her term in January, fostered vision and growth at the NEKC with her long history of nonprofit leadership and community building.

Board Chair Jody Fried says she knows the organization has big shoes to fill.

“We’ve seen exponential growth in region-wide impact since we hired Katherine in 2017,” Fried said. “Her skills as a facilitator, combined with an unrelenting passion for our corner of the state, have been invaluable.”

At the start of the spread of COVID-19, Sims and the NEKC took immediate action to support region-wide recovery efforts.

Weekly virtual convenings of town leaders resulted in a wealth of shared information that the NEKC used to develop a regional resource directory and ultimately an online resource hub, NEKstrong.com.

Later, the organization published the NEK Recovery Plan which identifies the highest-priority areas and the most feasible and impactful action steps to accelerate the recovery throughout the region.

Sims’ exit and the hiring of a new director represent a significant transition for the NEKC, which relies heavily on its director for facilitating high-level visioning, network development, and organizational management.

The NEKC board says they are committed to ensuring the organization has the capacity and resources it needs to continue working to build a vibrant, thriving Northeast Kingdom now and into the future.

NEKC board member Tom Lovett has agreed to step into an Interim Director position beginning January 1, giving the organization ample time to recruit and onboard the right candidate by April 1.

Lovett, with support from Communications Director Carey Crozier, will ensure both operational continuity and connection to community stakeholders.

The organization has plans for a far-reaching recruitment campaign in hopes that they’ll discover a wide and diverse pool of expert facilitators with a passion for the NEK from which to choose.

The new Director’s role will be to facilitate regional action planning, connect projects to resources, facilitate collaboration among partners, and maintain a strong and stable organization.

With a new director in place, the NEKC plans to ramp up efforts outlined in their NEK Recovery Plan, including access to broadband, affordable housing, childcare, and small business support.

Find out more about the NEKC at: www.nekcollaborative.org.

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