Collaboration Aims to Promote the Common Good

In early December,  leaders of several Woodstock area nonprofits gathered to learn about a promising strategy known as “collective impact.” This is a carefully designed form of collaborative planning that draws upon the strengths and resources of diverse organizations to achieve common goals.

The strategy is based upon a holistic view of community development. It requires us to look outside the “silos” of our own particular interests in order to understand how all aspects of a community affect and reinforce each other. Whatever the specific focus of an organization—for example the arts, youth, health, seniors, help for those with limited income—the long-term wellbeing and vitality of our community is an ultimate goal that embraces and promotes them all.

While nonprofits and community-minded volunteers can be leading agents in promoting this common vision, we are not solely responsible for it. Everyone needs to join in and work together: business owners, town officials, school leaders, and, well, all of us, in our daily lives and choices. The key is to identify with our community and to let this awareness be a guide to our actions. Towns, regions and neighborhoods that have this community spirit, this pride of place, are noticeably different from those that do not.

When people act collaboratively we are truly thinking and acting as a community, rather than as a random bunch of individuals who happen to live in proximity. We care about each other and the place we all call home. We acknowledge that our actions and choices are not completely private but radiate outward and affect others, for good or ill, and these effects matter to us. In contrast to a political and economic culture in our country that increasingly promotes narcissistic self-interest and winner-take-all competition, this holistic view dares to insist that there be a common good, a fair and nurturing social order that benefits everyone.

So let’s work together to address the big issues that will, over the coming months and years, define what type of community we will be. How will we build a more resilient local economy? How can we provide more affordable housing, and better transportation options? How will we make this a more welcoming community for youths and young families? Can we do even better taking care of our neighbors who have particular needs or challenges? Finding answers to these questions will take more than annual discussions on Town Meeting day. We need to keep building a culture of community engagement that involves everyone.

Sustainable Woodstock will continue to support the efforts of the Woodstock Area Nonprofit Network to develop collaborative strategies, perhaps including an ambitious collective impact project. We encourage all nonprofit organizations in this region to become involved. The next meeting of the Nonprofit Network will be held at the Thompson Senior Center on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8:30 a.m.; please consider sending a representative to participate in the conversation. Contact Sally Miller at 457-2911 or Jackie Fischer of the Ottauquechee Community Partnership at 457-2679 if you want to learn more before attending.

If you’re an area resident who has not yet affiliated with one of our hardworking community organizations, learn more about the work they do. Visit their websites, call up for information, attend events or meetings, or sign up to volunteer. Let’s work together to fashion a common good that will make life better for all of us.

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