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This is an exciting month for the Orton Family Foundation and CommunityMatters®. To help you understand the significance, bear with me as I hit the reverse button.
In 2007 the Foundation held a national conference in Burlington, VT, which we named CommunityMatters. The new name reflected an important principle underlying our work—that is, the need for people across divides to come together to pursue change collaboratively. The Foundation was developing its Heart & Soul approach and others had their own ideas and methods, but CommunityMatters was about achieving greater change collectively than we could individually.
We were encouraged by the energy and optimism of the participants and so held our second CommunityMatters Conference in 2010 in Denver. During those three exhilarating days, we heard from cities and towns all over the country about the need for assistance with changing up the model for engagement, planning and decision-making. The interest in this work was palpable, the need growing more dire by the day.
According to John Kania and Mark Kramer in a landmark paper called “Collective Impact,” “Large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations.”
So the Orton Family Foundation acted. We identified a core group of organizations to start meeting and brainstorming: Deliberative Democracy Consortium; Grassroots Grantmakers; National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation; New America Foundation; Project for Public Spaces; and Strong Towns.
Since September of 2011 this group has been coming together and working hard to put a name to the common problems our organizations strive to address, and to identify strategies for change that might rise above our individual methods and disciplines. And we believe we’ve found a way forward.
The CommunityMatters partners have identified stronger Civic Infrastructure as a central need for all communities, and, according to the new CM mission, they will work together to equip cities, towns and all community members to strengthen their places and inspire change. This group champions the notion that people have the power to solve their community’s problems and shape its future. The alliance will facilitate connections, provide education and infuse inspiration at the local level.
Effective partnerships take commitment, trust, some skin in the game and a willingness to take risks. As you’ll see from the official announcement of the CommunityMatters launch, we’re forging ahead. An alliance committed to building stronger communities has been born. And in early July you’ll learn of the first outside-funded effort in which the CommunityMatters partnership will begin to work on the ground.