What is the Civic Engagement Agenda?
Building the capacity to tackle some of our region’s most challenging issues is a complex process. A year ago, Coastal Community Foundation (CCF) took the first steps toward focusing concerted efforts on important issues in the communities we serve. We decided to plan and conduct work to create a guiding document—the Civic Engagement Agenda—to serve as a tool for strategic planning that sets the course for our future. The Civic Engagement Agenda is a framework to help us make a concentrated, positive impact on our communities.
Civic Engagement Summary – Community Conversations and Regional Data
The Community Conversations
CCF embarked on a major undertaking in the fall of 2017 as part of our CEA work.
In collaboration with 1000 Feathers, a Columbia-based strategy and implementation consulting firm, we brought together 50 individuals for a two-day training from the Harwood Institute, in order to learn their Turning Outward model of community listening. Newly trained facilitators conducted Community Conversations between September and February. Group sizes were intentionally capped at 20 participants to allow for all voices to be heard and create the environment of a “kitchen table” conversation. In all, more than 400 individuals participated in these conversations.
Instead of taking a participatory role in these conversations, facilitators simply kept the conversation on track, spotlighting the voices of our community. The goal of these conversations was not oriented in providing immediate solutions, but to gather a broad understanding of community issues.
We thank everyone who took the time to share your voice with us!
We have been honored by what was shared—very powerful words, ideas and experiences—and humbled by the openness and willingness to shoot straight from the hip. We have completed 40+ Community Conversations, capturing the broad perspectives and voices of citizens along the coast of South Carolina, CCF’s service area. We received great preliminary feedback and community members have thanked us for “getting out there” and simply asking for input.
The report (summary above) includes the community wisdom gleaned from our Community Conversations threaded with some data about our region, provided by our partners at the USC Upstate Metropolitan Studies Institute. Utilizing this information, our Board has forged a new strategic framework to carry our work forward. It brings with it a focus—of the resources at hand—on some of the key issues you helped us define.
Five clear themes emerged from this work, and our Board and staff have identified three of these themes as the most critical areas needing our attention. We call these our core focus areas (in bold below):
Town Hall Meetings
We went back out into our communities as promised, to share what we heard from the hundreds of voices that were part of our Community Conversations and “interview the data.” From Walterboro to Moncks Corner, and from Beaufort to Charleston, we have visited ten locations (and counting) to present the Civic Engagement Summary Report and gauge whether our information resonated with community members.
In all of these settings we have noted that people are nodding in agreement, asking thoughtful and pointed questions, and providing us with valuable feedback we will carry forward. We are happy to report that our “findings” seem to be resonating across coastal South Carolina and accurately reflecting the collective community voice.
We also conducted our first-ever Virtual Town Hall to update a wider group of our stakeholders on the progress of our many new Flagship Initiatives and the momentum we have created going into our new fiscal year.
And of course, the work does not stop here! We are in the process of conducting even more Community Conversations throughout Georgetown and Horry counties (along with our partner organizations and affiliate foundations) to deepen and enhance our understanding of that region.
We are committed to continuing our practice of turning outward. Our efforts to listen and learn were not a one-time endeavor. Our “feedback loop” of listening, learning, assessing, gauging reactions and assumptions, and then putting thoughtful plans into action WITH our community members as our partners… is a permanent piece of our strategic framework.
We continue to talk with community groups who want to learn more about our work, and the meaning and intent behind our three core focus areas. We are aligning these core focus areas with our Flagship Initiatives (such as Place-Based Impact Investing, the Bridge Philanthropists, and our Community Partnership Program), new organizational strategic framework, and growth opportunities such as the expansion of our Reverend Pinckney Scholars program.
We are actively seeking regional and national partnership opportunities that align with the core focus areas. For instance, we were selected along with a handful of other organizations across the country to participate in the Power Moves pilot program, which will help our team expand the toolkit we use to grantmake with an equity lens.
The best way to receive up-to-date information about this work is to follow us on social media and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
We want to make sure our information resonates with our participants and community members. We are staying open, listening, creating engagement opportunities, and we want all of you to be our partners. We welcome your feedback, so please feel free to contact us to discuss our latest news.
Questions? Contact Edie Blakeslee, our VP of Grantmaking and Community Leadership, at (843) 723-3635.