Over time, most people find their niche — a skill or gift they possess that can contribute to society. Perhaps it’s revealed early on or it takes years to learn.
For me, it wasn’t so long ago that I came across what I at first considered to be simply a helpful habit — connecting. I love to connect those eager to learn about our community. I enjoy the connections made when one idea enhances another. I value the ability to sort through complex issues and connect resources to seek resolution. Today, this is more than a habit — it’s a skill I’m honored to apply in the pursuit of our community outreach and engagement practices at The Gazette.
Outreach and engagement occurs when organizations and individuals create opportunities to interact with their community to gain better understanding of perspectives, build on existing ideas and consider new concepts. This practice enables us to grow our community knowledge on countless topics and issues in thoughtful, genuine ways. When skills are embraced, practices are applied and impact resulting from the effort is revealed, you will create your very own game changer.
Collaboration and engagement have characterized my own career path, including The Cedar Rapids Downtown District, The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and a variety of positions on community-focused boards and committees. It has led to many proud moments well beyond any single effort: the evolution of young professionals, a love of local resources and urban farmers markets, surviving and thriving after a natural catastrophe — community progress moved forward by working groups, partnerships and planning — by community interaction. By conversations that enlighten us, even allow us to push back if we feel compelled to do so.
I have been fortunate to serve as the community outreach and engagement manager for The Gazette and KCRG-TV9 for a little over a year. During this time, I’ve had the pleasure in experiencing what is possible when our journalists and the community they serve get the chance to know each other through in-depth community conversations, open coffee, work sessions and more. It’s not always easy, comfortable or even expected, yet even in the most unassuming of practices, we’ve uncovered ideas that took us beyond the basics.
How will this kind of transparency and accessibility impact our work? Why now? The practices we are demonstrating are not necessarily new. In fact, many of us practice engagement every day; we just don’t call it that. What is new and continues to advance at a rapid rate is the notion that to understand in depth the dynamics of our community, we must identify suitable opportunities that go beyond the bullet points to the latest event, stories or situation. Through these methods, the audience will have the ability to choose their own level of engagement — general awareness, consideration of new ideas, solution-seeking ways to take part.
I am eager to link members of our region to the solutions-seeking professionals who want to build understanding beyond the basics and unpack our complex issues through the gift of conversation. I invite you to join us in the coming months.
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