Especially during election season, it’s easy to fall into the debate about which one person is best positioned to grow or save the community, district, state or country. Based on history alone, this is misguided thinking and won’t happen. We need many orchestrated connections to move our community to the next level. The individuals we vote into office must commit to working hand-in-hand with other elected officials, city and county staff, nonprofits, businesses, schools, colleges and residents throughout our bi-state area.
Those of us who have our ears to the ground, deep in the trenches in our own ways, understand the urgency of now. I am convinced that the fate of our region is tied to the willingness of local leaders to listen and work together in new ways. We must understand that the issues that impact us deeply — crime, drug abuse, economic and educational inequities, and hopelessness — are all linked. And that there are no easy fixes.
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We need a renewal of hearts and minds. We need to work differently. We need to invest differently. We need to build the muscle in the nonprofit sector to track and report what matters differently. We need a new level of accountability across systems — government and private — and among people who need help. We need to focus on education, income and health, the building blocks of a quality life and foundation for a strong region.
But the most important thing that we need is a game plan. A strategy like the Q2030 Regional Action Plan, that most can buy into, and we need a way to track our progress. We shouldn’t attempt to tackle a thousand issues as our regional priorities. Instead, let’s focus our efforts on gaining some system efficiencies and prioritizing education, jobs and the wraparound supports that make achieving both more probable. This will directly impact our regional competitiveness and pay huge dividends in the future.
Our community also needs hope and optimism. The Quad Cities doesn’t lack people with passion or want for organizations where people can direct their passion. We do need more consensus, a more data-driven, people-centered approach to our decision-making. For our efforts to translate to transformed lives, we need inspired people to collaborate and align, challenging existing paradigms and working smarter with data and evidence. We need to ensure kids succeed in school and life, adults have opportunities for gainful employment and financial stability, and that our families and teens have access to the support and services they need to live a happy and healthy life.
To change the trajectory of a generation and our region, we need to elect leaders who have the courage, humility and capacity to usher in change in the knowledge that they can’t do it alone. We need leaders who are okay not always getting or taking credit for individual accomplishments. It means leaders not being satisfied to simply point out problems but to actually solve them. It means leaders gutsy enough to give voice to really tough subjects such as opportunity gaps, poverty and academic underachievement that hold us back as a community. Let’s vote on November 5th for individuals at all levels who will challenge status quo and acknowledges that no one person, organization, city or school can succeed alone.
Gellerman is president and chief executive officer of United Way of the Quad-Cities.