Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) recognizes the inherent need to improve the connection between communities with an emphasis on working collaboratively, rather than separately. SOAR’s mission “is to expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation, and identity, improve the quality of life, and support all those working to achieve these goals in Appalachian Kentucky” (www.soar-ky.org) by providing an online network which helps community members connect with each other.
This mission is being fulfilled by the creation of a network for stakeholders in Kentucky, which provides them with the information necessary to better understand and connect with the region’s economic landscape. SOAR asks who is shaping this region’s economy, rather than what. “If you work together on a common issue, you’re gonna have more chance of solving it than if you worked at it alone. You have a stronger voice, that is why we talk a lot about communication. What we think makes collaboration really work strong and well is when you combine [common] interests… and everybody wants everybody else to win. Individually sometimes you can’t get things done. If you really come together and help each other and support each other towards these common goals, that’s when collaboration really works well” (Bill Vanderwall, Minnesota Housing Partnership). By creating a network to share ideas, strategies, and general information amidst a large and interconnected community or region, the economy will be developed more strategically and successfully.
Connection within the community is fundamental when fostering resilient and local economic development. The ideas, strides, and results should derive from and affect a community at the local level. This gives everyone a voice, incentivizes participation in the small and local aspects of an economy, and creates development that benefits everyone.
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