Good Life, Greater Nebraska

By JEFF YOST

Every November, hundreds of ambitious leaders hailing from Omaha to Scottsbluff gather in one location for a celebration of community success, philanthropy and peer learning.

This year, Nebraska Community Foundation’s annual celebration will be held in La Vista on Thursday, Nov. 2. The event includes training for community leaders looking for fresh ideas to take home, an expo where they can demonstrate what’s already going well, and like any good event, a banquet — a chance to share ideas, plan for action, and break bread together.

It’s a rare occasion to see so many members from across the entire Nebraska Community Foundation network under one roof. But in the grand scheme of things, it is just one small example of the hundreds of communities that are connecting, collaborating and learning from one another throughout the year.

Together — using the tools of community development, economic development and charitable giving — they are creating stronger, more prosperous communities across the state. Together, they are building a Greater Nebraska.

At Nebraska Community Foundation, we believe adults learn best from their peers. We’ve spent decades mobilizing a statewide network founded on this principle. The community leaders we work with tell us that one of the biggest benefits of being part of the NCF network is the opportunity to convene with and learn from other community volunteers throughout Greater Nebraska who are facing the same challenges and opportunities they are.

The NCF network works because it is built on a vision shared by over 250 communities across the state: build, grow and sustain hometowns that are magnetic, in other words, places that attract stayers, returners and newcomers to be in community with us. And it’s about a lot more than just jobs. It’s the added amenities that attract us to these places. A sense of belonging and pride in my community. A feeling that “I am home.”

For some communities, that means audacious investments in early childhood development and afterschool expanded learning. Others are creating recreational and cultural opportunities that remind folks why they love their hometown. The process of creating a magnetic hometown looks a little different in every community, but in every place, it revolves around four key components: collective vision, distributed leadership, discretionary capital, and citizen engagement.

Above all, it’s about working together.

There’s a saying I love: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” I am reminded of this adage every time I attend an NCF peer learning gathering, but especially at the annual celebration. This year’s event will center on the theme “Together a Greater Nebraska” and will focus on telling stories about Nebraskans working together to make bold plans and put local assets to work.

All are invited to join us — a growing network of dreamers and changemakers, dedicated to helping our hometowns reach their highest potentials. It promises to be a truly inspiring evening and I hope to see you there.

The author is president and CEO of Nebraska Community Foundation.

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