A place where everyone has a voice

Photo of Nancy Van Milligen talking with a community member

The Community Foundation is uniquely situated to be a forum for important conversations — to acknowledge issues in the community, gather people around them and deploy resources to drive positive, systemic change.

The reason we’ve had such a broad impact throughout our history is in large part due to the willingness of a diverse cross-section of people from all corners of our region to come together, roll up their sleeves and tackle challenges head-on with us.

Today, we have the opportunity to come together once again, this time in envisioning our region as a place where all people can participate fully in society and prosper as a result. As has been the case in the past, driving change begins with a conversation, one that I invite you to be part of.

Join us in raising your voice.

This new blog, Community Voices, will be just one of the venues for these conversations to take place. It is a place where we will test meaningful ideas, consider positive solutions and celebrate our diverse community. It is a place where all of us will be called to think differently — together — to strengthen our region.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll give voice to people in our community doing this work—learning from them about what’s successful, what’s not and how we can support their efforts. Have an idea or know someone doing important community-based work? I hope you’ll take a minute to let us know about it.

So how do we start?

This year, our Board of Directors adopted equity as one of our core values, because we view it as an ideal that permeates all of our work. When everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life, our entire region benefits. That means working to eliminate barriers that have historically prevented all people from thriving.

The challenge before us, though, is that the Community Foundation alone doesn’t have all the answers as to how to break down those barriers — or even what all of those barriers are.

What we do know is that you and I, our neighbors and our coworkers, our for-profit, non-profit and government sectors, can actively identify areas that need attention — perhaps the systems that need adjusting — and take action.

Inclusivity is a hallmark of this work. There are tough issues to tackle in our region, and we need a variety of people at the table to be part of the dialogue.

With this diverse chorus of voices, we must expect that there will sometimes be a difference of opinions, but it’s important to remember that our differences are a source of strength, not division. If we can start with that understanding, change can begin to take hold.

Speaking of change, it is already happening.

For more than a decade, we have taken action to address access to opportunity in our community through many of our initiatives, such as Project HOPE, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and Inclusive Dubuque. We will explore that work more in this space, but these initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to do.

In this moment, we have a real opportunity to make our region an even better place to live, a place where people are welcomed and have every opportunity to thrive. This is a place where I want to live and work. I hope you do too.

Talking about these issues can be complicated.

Or, at the end of the day, it can be really simple: We’re all in this together.

What role will you play?

Nancy Van Milligen

Nancy Van Milligen is president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.

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