News & Media

Mancuso and McKellips Column: Community Survey Shows Local Concerns

Tue. Mar 27, 2012

By: Gus Mancuso & Heather McKellips

Since early February, south Wood County residents have participated in the largest community survey in its history. The survey was thoughtfully created to discover the hopes, dreams, challenges and concerns of the citizens from Rome to Pittsville and everyone in between.

The survey consisted of three parts: 500 random/statistically valid phone calls made to citizens, 24,000-plus cards mailed to homes and businesses inviting residents to take the survey online; and personal, face-to-face “Community Conversations” held by 30 Incourage Community Foundation volunteers with hundreds of their friends, co-workers and targeted pockets of our community. With the survey process complete, nearly 4,000 people have been engaged and listened to.

Talking with specific groups has been especially powerful and rewarding. Whether with residents at Renaissance Assisted Living, Hmong students at Lincoln High School, inmates at the Wood County Jail, members of United Methodist Church or local Rotarians, the message is the same—people care and want change for our community.
What are we hearing from the hundreds of conversations held thus far? Early trends are consistent, with an overwhelming number of responses indicating jobs and employment as being the top concern. A related theme is job retraining—specifically the difficulty of going back to school—with studying, learning technological skills and balancing a personal life in the equation.

The importance of attracting and retaining young adults and families to the area and offering family activities and events, have also been consistently-heard themes. A surprisingly high number of high-school-age students want to stay in the area after graduation and further education. Why? Because they love our community and being raised here.
In our conversations, we have heard young and old sing the praises of our community: The kindness, the work ethic, and the resiliency of its people. The focus on families, schools and our area’s natural resources have been consistently mentioned. We must focus on our assets and celebrate the goodness of our community.

One final “ah-ha” moment surfaced around the concept of leadership. We sense our community is ready for a collaborative, collective approach to moving forward and solving its problems. A “new basics” type of leadership is needed, where all citizens have a chance to become engaged in finding the solutions, people know how to get involved, and everyone’s voice is valued.

Please join us Thursday, May 3, at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln High School Performing Arts Center. All community members are invited to this free event. Our community’s voice will be heard through the data, trends and survey results. More importantly, the deeper work will begin as we collectively involve everyone in finding the solutions.

Gus Mancuso is community coach for Wisconsin Rapids-based Incourage Community Foundation. Heather McKellips is community facilitator for Incourage Community Foundation.

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  • About Incourage

    Established in rural Wisconsin in 1994 to serve the changing needs of the south Wood County area, Incourage has become a nationally-recognized leader in place-based philanthropy and community development. Guided by values of equity, opportunity, and shared stewardship, Incourage envisions a community that works well for all people. One physical manifestation of this vision is the redevelopment of the Tribune building, which demonstrates Incourage’s user-centered approach to growing a strong and inclusive local economy.