“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”  Gloria Steinem was probably not dreaming about community planning when she made this statement, but her words are nonetheless applicable. Community planning starts with a vision – a dream – of what we want Siouxland to be. We must then listen to stakeholders and community members – but also to the data – to understand where we are and build collaborative efforts to move us forward.

Since 1996, Comprehensive Strategy has served as a clearinghouse for much of the community data that affects positive youth development. Quarterly meetings educated community partners about that data and factors impacting our youth and led to collaborative efforts that brought about improvements in the data. But the leaders of this coalition knew the community needed more. Not just more data, but actual community planning; intentional efforts to collectively gather, analyze, share, and use the data to align efforts of nonprofits, businesses, educational institutions, funders, and civic entities for greater impact.

And so, in 2019, Comprehensive Strategy became Source For Siouxland, a collaborative, strategic community planning initiative for a vibrant, safe, and healthy Siouxland. The initiative will measure the Economic Stability, Education, Health, Safety, and Quality of Life of the community in order to identify opportunities to build a stronger, more engaged community; prioritize the opportunities; and lead collective impact teams that will improve community outcomes.

Communities that succeed are communities that plan. Studies show community planning leads to increased resources of 25-40% in the form of funding, in-kind resources, and expanded donor and grant support. Communities that plan also report increased economic development, health, higher quality of life, and greater safety.

These outcomes are the result of effective collaborations across multiple sectors that are coordinating efforts for greater impact, such as Siouxland’s award-winning 0 to 3: Prime Age to Engage initiative. 0-3 was launched in 2017 after data reported at a Comprehensive Strategy meeting revealed that less than 17% of Sioux City preschoolers were at or above literacy benchmarks. Prime Age to Engage is an ongoing public awareness campaign to ensure parents, childcare providers, medical providers, and the community at large understand how essential a child’s first three years are to their long-term cognitive development. In the coming years, we expect kindergarten readiness scores will steadily rise, due in part to the work of this 70+ member collaborative.  Source For Siouxland will ensure collaborative efforts like this continue to be identified, stakeholders are engaged to develop actionable strategies, and progress is measured to show impact in the community.

Ultimately, the vision is for Source For Siouxland to be an actual resource center – the ‘source’ for all organizations and Siouxlanders to find community data and to learn about or participate in initiatives working to strengthen our community. Until then, Source will work to ensure the data collected, analyzed, and disseminated into the community is comprehensive and accessible so that community partners from all sectors utilize the information to make informed decisions that strengthen Siouxland.

The following article appeared in the Siouxland Magazine “Vision for Siouxland” issue.

To view the publication, please click here.