The 2013 SOAR summit
The Summit was designed to foster a new dialogue about ideas, innovations, assets and opportunities that Eastern Kentucky could consider. This was an idea and commitment conference. It was not a planning convening. It was not a strategy prioritization event. It was the start of anew way of thinking, talking, and acting “outside the box”. All these steps must follow, of course, and all are very hard work. But this Summit was about recognizing that if this region keeps doing the same things over and over, in the same ways, with the same or fewer resources, the outcomes will probably be the same, or worse. Summit participants clearly declared that is an unacceptable course of action.
But other caveats must be stated. Registration to this event was free and open to all. It is important to recognize that some sectors of the region were more heavily represented than others; some constituencies were more evident than others; some who could not take a Monday off were unable to be heard; some 6 counties in the region were much farther away than others; and the heavy rains and cost of transportation to Pikeville may have deterred others. While every effort was made to have a totally open forum, there are those who chose not to engage. Several alternatives could be considered, going forward, given this reality. One is to ignore this concern, utilizing “the people who make the rules are the people who show up” perspective. This course would be very unfortunate.
As the work of SOAR advances, one of the region’s most critical tasks is to take the enclosed suggestions to the people in an even more engaging manner. What is so valuable here must be leveraged. More dialogue must be generated, more ideas sought, and more commitments obtained. The hard work of building consensus on specific action steps must be done, of course; but “going slower to eventually go faster” is also wise counsel, at this juncture.
Broadening regional buy-in must continue, community by community, county by county, even as other exciting dynamics and projects unfold. We would argue that SOAR’s greatest asset, at this moment, is the unparalleled regional good will that was generated by the willingness of political leadership to honestly engage new ideas and possibilities, by listening carefully to the region’s people. This should be enhanced, and leveraged, as SOAR Working Groups are eventually formed, to continue specific initiatives.