What matters most to our community?

When I think about the steady rhythm of our work here at the Quad Cities Community Foundation, and the many philanthropic victories we witness, I am more and more aware of the linchpin holding it all together—people.

It takes little more than a walk into our office, a stroll around the Quad Cities, or even a look through the list of funds that have been started by our community's philanthropists to see that there is strength in people coming together. And I am never more excited than when there is intentional movement underfoot to draw people together to improve the way we live, not just in the traditional ways of connecting people, but in ways that challenge the status quo.

What is happening in Mercer County right now stands as a great example of what can happen when people stand together. We, at the Community Foundation, have the opportunity to assist and provide guidance to the Looser-Flake Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to Mercer County.

Mercer County: Better Together is a new citizen-led effort to join the forces of people in their community/county as they look toward the future, and decide what matters most to them. Mercer is taking a step forward in faith that, if they are purposeful in asking everyone in the community for their vision of the future, they will all be able to come together with solutions, goals, and ultimately, a plan.

The people of Mercer County are demonstrating age-old wisdom: When you ask people to be part of the effort as genuine partners, they invest.

I often wonder how different America would look if each community took the time each year, or even every couple years, to pause, reflect, plan and consider together what matters most? It would certainly serve as an example for the next generation that true change is often a result of people rolling up their sleeves and truly caring about each other so that they can work together for the benefit of their community.

It would push us outside our boundaries and comfort zones that at times keep us from collaborating with people who are different than us, or talking with neighbors we don't always see eye to eye with.

It would make people realize they actually own their communities—meaning they have a direct impact on the failures and successes, the challenges and the prosperity, the history and the future of where they live.

It would, simply, make us better.

Here at the Quad Cities Community Foundation, we are about to take our own advice as we participate in the kickoff of Q2030, an ambitious project that will leverage the region's resources in a way that will engage all sectors of our community: businesses, community leaders, nonprofit organizations, government/public entities, schools, and movers and shakers who ensure we are a "cool, creative, connected and prosperous" place. In fact, we are honored to be part of this effort and look forward to serving as leaders on a number of initiatives of the initial action plan.

This week, we will participate in the celebration and launch of this initiative at Modern Woodmen Park. We are closing our doors for a few hours on Thursday so our entire team can participate, making a statement that this is a time for every person in our region to have a say in what happens here.

We want all hands on deck—the depth and wisdom of people who have lived here their entire lives and can paint the picture of the past. We need the voices of new residents, who have a fresh perspective on what attracted them here and why they have chosen to stay. And we need every person in between.

What is there to lose? We have committed our time and resources to this project because we believe that there is a very real opportunity here. A wealth of input from our community—with action—can and will impact generations to come.

Let's do this together. Let's change the game.

So, tell us: What matters most to you?