SOAR Executive Director speaks at conference at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) participated in a panel discussion at the Uniting Against Poverty: New Alliances and Partnerships conference at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on Saturday, February 24.
The session Arnett participated in was entitled “Big Ideas in Solving Local Poverty.” It was a Ted-style session that highlighted local leaders who have experience building coalitions that move organizational missions forward and demonstrate the strength of collaboration.
“It was an honor to share the story of SOAR and the remarkable work of our partners in building a 21st Century Appalachia to such a distinguished audience,” said Arnett. “The power of SOAR is demonstrated through the commitment and passion of our partners, who are working on the frontlines of poverty alleviation each day. They understand the complexities of our challenges, but they also understand that through the power of collaboration and innovation, we have the tools to overcome them and build a brighter future.”
Arnett spoke of the underlying task at SOAR of bringing opportunities to Appalachia Kentucky. He highlighted a graphic of total employment in the eastern Kentucky region. It was 216,610 in 2006. In 2016, it was 171,262.
“With the employment numbers, we had to look at change driven by innovation,” said Arnett. He also highlighted SOAR’s adoption as a Collective Impact organization, working to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems through an innovative and structured approach that make collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve lasting social change. “Our work is very complex. On some issues, we are leading the charge. On other issues, we are connecting the partners. We take pride in being an instrument of collaboration that brings stakeholders to the table to work collectively to address an issue in a community or a region.”
Change must be disruptive, Arnett told those in attendance. He highlighted the Regional Blueprint, a plan for Appalachia Kentucky that was crafted by the input of thousands of people from across the region. The plan highlights seven areas of focus: Regional Food Systems, Regional Tourism Development, Industrial Development, Healthy Communities, Small Business in the Digital Economy, Broadband Infrastructure Expansion, and a 21st Century Workforce.
“The future of Appalachia Kentucky hinges on our ability to embrace technology and become a participant in the 21st century digital economy,” said Arnett.
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