It's been a great few weeks for the Bluegrass Community Connectors project. Thanks to the help of our regional community through more than 5,000 nominations, we have identified and recognized 138 people known by their peers as those who "get things done."
The project began last August with a kickoff in nine Central Kentucky communities simultaneously. Bluegrass Community Connectors became only the fourth area in the United States to complete the project, after Philadelphia, Louisville and Portland, Ore. It was also the most ambitious, being the first truly regional in scope as opposed to focusing on greater metro areas.
The project wasn't just about whose name was most familiar or which CEO or elected official was most popular. Instead, questions posed to our community dealt with the essence of what it means to be someone who rolls up his sleeves and sees the work through to the end. The questions dealt directly with those whom we see as innovators, problem solvers and implementers. The seven questions included:
■ Who do you consider to be a particularly innovative citizen, who brings "big-picture" ideas to the Bluegrass region?
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■ Who has the integrity, concern for the common good and guts to help get things done?
■ Thinking of a person who comes from a different background or perspective than you do, who in your own county could you depend on to help you address a challenge?
There were many familiar faces among those identified — mayors, members of city councils, business leaders. But there were many names unfamiliar to most. In fact, when the connectors were surveyed, not one responded that they had a relationship with even half of the others. Nearly 90 percent responded that they were connected with a third or less of the others. With these statistics, we are excited to see what will result from connecting these individuals.
We have received questions about why certain individuals were "chosen" and others were not. The simple answer is that no one was chosen; rather, the community nominated these individuals. Every effort was made to reach all areas of our region Meetings were held with members of the faith and minority communities, young professionals and others. We received great support from print, television and online media to solicit nominations.
There certainly are many individuals throughout our community who do great things yet were not listed among the Bluegrass Community Connectors. For whatever reason — their peers elected not to take the survey, they do great work but didn't necessarily fit as responses to the questions, or other reasons unknown to us — their names were not among the top 138 identified. That does not mean we should ignore their contributions or that they shouldn't be commended.
On June 12, we brought the Bluegrass Community Connectors together for the first time to learn more about the project and to meet one another. They had an opportunity to see some of the data and hear how it compared with the projects in Louisville, Philadelphia and Portland as well as the many businesses for which consultant Karen Stephenson has used the process. Breakout sessions allowed smaller groups to begin a conversation about issues important to them as well as the community.
As with any event, in hindsight there are always things you can improve on, but our goal was achieved. Bluegrass Community Connectors set the groundwork for moving ahead.
So where do the connectors go from here? Forward.
These are trusted, respected citizen leaders who are independent thinkers. One cannot, and should not, control them. However, we can facilitate the process to bring them together, help identify ways to strengthen our community and provide the infrastructure to make the project one that has great impact on our region.
Lines of communication have been opened with the establishment of a connectors-only email listserv. We are forming a committee of connectors to steer where and how they move forward as a group. Many have asked for more time together, to have opportunities to learn from one another and to simply "connect." If this is what the group wants, we will ensure it happens.
To the Bluegrass Community Connectors: Congratulations. We can accomplish more together than any of us can alone.