Clarke County CFSA Forum
On October 15, the Mathews Center facilitated the fourth in a series of follow-up forums sponsored by the Community Foundation of South Alabama (CFSA). The follow-up forums are focused on identifying community-based economic development assets in eight south Alabama counties (Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe, and Washington). Approximately 20 Clarke County citizens—representing business, local government, education, the arts, and many other areas—gathered in the beautiful Thomasville Civic Center to participate in the evening’s deliberation.
Throughout December 2011, the Mathews Center and CFSA moderated forums in six south Alabama counties on prioritizing community concerns. Economic development/prosperity emerged as the issue of greatest concern for the eight-county region. The current forum series provides a follow-up opportunity for citizens to identify economic development assets in each county. At each forum, citizens deliberate on the benefits and costs of each asset and work to identify common ground for immediate and future action.
Simone Washington, Director of Programs for CFSA, opened the Clarke County forum with a word of welcome. CFSA Senior Program Officer Danny Patterson then presented a number of strategic facts related to economic and workforce development in Clarke County.
After a brief introduction of the Mathews Center and the goals of the evening’s deliberation, DMC Executive Director Chris McCauley asked the group to think through what kind of community they want to live in. The group then divided into two smaller groups to identify economic development assets that will provide the county with an immediate opportunity for creative collaboration. McCauley and Cristin Foster (DMC Assistant Program Director) facilitated the small-group conversations.
During the small-group deliberations, each participant was asked to think through an economic development asset in Clarke County that had yet to reach its full potential. After identifying an asset, citizens were asked to discuss actions the community could take to realize the asset’s potential, while factoring in potential costs, consequences, and tradeoffs. Identified assets included: young people (human capital), an existing industrial incubator, cultural arts, and the Thomasville Dual Enrollment Program. One small group honed in on the Thomasville Dual Enrollment Program and the Industrial Incubator, while the second small group focused on connecting with young people who are unprepared to begin a career.
After identifying their respective assets—the Thomasville Dual Enrollment Program and young people—the group reconvened as a whole to seek common ground between their two identified assets. The participants quickly found common ground in expanding the Thomasville Dual Enrollment Program. Potential action steps include: raise awareness of success; expand the program county-wide; connect with the GED program at the industrial incubator; add nursing, IT, and distance-learning courses; and seek grants for funding. Building community support, transportation, cost, and identifying students who might otherwise fall through the cracks were raised as potential challenges to expanding the program.
After the conclusion of the deliberation, citizens continued connecting with one another, sharing ideas and contact information.
The Mathews Center would like to thank the energetic citizens of Clarke County for dedicating their Monday evening to deliberation!
- Cristin Foster (Assistant Program Director)