Community Conversations Executive Summary from the Nevada Jaycees

Staff Writer
Nevada Journal

The Nevada Jaycees chapter has been seeking input from various entities in the city of Nevada over the past few months as the chapter strives to become more involved in helping the community with various needs. To understand what they are doing and why, the Jaycees have prepared this report that summarizes what they call: “Community Conversations.”

Background

Junior Chamber International, known locally as the Jaycees, has moved from being a community service organization to creating impact by utilizing the Active Citizen Framework. Within this framework, members of our chapter have begun to analyze local challenges. Our members intend to collaborate with community partners to conduct projects, find solutions and evaluate results to ensure sustainability.

Aims

To begin to understand the scope and dimension of the challenges facing Nevada, the Nevada Jaycees turned outward to ask members of the community to share their aspirations. The desired result was to develop at least one measureable goal for the areas of health, education and sustainability, so that we could proceed with a shared vision in creating the biggest possible impact on the future of our community.

Method & Participants

During the first half of 2016, we met with seven Nevada groups (38 individuals), with a broad range of demographic characteristics. They included congregate meal participants, young professionals, service clubs, educators, senior citizens, medical professionals and high school students.

These groups were asked to answer a series of questions: what would make Nevada a better place to live, what are the most important concerns they have for the community, what prevents progress on these concerns, what could be done to make a difference and who do they trust to take action on these concerns.

Findings

By engaging the community, the Jaycees gained valuable knowledge for our work moving forward. Additionally, we will share this knowledge broadly with key leaders and decision-makers to take collective action and affect change in Nevada. The themes that emerged will help direct how we engage current partners and the community, identify new partners, develop strategies and mobilize resources. Here’s what we’ve learned:

What residents like best about Nevada is its small town feel, proximity to larger towns, the good school system and friendly people.

The most commonly heard concerns about what would make Nevada a better place to live include:

Community Involvement:

• More people should volunteer and participate in the community, including youth and young adults

• Lincoln Highway Days used to be a large event, but lost support

• There needs to be more people working together and groups collaborating

• We need opportunities to meet other people

• Those who want to get involved don’t know how

Business:

• There is a lot of turnover of downtown businesses

• It’s a struggle to keep restaurants open

• Many new businesses are industry, not small businesses

• Business hours aren’t conducive to people who work outside of town

• We need more places to socialize

Attitudes:

• People are unwilling to change

• Need fresh community members to be involved to prevent burnout

Communication:

• Need a centralized place to communicate activities in town because people don’t know where to look to find opportunities. The water bill is good, but not everyone reads it.

Kids/Teens:

• More activities and places for teenagers to go

Other community concerns:

• Housing, planning for the future/leadership, safety, transportation and poverty.

Participants stated that money and time seem to be the biggest roadblocks to change. To make a difference on the concerns, suggestions included focusing on only one solution at a time and changing attitudes. Participants trust the following entities to take action on their concerns: Rotary, schools, churches, Legion, Chamber, Jaycees, Kiwanis and city government.

Recommended next steps

Another theme throughout the conversations was collaboration. Many of the collaborations and relationships in place now are making good progress within their areas, and more partnerships are desired to move discussion into action. We believe that collaboration will be a part of the solution created to address the concerns listed above. To collaborate, we will share this newly gained public knowledge with those who can be a part of the solution: community leaders and community members, including those who participated in conversations.

The Jaycees will set at least one goal within the areas of health, education and sustainability. Reaching community goals will require expertise, experience and passion from members of the community who hopefully will come together to collectively impact the community and seek out additional stakeholders.

Once goals are identified, we will begin to collect baseline data and work with community partners to develop ways to measure our progress.