VALPARAISO | Uniting the diverse region of Northwest Indiana begins by focusing on the positives, an educator and global researcher said Thursday.
Dr. W. Joye Hardiman, former executive director of The Evergreen State College's Tacoma, Wash., campus, delivered the keynote speech at an event designed to foster collaboration and innovative thinking to position the region for growth opportunities.
Nearly 200 leaders from Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Pulaski and Starke counties gathered at Strongbow Inn for “A Cross-County Breakfast and Convening,” sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College, the Dare to Dream: One Region/One Vision initiative, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Hardiman recalled being called in to assist the city of Auburn in her home state that was undergoing a transition much like some of the communities in Northwest Indiana. Hardiman said what her team did was instead of asking what was wrong with Auburn, and why Auburn “couldn’t put its stuff together,” they asked what was right with Auburn. Then, through analysis and interviews they found out when the city had been successful.
“And then we said ‘this is your rubric,’ ” Hardiman said. “Nothing you do from now on should not meet these qualifications. You have been successful, so let’s try to do it again.”
Hardiman said they discovered residents were only attending meetings if their children were involved, so they created community centers in parks.
The community was also holding all their meetings at city hall “because that’s how they’ve always done it.”
Other speakers at the event included Tyonne Green, a student at Wirt-Emerson Visual and Preforming Arts High Ability Academy; Nancy Adams, a Porter County Commissioner and co-owner of Strongbow Inn; Gary Corbett, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms; Eddie Melton, communications and community relations manager with NIPSCO and Harry Vande Velde III, president of the Legacy Foundation.
All sought to answer the question, “How does a diverse region work together to build a great region in a global economy?”
Hardiman, who has more than 35 years experience as a practitioner of learning community excellence and educational reform, offered nine rules to encourage collaboration, cooperation and communication in the region.
Keith Kirkpatrick, Leadership Northwest Indiana executive director and one of the event's organizers, said the region needs to see itself as one and believes it is on the brink of greatness.
“I think we have so many good things in place,” he said. “What I believe that we are missing is I still don’t know if we have a clear vision of what we want to be when we grow up.”