People in room at Bridges kickoff meeting in Wichita, KansasBridges ICT in Wichita, Kansas, held its kickoff event on November 2 and 3, 2023. After months of meetings, discussions, and inviting, the two days successfully happened under a bright Kansas sky.

The first day was with city leaders, pastors, business leaders, and those who can work at the community and policy level. Mike Saccocio, national consultant and catalyst for the Bridges work in Schenectady, New York, led the discussion. Mike was able to convey a larger picture of “what can be.” The 80 participants left the conversation wanting to know what’s next. The next day, 150 people came together to hear Treasure McKenzie provide a Bridges Out of Poverty: Individual Lens workshop. Follow-up is happening with attendees of both days to find their place in the initiative.

As you think about your community initiative, know that the planning committee has been using the information from the Building a Bridges Community document:

  1. Bring in a national consultant(s).
  2. Establish a Bridges Out of Poverty certified training team (this is in progress for Bridges ICT).
  3. Begin Getting Ahead classes, and plan for Spring 2024 classes.
  4. Work toward organizational changes.
  5. Build collaborations.

Every person invited to the Bridges ICT kickoff event was followed up with. An informational meeting was held a month after kickoff. This was to begin building the group of Bridges certified trainers, Getting Ahead facilitators, and those wanting to work on Staying Ahead resources. The next large change for Bridges ICT is to transition from being a planning committee to being a steering committee. That change will begin in January 2024. All persons on the planning committee will be given the opportunity to identify where they see themselves fitting into the next phase of the initiative.

You may be asking, How is this initiative being funded? Phase 1 funding has come from foundations, grants, and private funders. There is a designated person on the planning committee who has been submitting grant requests. Those requests were sent mainly to local foundations and grant funders. In funding for Phase 2, we see collaborations between Bridges ICT and local nonprofits in submitting grant proposals together. The local United Way is only funding projects that show growth and change. That is easiest done by bringing organizations together for funding requests. Showing community collaborations is what funders are seeking.

Bridges ICT in Wichita, Kansas, uses the Bridges Out of Poverty model from aha! Process to address poverty and its effects at every level of the community. Rather than invent a new wheel, Bridges ICT collaborates within the existing community structure to coordinate and empower individuals, community groups, and city leaders to address poverty and its effects across the city.