Our work with EducationNC takes us across the state. Our offices are the schools, community centers, churches, and coffee shops that are the heartbeat of our communities.
Last year, we went to the hollers of Madison County, the farm at Conetoe Family Life Center, on home visits in Durham, and to the Furniture Academy of Catawba Valley Community College. We grabbed coffee at Table in Asheboro, chowed down on BBQ at the Skylight Inn in Ayden, and dined on farm fresh trout with the young ladies from the PAGE program in Madison County.
Some may ask why we are in community so much, but we believe there is no other option.
Vital work happens in Raleigh in the halls of the legislature, and we are there to document it. In order to have context for the state and where we are heading, we believe we must engage in dialogue with as many North Carolinians as possible and provide a full picture of a state that is complex, nuanced, and changing.
Our work in community lead to the launch of our Reach NC Voices initiative last year.
As we drove across our state in the fall of 2016, we listened to talk radio, Christian radio, old time country, and bluegrass. The conversations held on these stations was often times different from the conversations happening in our urban centers. We would see handmade signs for candidates and causes that were rarely spoken of in Raleigh, and we began to wonder what was going on across our state. We attended meetings focused on issues not mentioned in committee meetings of the General Assembly. We wondered what we could do to make sure more citizen voices were heard by those in positions of power.
We believed then, and believe now, that our civic life faces a crisis of listening which contributes to a decline in trust of institutions, a decline of participation in civic organizations, and a loss of empathy.
We believed then, and believe now, too many voices were not being heard, and the stories being told about our communities were one dimensional, if they were being told at all.
And we believed it was our mission to place the public back in public policy. Over the last year, we attempted to do just that, because you and your voice matter. We believe the future does not just happen but that we can shape it.
Captured below are some of the highlights of our work from the past year.
To kick off the first conversation, we asked North Carolinians to weigh in on the media and tell us about their issues of concern. We discovered 14 percent of respondents found their preferred news source untrustworthy, and 8 out of 10 said education issues were important to them.
“Put the public back in public policy.” — Nation Hahn
On February 16th, we worked with EdNC and the NC Center for Public Policy Research to launch a conversation around class sizes — 2,445 teachers responded throughout the year. Teachers were quick to give a range of perspectives.
“Elementary kids cannot help what their parents do. Let’s give them a good education with a healthy breakfast and lunch to help.” — Mother from Nash County
In March, we added 388 members to Reach NC Voices by initiating a conversation around early childhood education in partnership with our friends at the NC Early Childhood Foundation. We also kicked off a series of statewide polls to gauge interest in other education-related topics.
“To be healthy and grow into a happy adult who strives to leave the world a bit better than they found it.” — Parent from North Carolina
In April, we tackled the topic of HB13, our first discussion on an active House bill. HB13 addresses kindergarten, first, second, and third grade class sizes. By April 24th, we received our 10,000th poll response.
“Elected Officials — investing in our youngest members of society is a beneficial investment in all of our futures.” — Mother from Durham County
In May, we began a conversation with rural North Carolinians, asking if they felt understood by the people of Raleigh and lawmakers.
“I live on a farm. No one but farmers understand what the lifestyle is like or the problems and joy that go with it.” — Resident of Randolph County
June marked a milestone for Reach NC Voices: the addition of Hyde County meant responses in all 100 North Carolina counties. In partnership with the Food Insight Group, we brought together students, parents, teachers and nutrition directors to discuss school food at State of the Plate. We also began our statewide conversation around what it means to #LoveNC.
“Mental Health is one of the largest and most critical issues facing public school students and teachers. This needs to be addressed and acknowledged from the community level in order to really progress in our classrooms.” — Teacher in Buncombe County
We visited Cove City to observe a community transportation barriers that prevent students from accessing no-cost summer meals. We launched a survey for students on improving the service. We also launched our census weighting tool which allows us to more accurately represent the people being surveyed.
“I hope that my 15-year-old son continues to show respect, honor and compassion for ALL mankind as he’s been taught regardless of physical, social or economical differences.” — Mother from Durham County
On August 3rd, we traveled in a redesigned summer meals school bus in Rowan County, and talked with students about how they could be better served. We wrapped up a three-month look into K-12 summer meal programs by giving feedback to site directors for improvement.
“I want to make a difference in the life of a child. I want to teach children where they are and watch them grow and blossom.” — Teacher in Knightdale
In September, we joined forces with the Hope Street Group to get feedback from teachers on professional development. We heard from 12,000 educators across the state. On September 25th, we received our 100,000th poll response.
“The legislature has made it clear that the teaching profession is not valued in this state.” — Macon County resident
The Reach NC Voices team began a Design Sprint, discussing and developing a way to reinvent current technology and close the engagement cycle. Adopting the philosophy from Google Ventures, the sprint was a five-day process that helped us move from idea to construction to launch.
“To live in a society free of prejudices and discrimination.To live in a society where you are valued by how you help others and contribute, not be your gender, skin color, life choices or religion.” — Wake County parent
We began a series of conversations with Durham residents called The Durham Pulse, focused on information needs and community-related issues. EdNC launched the principal pay calculator and used Reach NC Voices technology to spark a conversation with hundreds of North Carolina principals. We created and implemented the short code 68337 where participants can text REACH with questions and responses.
“Durham means collectively reckoning with a complicated past to build a more collaborative future.” — Durham resident
We began a conversation on teacher housing in collaboration with NCCPPR and the NC Community Development Initiative. We gathered more than 1,000 responses on issues around housing for teachers across the state. We attended the Tarboro Christmas Parade and Durham Holiday Parade where we gave out local goods and asked residents to text in what they hoped for this holiday season.
“Most first year teachers have to live far from work in order to find a place to live. Their salary simply doesn’t cover decent housing in most districts.” — Teacher from Wayne County
Looking behind, looking ahead
We started a new conversation looking back at 2017 and talking about what 2018 will look like for us and our state. If you have not weighed in yet, we encourage you to do so below.
EdNC 2018 Reach NC Voices