Great Rivers Conference 2018
March 30, 2018 | United Way Team

Jessica Whitfield is our Senior Manager of Education. Learn about her experiences at the Great Rivers Conference and how they help strengthen our work in East Central Iowa.

On March 5–8, I traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend United Way of Wisconsin’s annual Great Rivers Conference, hosted this year by United Way of Central Indiana. This year’s theme was “Setting the Pace, Leading the Race, Together.” Being new to the world of United Way, the Great Rivers Conference was an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in the culture of the greater organization at large, network, and learn critical information relevant to the work at hand.

I attended several breakout sessions throughout the conference, but the three that made the biggest impact on me were Collaborations: Engaging Partners for Successful Impact Work, Moving Beyond Deep Listening to Community Relevance, and Community Impact 101.

Community Impact 101 was a great opening session that focused on asking, “What is community impact, and why is it important for United Ways to get involved?” The activities and conversations revolved around strategies and initiatives of getting traction for community impact to become a reality, and not just theory, for each of our individual United Ways.

Effective collaborations are extremely vital to the work we do at UWECI. This session discussed how to establish, build, and maintain targeted relationships with partners from across the community to further our work and deepen community impact.

Especially relevant, Moving Beyond Deep Listening to Community Relevance reinforced that deep listening is important, and it does help us connect to our communities; but that alone will not push our community engagement work forward. Creating effective strategies, asking the right questions, and assessing what the real challenges are for achieving high impact initiatives are things that work in conjunction with our initial deep listening conversations.

In conclusion, the Great Rivers Conference was a transformative experience that allowed me to truly see the effect we have as an organization locally, nationally, and beyond.