Taking a new approach – K.C. Belitz of the Nebraska Community Foundation weighs in on new Aksarben Initiative
Today’s column comes to you from the Latino Initiative Workshop hosted by the Aksarben Foundation. What an honor to be part of this critical conversation about this huge opportunity in Nebraska!
On this topic, I was pleased to be able to share the ongoing success story from Columbus’ recent past. And, I was particularly struck with how that success story aligned with the community-centric approach in Nebraska Community Foundation’s practice.
That approach, first defined by the board of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, was to take a positive and pragmatic approach to welcoming the Latino population. This approach led to positive action as opposed to unwinnable philosophical debates. The approach took advantage of a critical need for talent in the Columbus market and turned it into an opportunity to recognize the value of newcomers, wherever they were from, as valuable assets. This really overcame many of the assumed or stereotypical barriers to welcoming, and that has paid great dividends for this community.
To modify slightly the old saying, necessity is the mother of innovation. Just as Columbus has found, this workshop is trying to find an innovative approach to attracting and retaining the Latino population because of the necessity for talent that Nebraska is experiencing. I hope we’ll leverage this current necessity into an innovation that welcomes, attracts, and retains people, Latino and otherwise, to our state. If we do, we have our best opportunity since the 1890s to change our demographic reality in Nebraska. If we do not, well, that’s a future for our state we likely don’t want to contemplate.
K.C. Belitz is the chief operating officer of the Nebraska Community Foundation.