This spring, the Foundation will provide funding for Creative solutions for local transportation challenges, a funding priority for our focus area of Building an Inclusive Economy. In order to do so, the Foundation has formed a Community Committee primarily consisting of members who have faced transportation challenges, as well as those who work in the transportation field.
Two months ago, the committee met for the first time to share their own experiences around transportation in Forsyth County and to discuss what is working and what can be improved. At their second meeting, the committee discussed the local transportation landscape and what they would like to include in a request for proposal that will be released to the community to spur innovative ideas and creative solutions around transportation.
If you have attended any kind of community conversation in Forsyth County in the last 20 years, I will bet you have heard we have a transportation problem in our county. I would also venture a guess that you have heard that the experts on community issues are the community members and they should be helping lead conversations on the solutions.
The Winston-Salem Foundation has heard, and they are listening. They have introduced their funding priorities this year which includes Creative solutions for transportation challenges. More groundbreaking than anything we have all seen in a while, is their historical decision to really dive into shared leadership with the community as experts by creating a transportation committee that will work together on participatory grantmaking.
Starting in February, the Foundation partnered with community members and transportation employees to have conversations about what the city and county need in order to get everyone where they need to be, safely and affordably. The Community Committee is being facilitated by Leading to Change, a group of grassroots leaders that really know what it takes to create an inclusive grant application. The committee is not creating the solutions, we are discussing what we think needs to be included in the request for proposal, and then we will be making decisions on the grants.
As people who have experienced transportation issues or work directly with public transportation, we know that navigating bus routes and schedules, maintaining vehicle registration and a driver’s license, and living life as a senior or a disabled individual are just some of the factors that pose challenges for many in our community.
The community committee is committed to discussing all of the challenges presented. We are also committed to sharing our own stories and refusing to be silent on the tough things, like systemic racism and poverty as well as unconscious biases. Having these hard conversations is helping our committee be open to innovation and creative solutions.
We are brainstorming, we are being transparent, and we are creating a plan that will require inclusivity and innovation because we all recognize the need for a better system in this county. We also recognize that public transportation is not the only transportation system.
The Foundation recognizes that shared leadership is the answer to solving that which concerns us all. By using a participatory grantmaking model, the Foundation is lifting up members of the community to use our voices and have a seat at the table.
Renai Wisley is a resident of the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood, where she lives with her three children. She has a passion for community organizing and currently works as a community engagement coordinator for Imagine Forsyth.