THE FOUR PROGRAM AREAS OF WORK FOR OUR FUTURE
We are using our 30th birthday in 2023 to be a launchpad for the future. The 30 years and our time on the road visiting people and communities has put a focus on the following four areas for our continued work.
See Kansas with New Eyes: We believe that exploring makes a difference - so much so that Marci created the Kansas Explorers Club in 1994 to encourage and support those who want to get out to see the state with new eyes - and help all Kansans get to know their state better. Marci’s first statewide trip resulted in the publication of the Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, published in 2005; her second, with WenDee Rowe, led to the Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers published in 2017. We are proud of the Kansas Sampler Festival, which for 27 years helped connect Kansans to communities and attractions across the state. The spirit of the Festival now lives on in the Big Kansas Road Trip, which we organize every spring to foster meaningful and fun exploring in Kansas towns.
Connecting: About 75 percent of Kansas communities have fewer than 1,500 population. We consider these communities to be “volunteer-led” - those that rarely have paid professional staff, but that run on volunteers in civic and governmental institutions. KSF has a special focus on supporting these communities, connecting them with each other and with resources. We build and maintain a robust network of Kansans, the We Kan! Network, who help each other accomplish their goals. We also host convenings and conferences such as the “Do-alogues” (like a dialogue, but with a community action component), the Big Rural Brainstorm and the WeKan! Conference.
Supporting young people: On Marci’s first trip around Kansas, she noticed a certain energy in towns where young people were listened to and supported. She gathered some of these young people and together they created the Power Up Movement. “Power Ups” are those who are ages 21-39 and rural by choice. KSF has, over the years, regularly convened these young Kansans to support each other and learn more about the ways in which they can contribute to their communities - and the ways in which communities can best engage this group. In 2021, KSF wrote the “Kansas Power Up and Go! Action Report”, commissioned by the State of Kansas’ Office of Rural Prosperity. The report reflects the voices of 175 of these young Kansans who shared their suggestions, ideas and dreams for retaining and recruiting younger people to rural communities.
Creating Communities of the Future: Communities of the future like themselves. People like living in these towns, like working on them to be the best they can be. The research we’re doing on our third road trip will help further figure out the ingredients to these communities. Who are the players? What challenges might they face, and how are they overcoming them? We support anyone who has the will and gumption to help their town take even one step forward. We encourage communities to be the best they can be at being themselves. We never impose our own opinions about what they should do, but help them brainstorm, question, experiment, and, often, just keep going. We have helped Kansans in hundreds of towns by listening, asking questions, and connecting them to others.