My View: Big opportunities for collaboration

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Heather Peeler (Courtesy photo)
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By Heather Peeler

Amazon’s announcement that it will establish a headquarters in Northern Virginia gives us much to celebrate. The promise of significant job growth and expanded economic development means new opportunities will be created across the entire workforce, not just in the tech field.

Alexandria, Arlington and the Commonwealth have proposed significant public investments in the areas of transportation, housing and education in response to Amazon’s planned 25,000 new jobs over the next decade. There are plans to build a tech talent pipeline that will benefit students and companies across the entire region.

At ACT, our aim is to build on these investments to ensure our region remains a diverse, equitable, affordable place to live and raise a family. ACT for Alexandria is Alexandria’s community foundation. For the past 14 years, we’ve worked with donors to help them be more effective in their philanthropy, provided funding to strengthen nonprofits that serve Alexandrians and brought stakeholders together to take on important initiatives.

Our region has the opportunity to bring new thinking, energy and resources to address the complex challenges that are unfortunately part of our community fabric. Existing issues such as growing inequality, overcrowded schools, displacement, lack of affordability and other formidable issues could be compounded if not addressed head on. That’s why ACT is committed to forging new partnerships within Alexandria and across the region.

The region’s success in attracting Amazon is an example of what can happen when partners come together and marshal the political and economic will to tackle big opportunities. Consider what might be possible when the many innovative, effective nonprofit organizations in Alexandria join forces with committed government, business and philanthropic leaders. How might we move our community forward?

Here are a few things at the top of my wish list. As a convener, collaborator and funder, ACT can work in partnership to:

Prioritize approaches that put racial equity at the center. Dismantling the systems and policies that produce racial inequities in our community will lead to greater prosperity and opportunity for all.

Work across jurisdictions in innovative ways to unleash funding that is long-term and flexible. Current funding streams feature geographic restrictions, prioritize short-term outcomes over long-term impact, or are siloed, making it difficult for nonprofits to address complex, multi-faceted challenges. We need to think differently about how we finance community change.

Craft an agenda in collaboration with community members that focuses investment in two or three most critical issues. We can include multiple perspectives, have many seats at the table and put a stake in the ground on the “big, hairy, audacious goals” that inspire action.

While the full vision of Amazon’s new home in Northern Virginia will take many years to bring to fruition, now is the time for ACT, nonprofits, business, government and our community to come together to envision new possibilities and ways of working to ensure that everyone in Northern Virginia can fully participate in the region’s growth and prosperity.

What’s on your opportunity wish list? Please contact me if you have ideas about how ACT can partner with you or others to ensure that all Alexandrians share in the success of our region. Heather.peeler@actforalexandria.org

The writer is President and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.

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