05 Jan The Maiden Voyage of the Grant County Viking Ship
Like many of you, I had a couple of days off over Christmas so I gave myself the gift of reading. A friend of mine loaned me a book he enjoyed titled Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Sadly, no relation…because he’s a brilliant writer). I’m so glad Keith shared this book with me because if he hadn’t, I assure you I never would have picked it from a shelf. I’ve never been accused of being athletic, or event coordinated, so the sports genre isn’t my ‘go-to’—and this book is about the 1936 American Olympic Rowing Team. I laughed. I cried. I was inspired. I was sad when I finished it. There is something to be said about the story of an underdog…or a team of underdogs. Add in an Olympic berth and you can’t help but cheer on the salt-of-the-earth, work-for-all-you’ve-got, never-say-die group of nine men that brought home the gold from Germany in 1936. Then, the author threw in a bit of romance and he had me at hello! This book had all the ingredients of a great story…and so does Grant County.
Last year brought us contradictory statistics noting our children as the first most impoverished and our citizens as the third most generous in the state. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the dichotomy of abundant generosity and abject poverty. To borrow Churchill’s description of Russia, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Since Churchill uttered those words, we use them as an expression to describe situations where a solution is desperately needed, but where full understanding of the situation is beyond comprehension. Yep, that’s pretty much sums it up.
That’s why I’m so happy to announce the maiden voyage of the Grant County Viking Ship. The Viking Ship is a term coined by Charlie Wallace, President of the Marion-Grant County Chamber of Commerce during a speech he gave at a recent IWU Citizen’s Advisory Council Meeting. His comment piggy-backed off of two pictures that consultant John Peirce showed us to indicate how Grant County is programs rich, but systems poor. In other words, we have an abundance of amazing programs to help those in need, but no strategic method to deliver them with utmost efficiency and effectiveness. And, to be fair, this same problem plagues communities all across America. It looks like this:
Our Grant County Viking Ship will launch in 2016 as John Peirce has been hired as our consultant to help Grant County create a Shared Vision using the Collective Impact Model. As John helps us implement this model, we will more succinctly be able to identify the Grant County riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But, we’ll need your help to do so. To truly create a Shared Vision for our county, we’ll need all hands on deck…the countywide voices of many and the true diversity that makes our community great. A quote from Boys in the Boat put it this way: “And capitalizing on diversity is perhaps even more important when it comes to the characters of the oarsmen. A crew composed entirely of eight amped-up, overtly aggressive oarsmen will often degenerate into a dysfunctional brawl in a boat or exhaust itself in the first leg of a long race. Similarly, a boatload of quiet but strong introverts may never find the common core of fiery resolve that causes the boat to explode past its competitors when all seems lost. Good crews are good blends of personalities: someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve; someone to pick a fight, someone to make peace; someone to think things through, someone to charge ahead without thinking. Somehow all this must mesh. That’s the steepest challenge.”
And, that same challenge will be ours in 2016. So, in the time-honored naval tradition I hereby proclaim this ship christened: “For the citizens of Grant County, we christen thee the Grant County Viking Ship. May God bless this ship and all who sail in her.”