Positioned for Progress

Jackson, Miss.

A conference in Jackson hopes to use resources of groups like the Phil Hardin Foundation for maximum benefit. The intent is to collaborate to find solutions for issues that plague Mississippi like poverty lagging education.

Groups with a common goal are working in Jackson to create new action plans for Mississippi. Those groups include The Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.

Liz Brister heads the low-income initiative of Entergy Corp., and points out this week's meeting is a "meeting of the minds."

"You have the state's complete mission-based sector," says Brister. "You have the Center for Non-Profits, you have funders, you have volunteer organizations."

They represent some of the most notable organizations in Mississippi and Monday morning they came together with a mission.

"We really feel like bringing groups together and working together is one of the ways that we can start to advance our state," Brister said.

That hopeful advancement comes as groups like Volunteer Mississippi and Mississippi's Poverty Fighting Network begin to work on new strategies in combating some of the state's ongoing problems like poverty and lingering educational disparities.

Rebecca Combs-Dulaney is CEO of the Meridian-based Phil Hardin Foundation.

"We all have worked in our own separate little enclaves for a number of years," says Combs-Dulaney, "and the realization is it hasn't worked."

The move now is to create an effort much larger than any individual group by making sure resources for any given project are used to the maximum benefit and by including as many organizations as possible.

David Mallery, the Executive Director of Volunteer Mississippi, says it's about being united in effort.

"It's not necessarily something where we're trying to identify one particular issue and say this is what we're tackling. What we're trying to build is a culture of collaboration," said Mallery.

"Large scale change doesn't happen alone," adds Brister. "You have to get together; you've got to share resources and you have to share ideas."

Leaders say the biggest challenge in making any of it happen is the fact that Mississippi is such a rural state. That makes it harder to centralize and identify where the problems are and how to best form a plan of action. However, that's not stopping plans of action from forming which have proven to create change in the past.

"By working together, we're years ahead of where we used to be and where we can go," said Brister.