Read the Story of PPA
An overview of PPA's work, thought process, and recommendations from the past year
THE ISSUE: The Athens community faces the kinds of poverty issues common to many metropolitan communities. Even when the University's student population is taken into consideration, symptoms common to persistent poverty are stark and demand attention. For example:
- Athens has one of the highest poverty rates in the state;
- Athens is a "housing stress" community;
- Athens high school drop-out rate and the rate of teen pregnancy are problematic; and
- Athens ranks near the bottom on several key indicators of community wellbeing including child and elder poverty.
THE NEED: We know that the surest way to break the cycle of poverty is to increase participation in the economy. To do this, Athens has come together as community to develop strategies that bridge differences and reflect a broad resolve to improve the economic well-being of all its citizens. What is needed is a community culture that takes on the hard issues by supporting continuous improvement, clear and honest communication, and collaborative partnering between all community interests and institutions.
This culture can be developed through action-oriented strategies, and through the realization that when one institution in the community faces a serious problem, the entire community must recognize its stake in the solution. While there can be no pre-set agenda or change strategy, it is reasonable to assume that this initiative will focus on improvements and initiatives in six related areas that are critical to meaningful community development:
GETTING STARTED: The Mayor of Athens-Clarke consolidated government, the President of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, the Clarke County Superintendent of Education, the Director of the Family Connection Partnership and the Director of Community Relations for the University of Georgia have come together to create such a collaborative initiative. Judge Steve Jones is serving as the chair and Red Petrovs is serving as vice chair. The work of the initiative is being conducted by a steering committee jointly appointed by the five conveners. The Steering Committee is working with citizens of the community to identify the most pressing problems and challenges, and over time develop collaborative strategies for addressing them. This Steering Committee is called "Partners for a Prosperous Athens," and utilizes the expertise of a Community Resource Team made up of interested community service organizations. The University of Georgia's Fanning Institute is providing facilitation and staff support.
THE OUTCOME: The collaborative strategies identified acknowledge existing efforts and reflects a community commitment to continuous improvement and change. The recommended strategies will be submitted to the convening organizations for implementation. The Partners for a Prosperous Athens will also assume responsibility for monitoring implementation.