Take the dare

While these problems don't have concrete solutions, they each have action steps, or "dares." Maybe these dares are the actions that will lead us forward.

FORGOING THE SILVER BULLET

There is something in the nature of Wichitans that drives them to solve problems, not unlike the entrepreneurial pioneers of our past or the new, growing community of startups.

While not necessarily a bad trait, this problem-solving mentality can sometimes make us avoid taking action until a clear solution is identified. We're waiting for someone like James Chung to give us the solutions — like flipping through the back of the book looking for the answers to all of our problems.

What if our problems are too complex for any single solution, or silver bullet? Could we wait around merely talking about our problems until it is too late? Maybe we need to be willing to embrace uncertainty and take action.

Following Chung's latest presentation, the Wichita Community Foundation presented each attendee with a set of Wichita Truth & Dare cards (you can download them for free here). These cards are filled with facts that underlie challenges to our long-term success like, "By 2020, 1/3 of American workers' jobs will be altered by artificial intelligence" and "8% of registered voters cast a ballot in the last city election."

While these problems don't have concrete, long-term solutions, they each have corresponding action steps, or "dares." Maybe these dares are the types of actions that will lead us to solutions.


DARING IN THE BUSINESS CYCLE CHALLENGE

It's official. Wichita's economy is still in a recession, years after the national economy has rebounded. Chung announced in his latest presentation that Wichita's economy has not grown since 2010. In fact, we're actually down 1 percent since then.

Omaha, Little Rock, Des Moines and Fayetteville are all growing faster than Wichita.

The U.S. economy, on the other hand, has grown by 16 percent. Omaha, Little Rock, Des Moines and Fayetteville are all growing faster than Wichita.

This negative growth has impacted Wichitans in many ways, including financially. Chung posits that with stronger growth, Wichitans would have $10,000 more in average income, $50,000 more in average home worth and $130,000 more in net worth.

So what do we do about stagnation on such a macro level? Here are a few dares from the Wichita Community Foundation to get you going in the right direction:


DARE: Support local businesses during Second Saturday

Spending more of our money online has a real cost locally in the form of reduced sales tax revenue that would traditionally flow to help maintain and improve the city. But supporting local business isn't just about making a purchase. It's also about getting involved in the community and getting to know the people behind the businesses.

Further reading: Shop Wichita


DARE: Consume news through an unfamiliar news outlet for a week.

If you read the Wichita Business Journal, try the Wichita Eagle. If you read the Eagle, try the Business Journal or KMUW. If you only read local, try getting some national perspective through the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. Expand your thinking by diversifying your information.

Further reading: Power Breakfast: Wilson & Shine


DARE: Enroll in a class to update or expand your skills. Start with EdX.org, MakeICT, WSU Tech, or CityArts.

Expanding your skills doesn't have to be job related. Find something you love to do or something you've always wanted to try. Expanding knowledge is useful regardless of whether it's useful in your current position.

Further reading: Workshop Wichita


DARING IN THE HUMAN CAPITAL CHALLENGE

Chung established three root causes for Wichita's economic stagnation. The first is an abnormally constrained labor market for a city of Wichita's size. In other words, Wichita doesn't have people with the skills needed to attract new business and create growth for the businesses that are here.

To make the situation even more dire, most college graduates in Kansas don't come to Wichita. And Wichita has a negative net domestic migration, with a disproportionate number of college-educated women and minorities.

Chung highlighted this problem by comparing Wichita to Des Moines. Wichita has about 20,000 more adults than Des Moines, but Wichita has about 17,000 fewer workforce participants than Des Moines. The problem really comes into focus when you look at the number of college-educated workers. Des Moines has more than 113,000 and Wichita has 87,000.

Piling on, most college graduates in Kansas don't come to Wichita. And Wichita has a negative net domestic migration, with a disproportionate number of college-educated women and minorities exiting the market.

Here are a few dares from the Wichita Community Foundation to get you thinking about how we can face this problem:


DARE: Educate yourself about local workforce initiatives.

Interested in the current hiring trends in Wichita — or in search of a job yourself? Contact the Workforce Alliance, Greater Wichita Partnership or the Talent Ecosystem Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation.

Further reading: Digital Literacy, Explained


DARE: Commit to spending time with a child through a literacy improvement program.

Literacy is one of the biggest indicators of future success. Get involved through a program like Read to Succeed, Reading is Fundamental or Read to Rover.

Further reading: Wichita's Educational Ecosystem


DARE: Advocate for, or get involved in, a women's leadership initiative.

College-educated women are some of the people most likely to leave Wichita. Ensure women have plenty of opportunity to succeed through groups like the Appointments Project, Girls on the Run or Lean In Wichita Kansas.

Further reading: Expanding Opportunity for Women in the Workforce


DARING IN THE PERCEPTION CHALLENGE

The second root cause of Wichita's struggling economy is a challenged attitudinal and perceptual environment. In other words, attitudes and perceptions are shifting, and Wichita needs to keep up in order to attract younger workers and retain a diverse set of people.

If we want that new generation in here, we have to accept that they may think differently. We have to embrace them and their attitudes if we're going to grow and bring their talent in.

The good news is that Wichita has more people who are willing to stay. In 2016, 37 percent of Wichitans surveyed said they wanted to leave or were in the process of leaving. In 2018, the majority said they'd rather stay. More people also reported being optimistic about the city's future.

The bad news is we still have a long way to go in how we view other people and institutions. The younger generations have differing attitudes about the value of education and the positive impact of diverse experiences and people. Failure to embrace these attitudes can tighten our labor market even further.

"If we want that new generation in here, we have to accept that they may think differently," Chung says. "We have to embrace them and their attitudes if we're going to grow and bring their talent in."

Here are some dares from the Wichita Community Foundation to help us work through these issues:


DARE: Meet with a person who is 20 years younger/older than you to gain perspective.

The generational gap in Wichita can lead to young people missing out on opportunities. It can also lead to older people feeling pushed out by the incoming generation. This is a situation groups like Young Professionals of Wichita are actively seeking to improve.

Further reading: Power Breakfast: Longwell & Etter


DARE: Explore an event showcasing a culture that is not your own.

Wichita can be very tribal. Make an effort to branch out and get to know people with different backgrounds and zip codes. Start with events like Juneteenth, Tallgrass Film Festival and the Wichita Asian Festival.

Further reading: Why Does Tallgrass Matter?


DARE: Engage in a meaningful conversation with a person of a different orientation to better understand their truth.

The LGBTQ community is perceived as one of the least welcomed groups in Wichita. That needs to change. Find a friend, family member or colleague with a different orientation and see if they're willing to share their story.

Further reading: A Plea for Inclusion


DARING IN THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP CHALLENGE

The third root cause is Wichita's chronic under-investment compared to peer cities. This can be seen in every aspect of our city, from public investment to private investment, from startups to non-profits.

In venture capital investment, Wichita had five tracked deals in the past two years, worth a total of $5.4 million. In that same time frame, Omaha had 15 tracked deals worth $20.8 million and Des Moines had 23 tracked deals worth $130 million.

In venture capital investment, Wichita had five tracked deals in the past two years, worth a total of $5.4 million. In that same time frame, Omaha had 15 tracked deals worth $20.8 million and Des Moines had 23 tracked deals worth $130 million.

Our one recent mega-project was a $1 billion investment by Spirit AeroSystems. This is a great deal for our city, but other Midwestern cities are gaining investments reaching up to $3.5 billion from companies like Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.

Here are some dares from the Wichita Community Foundation to get you thinking differently about investment in Wichita:


DARE: Donate dollars or time to an organization that interests you.

There are nearly 3,000 nonprofit organizations in Sedgwick County. Find one that interests you and get involved.

Further reading: Good Neighboring and the Perception Challenge


DARE: Try a mode of transportation you’ve never used before.

Do you usually drive? Try taking the bus. Having trouble finding parking in Old Town? Park further away and rent a bike. Check out Wichita Transit and Bike Share ICT to get started.

Further reading: The Future of Wichita Transportation


DARE: Venture to a public space you’ve never visited.

Wichita is full of parks, public art and unique, open spaces. Explore a new part of the city to find out what you're missing.

Further reading: Why Public Spaces Matter


WE DOUBLE-DOG DARE YOU

These dares aren't designed to solve the problem. They're designed to create a different lifestyle in Wichita — a lifestyle in which we face problems head on, with or without a solution. A lifestyle in which we make progress in every direction, little by little, day by day, until our city is transformed.

In addition to providing the original dares, the Wichita Community Foundation also invited Wichitans to create their own dares. So here are our double-dog dares for Wichitans hell-bent on creating change. Take them on with a passion to make a better city.


DOUBLE-DOG DARES:

  • Ask a friend or relative who lives outside the city to give a candid response about how they see Wichita.

  • Start something: a band, an organization that meets a need, a company, a new educational journey, anything.

  • Request a face-to-face meeting with your representatives on the city council and county commission to talk about these important issues.

  • Create and share your own dares. It takes innovative and courageous thinking to change a city. Step up.


It takes all of us to change this city. Share your progress on social media.


NEXT STEPS:


For a simple look at the perception challenge, check out this short video


Learn more about the Four Challenges


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