Nonprofit leaders in Colquitt County are working together through the University of Georgia Archway Partnership™ to plan and explore ways to keep supporters engaged and appeal to future generations.
Thanks to UGA’s Rural Engagement Workshop for Academic Faculty, which introduces academic faculty to Public Service and Outreach programs in rural areas, UGA School of Social Work professor Kristina Jaskyte and Archway Professional Sarah Adams began discussing ways to help improve the nonprofit ecosystem in the community.
Jaskyte and Adams brought together leaders and staff from several nonprofits from across Colquitt County and challenged them to think in new ways to address issues using the Design Thinking method, a creative approach to problem-solving. The project was funded by a Rural Engagement Workshop grant.
“The project focused on exploring the organizational capacity of rural nonprofit organizations in Georgia,” said Jaskyte. “In addition, it aimed to equip the leaders of these organizations with Design Thinking to effectively tackle the challenges they were facing.”
The challenges identified by nonprofit leaders in Moultrie became the central focus of Jaskyte’s “Design Thinking for Social Innovation” class. Using the information they got during listening sessions with nonprofit leaders and stakeholders, the students devised ways for the nonprofits to address their challenges, including tapping into the funding pipeline of younger donors.
“My students and I engaged in an intensive process to develop solutions for these challenges,” said Jaskyte.
The students had a Design Thinking Day, where they met with leaders and stakeholders from each nonprofit to discuss their work from the listening sessions. By participating in a Design Thinking Day tailored specifically to their needs, the nonprofit leaders were able to generate solutions that will make a difference in their organizations and the community.
“It was great to get nonprofits from across the community together just to share and discuss our common challenges but also to address those challenges with such an innovative strategy,” said Connie Fritz, former executive director of the Arts Center of Moultrie. “We at the Arts Center are excited to take some of these lessons and apply them going forward.”
“It is rewarding to see how receptive our nonprofit leaders have been to this new resource and partnership. I am excited to see how it helps Colquitt County continue to thrive,” said Adams.
Additionally, the project had an impact on the UGA students involved. The real-world experience provided a new perspective for the unique challenges faced by nonprofit organizations in rural Georgia.
“Being able to come up with viable solutions to help nonprofit organizations in Moultrie was an incredibly useful way of teaching and learning,” said one of Jaskyte’s students. “I’m not sure I have ever had a class that was simultaneously so abstract and so concrete. I enjoyed that this class allowed me to learn about the Design Thinking process, and also learn more about the community of Moultrie. I’m proud of the solutions our class came up with and feel they could be genuinely utilized by the community.”
UGA’s innovative approach to rural engagement through the Archway Partnership earned the 2022 C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.