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Start with what is important!

By Suzii Paynter March

At Prosper Waco we are starting the year off by reviewing what is important to us as a dedicated staff. It is tempting to skip the big stuff and move quickly, when faced with new year’s resolutions and new beginnings, to what we ourselves can control – what is small and immediately achievable, like resolutions to lose 10 pounds, drink more water, call Mom weekly … you name it.

But it is the big stuff that really energizes our work and makes us work with eyes focused on the brightening horizon of a Waco rising. The mission of Prosper Waco is clearly stated and long standing.

The mission of the Prosper Waco initiative is to build an environment in which all members of our Waco community are able to measurably improve their education, health, and financial security. Our vision is a Greater Waco in which all people and institutions work together for the common good.

But the question was and is “HOW?” How do we structure collective, collaborative work that will lead to the measurable outcomes needed in this community? A couple of years ago Prosper Waco staff and our Board adopted a set of values and principles that guide our collective work.

Values / Principles adopted for Prosper Waco

  • To act as an honest and trustworthy partner.

  • To collaborate in community-wide capacity building.

  • To respect the distinct and unique roles of organizations and their representatives.

  • To view and understand our community as an interconnected human ecology.

  • To have the will and ability to work across social or organizational ecosystems for mutual benefit.

  • To promote data-driven decision making.

  • To focus on data which helps us pursue our organizational goals.

  • To support systems that positively impact the pursuit of equity in our community.

  • To align existing systems and/or create systems to bring equitable opportunities.

  • To serve as a resource for community partners that want to demonstrate the impact of their work.

It is challenging to build out the daily activities that make these aspirations come to life, but it is worth the time and effort to revisit each of these values and principles, both with staff and with Board members, to align our efforts for the best use of time, talent and resources. Prosper Waco has been building some tools to help accomplish these tasks and to build habits of repetition that assure consistency and compliance as we strengthen these practices.

This year we have the added expertise of some great outside evaluators that have their national eyes on Waco. One key phrase that continually surfaces when others are looking in at our city is the strength and fertility of the “human ecology” of our city. Much is said about the conversations we share in Waco and about the interconnected set of relationships and interdependencies that fuel aspirations, efforts, and priorities.

Think, for example, of the new leaders in place as executive directors at many long standing nonprofit organizations. Think of the new businesses, large and small, that are blossoming each day in Waco. Think of the new faculty at McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, and Baylor University. (Baylor is scheduled to hire more than 100 faculty this year!) How will these leaders in business, education, and not-for-profit sectors affect and grow our human ecology in Waco?

In every ecology things are born; things grow and flourish; and things also fade, decline, and become rich hubris soil for the next generation.

Even though our human ecology may represent natural cycles of leadership and changing faces from generation to generation, there are values and principles that are solid gold and worthy of cultivating and tending to keep the priorities toward equity, excellence, and perseverance strong across the entire landscape of our city.

Like everyone else, I have my personal weight and exercise goals for 2022. But, more importantly, as a community of collaborators, we remain committed to conversations that put important topics up for discussion as we seek the pathways for measurable progress toward the common good.

Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco.


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