Waco building ‘community IQ’ through connected residents, institutions

Waco is working together and as the old adage says – let’s work smarter, not harder! Working smarter takes creative impulse and deliberative dialogue.


Smart work can start with either a need or an opportunity, but we build our “community IQ” when we have the capacity (as residents and institutions) to see our city as an interconnected ecosystem — and then we have the will and ability to work together across that ecosystem for mutual benefit.

We build community IQ when we introduce friends and partners. Thank you, Sam Brown and David Brennan, senior vice presidents of First National Bank of Central Texas, for bringing your friend, Rosa Rios Valdez, to Waco to meet others working for financial empowerment. Rosa is president and CEO of BCL of Texas, Business & Community Lenders, a statewide nonprofit economic development organization that focuses on helping individuals and businesses by lending money and providing custom help to buy homes, finance business, and learn how to manage money. David has served on the board of BCL and invited Rosa to meet with Chamber leaders, City Center Waco staff, McCiff CEO Chris Gonzales, and Prosper Waco. Small business needs strength and support, and BCL is helping with two new initiatives, one focused on small business lending and one on real estate investment.


We build community IQ when we are willing learners. Recently, Shannon Wittmer, CEO at HOT Goodwill Industries, brought together a group of citizens, community leaders, funders, neighborhood leaders, City of Waco council members, and Goodwill staff to share ideas, blue sky possibilities, and a room full of imagination as together people heard each other’s dreams for new possibilities in East Waco, where Goodwill has had property for more than 40 years. One of my favorite quotes from this interesting conversation was the number of times someone said, “Like so&so said, I totally agree with that.” We build community IQ when we verify what others are experiencing and seeking.


We build community IQ when we dig into our experiences and anecdotes to add to the weight of solid data to move decisions forward to impact the greater good. The challenges of 2020 have led many of us to rethink the ways we work toward prosperity and justice in the Waco area. Where are we? Where are we seeing the most progress? Where are we seeing the most need? The Waco Snapshot Report will show the current state of the Waco community regarding common and important indicators measuring domains like health, education, financial security, culture, safety, and others. Grateful to input from Fernando Arroyo, Waco Family Medicine; Jennifer Branch, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce; Krista Brinser, Cuevas Peacock, and Holly Burchett, Baylor Office of External Affairs; Josh Caballero, Grassroots Waco; Kerri Fisher, Garland School of Social Work; Anna Futral, CASA of McLennan County; Jared Gould, Rapoport Academy; Aaron Mize, Communities in Schools; Kelly Palmer, Waco City Council; Rachel Pate, Cen-Texas African American Chamber of Commerce; Sarah Pedrotti, Transformation Waco; and Kennedy Sam, Creative Waco.


When I think of building community IQ I think of this quote by Jean Vanier, “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”


You are not just a member of this community. You are a maker of this community.


Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco.