Trip Report: Mississippi Delta

Collage by Amy Kincaid

Last week we were in Mississippi, planning the launch of two new farming microenterprise programs and attending the second annual The Future of the Mississippi Delta conference. ChangeMatters is working hand in hand with our trusted Arizona-based partners, DRA Resources (who specialize in Federal grants, compliance, program evaluation, and business planning). This is our second trip together.

So, the region’s locally-developed goals are to double post-secondary attainment, to connect jobseekers to living wage careers, to establish the Delta as national center for creative arts, and to remove health disparities (Delta Revitalization Plan, Mississippi Delta Strategic Compact, 2009). There is a lot of work to do and leaders are working with limited resources and a long history of struggle. They are building interventions that involve bold ideas, building institutional capacity, and engaging local leadership.

Two of the projects we’re working on there involve business training and a farmers market with a host of related services for very small farming enterprises. Both are funded by USDA.

So, we outsiders from Kansas City by way of Maryland/DC and from Tucson are in. Our perspective and position is that of ally, and our job is to support, challenge, and help with planning and “capacity-building.” The leaders are there. What we can do is identify and secure new resources, co-design and launch projects (especially income-generating ones) that feed into the regional strategy, strengthen organizational effectiveness, position the work in a national context, and measure outcomes and impact. We believe in the agricultural workers and local people and in the possibility for the region.

BTW, this collage plus one with pink cotton blossoms were inspired by our previous trip. When we invest in a client and the economic future of a region, we tend to go “all in,” heart and soul, making social change and at least a little bit of art along the way.