By Maria Saporta
GeorgiaForward, one of the more promising endeavors in the state’s recent history, needs financial and civic backers to strengthen its work.
GeorgiaForward just completed its second annual forum where hundreds of leaders from around the state came to explore what can be done to create economic prosperity.
“We have done a great job of creating a safe place,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, who helped ignite the GeorgiaForward initiative after becoming increasingly concerned about the state’s splintered factions.
“We have created a new community that is educated, reflective and engaged. Our challenge is to come up with the right mechanism going forward,” Robinson added. “What we don’t want to do is lose sight of what we are trying to do.”
The ultimate goal is to create an initiative where public and private leaders and citizens from across the state can work on a consensus on the major issues facing Georgia.
“This safe place is important,” Robinson said. “If we can get enough of a mass, we can change the way people think about Georgia. I think we are on the right track, and we are only limited by the resources we can raise to build this thoughtful community.”
Amir Farokhi, GeorgiaForward’s executive director, said that the initiative needs a total of $2.5 million to continue its effort for the next three years.
With that kind of funding, GeorgiaForward would continue to have a major annual forum but it also would become a yearlong initiative that would continue the conversation, develop consensus and work on key public policy issues.
Robinson said GeorgiaForward should “appeal to any one who cares about the future of Georgia.” That could include foundations, individuals, corporations and associations.
“We want to build a way to connect the silos,” said Robinson, who would like to see GeorgiaForward become more independent with statewide backers than being seen as an Atlanta-based initiative.
Among the possible partners include the Georgia Municipal Association, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the United Way organizations from around the state, the community foundations and the private foundations in Georgia’s leading communities.
Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, offered to help build ties with his network of faith and civic organizations throughout the state.
Corporations and individuals also could support GeorgiaForward — and have it become a leading force in the state.
“There’s a need for leadership. People want action on K-12 education. We may lead on that,” said Farokhi, who had not yet had a chance to read over the evaluations done by the participants. “I think we’ve done a good job engaging folks.”