Alumni Story: Holding Relentlessly to Purpose Sometimes Means Letting Go
KLC Alumna Joyce Webb knows the importance of holding relentlessly
to purpose. Last fall, she helped launch Wichita’s Family Strengthening Strategic Alliance to address concerns regarding marriage and families.
Joyce has worked in the area of marriage counseling and engagement for years and cares deeply about the importance of healthy, stable relationships.
But she did not realize some of the loss she would experience to make the Kansas Strengthening Families Summit, the first major undertaking of the Visioneering Alliance, a success.
To Webb and her colleague Mike Duxler, co-founders of the Kansas Healthy Marriage Institute, the time seemed ripe for progress. Rising teen pregnancy, domestic violence and divorce statistics had sparked nation-wide discussion about healthy marriages and healthy relationships.
Kansans agreed that stronger, more stable families were needed, but disagreed about how to make that happen or even what constituted a “family.” It represented a daunting civic leadership challenge.
Webb and Duxler recruited Wichita’s three major universities -- Newman, Friends and Wichita State – and area nonprofits and faith-based organizations representing various interests to determine next steps to strengthen marriages and families.
Yet, in what began as an effort to mobilize others, Webb said she and Duxler found themselves managing self as well as their own losses.
They had to let go of ideas and strategies driven by self-interest. They had to scrap their original plans for hosting a highly professional, multi-day workshop to train licensed professionals to work with couples.
“We had to move the issue of marriage and family to a higher level of purpose in order to do what was best for Kansas -- more than for ourselves and the institutions we represented,” said Webb. “If we made it about us, we knew we would lose the battle.”
They had to set aside certain roles and issues to form a unified team.
“We let it organically go where it needed to, taking big risks,” Webb said. “We didn’t know if they would pay off, but knew it was worth it to try.”
Webb and the core planning team instead focused on what The KLC calls “working across factions.” Each group could voice its concerns with the help of a simple premise: We’ve got issues. There is a gap that needs to be addressed. Now is the time.
In early June, nearly 400 individuals gathered for the first-ever Kansas Family Strengthening Summit. They represented more than a dozen distinct points-of-view. Those on hand included military families, African Americans, Hispanics, parents and guardians of young children and teens, legislators, faith groups, as well as those concerned with fatherhood, domestic violence and families with special needs children, among others. The Governor and Secretaries of the State Department of Social and Rehabilitation Service and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment came to outline their commitment and strategies to strengthen families.
Webb said, “It was a feat” to bring so many different ideas together and to hold them in one room.
While Summit conversations provided a vision and recommendations toward that vision, much of the path of progress was undefined. But because of the process, a larger and more energized constituency now existed.
And, whatever happens, Webb plans to be where the action is – holding relentlessly to purpose while understanding that sometimes in holding on too tightly, you can hold back progress.
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