SOUTH COAST — “The strength of southwestern Oregon is in the strength of our connections,” said Arielle Reid, director of policy and advocacy for NeighborWorks Umpqua.

Reid is also the dedicated staff member for the still-new Collective of Southwestern Oregon, a band of independent organizations that work together to tackle shared issues in their communities.

The Collective of Southwestern Oregon formed a year ago, but members attended the international Champions for Change Collective Impact Forum earlier this month. The nine members traveled to Pittsburgh, Penn., where they saw how collectives across the world made changes across healthcare, homelessness and other community interests.

“This conference looked at how collective action works to move the needle on these overlapping social issues,” Reid said. “There is no other conference that covers these issues so completely.”

As Reid explained it, collectives are composed of organizations and community members that hold a piece to the “puzzle.”

“Say the backbone issue that a collective wants to tackle is childhood poverty,” Reid used as an example. “It may look like a problem that can be attacked several different ways where the school has a piece to the puzzle and so do a handful of other organizations. A collective takes all these different sectors and pulls them together to better handle the issue.”

The collective keeps track of funding sources and makes sure these “puzzle pieces” are in place for the organizations to work collectively on the problem.

The Collective of Southwestern Oregon was established by NeighborWorks Umpqua out of Roseburg, bringing together a group of nine people from Douglas, Josephine, Curry and Coos counties.

From the southern Oregon coast the representative for this cycle was Coos Bay City Councilman and director of Bay Area Enterprises Drew Farmer.

“The goal of attending this conference earlier this month was to see what collective impact looks like and what’s possible,” Reid said.

The Collective of Southwestern Oregon’s focus is on health, education, housing and community building.

“We learned how we can advocate for policies and practices at local and state levels that reflect the way of life in our communities,” Reid said. “What that means is we are a group of organizations that understand life in our community doesn’t happen in silos, so we need to advocate for change in those four areas of focus that best impacts everyone.”

While at the conference in Pennsylvania, the group saw examples of how collectives around the world worked and now Reid plans on using some of those models to better frame the southwestern Oregon's collective action.

“In the next year, I think we’re now well poised to tackle the bigger issues coming out of Salem in the short session and develop a shared analysis to speak on the policy affecting our communities in those four areas,” Reid said.

She invites anyone on the southern Oregon coast to contact her to get involved in the collective to bridge communities and make changes.

“It’s a beautiful thing, what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re building a rich tapestry and there’s space for everyone.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.