One of the observations we’ve made over the last six or seven weeks of “Stay at Home” directives is the number of organizations that are asking the fundamental question, “What can we do to help?” In most cases, the answer lies in linking with others, trying new approaches, and drawing on ideas that might be working in other locales.
That’s certainly the case with a new effort in Knoxville named “Opportunity Knox,” a collaborative effort between the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) and several other local community support organizations that is loosely based on the “Chattanooga Is” effort.
“We liked the tone and message and, more important, that it was a cross-functional resource,” KEC Executive Director Jim Biggs says of the Gig City’s effort. “It was a virtual hub . . . a community center and place where people could find resources or answers for a broad range of questions.”
The mission of “Opportunity Knox,” as stated on the website, “is to connect you with the support, resources, and the deep sense of community needed to be healthy and successful during COVID-19 and beyond.” It is a place “about finding help, sharing hope, and connecting with others in simple, impactful ways to work together to rebuild and grow the community.”
While the initial focus came from ways to provide a portal for answers, help and inspiration during the coronavirus pandemic, Biggs says their vision looks beyond the current crisis.
“We want ‘Opportunity Knox’ to become an evergreen resource beyond COVID-19,” he says. “We see it as a way to make sure people aren’t being left out as the community continues to move forward.”
To realize that goal, “Opportunity Knox” is welcoming other organizations to catch the vision, determine ways they can help, and join the effort.
Although “Opportunity Knox” was initiated by KEC, which also built the website and is maintaining and curating it, Biggs emphasized that KEC does not own the initiative. Instead, he sees it as a community resource that started with the six organizations listed, with others being added as they learn about “Opportunity Knox.”
The initial partners consist of the Knoxville Area Urban League, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, Alliance for Better Nonprofits, Leadership Knoxville, United Way of Greater Knoxville, and KEC.
“It’s really intended to be a partnership, and a place to recognize ALL of the great work being done here – an open-sourced community resource that depends on collaboration among all of the organizations, and private sector folks, who are making a difference in our region,” Biggs explained. “Our hope is that lots and lots of people want to be engaged in this.”
What type of information is available currently? There are six key categories – staying well, connecting with others, needing food, worrying about your business, worrying about your job, and wanting to help. There is also a section to share stories of ‘joy’ – small triumphs, moments of hope and optimism, acts of kindness and generosity, and innovative and inspiring ways that our community is supporting each other in this time of need.
Those interested in learning more and/or getting involved should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.