In our modern society of today, it’s important to have various kinds of networks. But what if we could have a network of networks?
Today we’ll meet a team of people who are building connections between multiple networks for the economic benefit of small businesses and communities across the state.
Christina Long is strategic director for this new cross sector network known as NetWorked – Partnership for Community Investment, sometimes known as NetWorked for Change or NetWorked for short. She knows the importance of these issues firsthand.
Christina is a Wichita native and a graduate of Wichita State. She was a cultural affairs reporter for the Wichita Eagle and then worked with the Wichita school system in student support.
In 2013, she launched her own business known as CML Collective. CML Collective strives to develop and enhance marketing and communication strategies for brands that recognize inclusion as a business imperative. “We want to create positive channels of communication for communities of color,” Christina said.
Among other services, CML Collective offers training titled Go Long – Leadership that Lasts, provided by Christina and her husband, Jonathan Long.
When she founded her small business, Christina reached out to the Small Business Development Center. She learned about various resources including NetWork Kansas, the statewide entrepreneurship organization.
In 2015, Christina conducted a half-day workshop to build awareness of these small business support resources. This would become known as Create Campaign, Inc., which provides business development support for minority business founders in the Wichita area.
“I could see we needed a bridge between entrepreneurs and service providers,” Christina said. She served in a leadership role in the Wichita Urban Entrepreneurship-Community (E-Community) and helped start similar organizations in Kansas City, Kansas and Shawnee County. n 2019, she published her book, titled For the Greater Success.
Christina worked with NetWork Kansas in various ways. In 2020, NetWork Kansas CEO Steve Radley approached her with an idea: What if there was a network of networks for economic development? Essentially, this meant creating a process for enhanced communication and collaboration among the various support systems for entrepreneurs.
This became what is now known as NetWorked.
The mission of NetWorked is to connect unconnected networks and close the gap between people, information and assets in order to develop pathways that boldly solve community challenges. “We want to encourage cross-sector collaboration,” Steve Radley said.
Along with multiple resources within NetWork Kansas itself, NetWorked involved key external resource persons such as Virginia Barnes from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and Jeff Usher from the Kansas Health Foundation. Among the other members of this leadership team is the NetWork Kansas product manager for rural entrepreneurship in western Kansas.
That is Christy Preston who lives at the rural community of Selden, population 219 people. Now, that’s rural.
“We want to support communities big and small, urban and rural,” Christina Long said. “Ultimately, the success of investment in these communities impacts our wellbeing as a state.”
“We had our first (online) convening in March 2021,” Christina said. Since then, Christina has facilitated monthly sessions, recorded live and posted online, with various stakeholders for NetWorked. Topics include various grants, programs and technical assistance that provide cross-sector investment in non-profit community development organizations as well as for-profit businesses.
“We want to make bold changes and attack real problems,” Christina said. What drives her to do this work? “I live by the African proverb that says, ‘I am because we are,’” she said. “We’re interconnected. I want to bring about changes in people’s lives and make this a better place.”
What if we could have economic and entrepreneurial development that is supported, not just by a network, but by a network of networks? That should multiply the benefits. We commend Christina Long, Steve Radley and all those involved with NetWorked – Partnership for Community Investment for making a difference with their collaborative efforts. Their networking is having an impact of impacts.
We’ll learn about one new small business initiative next week.