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Vibrant Virginia

Vibrant Virginia

Vibrant Virginia is a statewide initiative committed to fostering collaboration between universities and communities, with the goals of building connections between urban and rural, and creating a Virginia full of economic vitality. Virginia Tech and an array of partners, including the University of Virginia, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, are working together to identify and share best practices, build new high impact teams, and make higher education a better partner on issues of innovation, talent, health, leadership, and community development.

Individuals participate in a Vibrant Virginia Community Conversation in St. Paul, Virginia.

Seed Funded Projects

The Arlington Legacy Business Initiative worked to expand and synthesize its collection of oral histories of long-standing, character-defining commercial establishments with the goal of increasing public awareness of these vibrant community assets. The project team worked to: create an enhanced and more publicly-accessible website; devise innovative strategies to recognize the heritage of under-represented groups; initiate partnerships with local business districts and county agencies; and develop a general guide relevant to a broad range of communities throughout Virginia. Final outcomes included a successful proposal for a session at the 2020 National Planning Conference and an anticipated Planning Advisory Services Memo (to be published in 2021 by the American Planning Association). 

Contact Elizabeth Morton for more information.

The Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia project sought to capture the Chickahominy's tribal history, culture, and contemporary perspectives in a way that can be shared within and beyond their boundaries, preserving the past and envisioning the future. A faculty team at Virginia Tech with relevant expertise in education, American Indian studies, and documentary film production collaborated with Chickahominy community members and tribal high school youth to create an educational video that can be used for education and economic development purposes. The final product will be a useful mechanism that will allow the tribe to share their story with K-12 schools, non-profit organizations, federal agencies, and prospective business partners.

Contact Barbara Lockee for more information.  

The Refugee and Migrant Partnerships Project sought to understand how rural communities accommodate refugees who must comply with policies that assume refugees live in and have access to resources available in urban areas. Focusing on the social networks built to accommodate refugees, the project examined policy implementation in rural places to determine whether disparities exist and in what form, concentrating on the connections and communications between rural/suburban/urban spaces. Using as a case study policies that address employment requirements, faculty worked with service providers and refugees to understand how these policies impact the lived experiences of refugees as they seek to comply with integration requirements. Furthermore, faculty convened a state-wide consortium of higher education institutions involved and interested in research with and for refugees. The coinvestigators individually and collectively continue to focus their outreach and research efforts on displaced populations and bridging academic and public resources to benefit these communities.

Contact Katrina Powell for more information.

The Community Change Collaborative (CCC) is an interdisciplinary group of graduate students and faculty. Operating out of the VT Institute for Policy and Governance, the CCC examines the methods, frameworks, and forces shaping community development, approaches to community engagement, and how to build sustainable, cross-sectoral partnerships. With the support of Vibrant Virginia, the CCC partnered with regional community stakeholders  in Southside and Southwest Virginia  to develop and conduct community-based strategic positioning efforts that enhanced local citizen’s capacity to explore opportunities and challenges for sustainable community change. The CCC held community workshops on topics such as business incubators, social entrepreneurship, development of innovative lodging options, and improving nonprofit governance and leadership capacity. Since VV funding, the Collaborative continues to work with communities in Montgomery WV,  Lee County VA and Patrick County VA. It provides opportunities for its members to engage in applied community-based research, while connecting community partners with the knowledge, technical capacity and support that only a major research university can provide. The CCC also hosts a featured speaker and podcast series highlighting the community change work of scholars and practitioners' multiple perspectives.   

Contact Max Stephenson or Andrew Morikawa for more information.

Connecting Schools and Businesses/Promoting Workforce Development through Teacher Internships promoted education and workforce development in Southwest Virginia by connecting teachers with area businesses. They co-created internship opportunities for students while fostering classroom environments that better prepared students to enter the workforce. The project team researched the potential for developing more effective student internships in local businesses, which resulted in the creation of a curriculum and evaluation plan that helps educators measure the effectiveness of internships with local businesses in Southwest Virginia. Their partnership with the United Way of SWVA has been the most successful component of this project and has laid the groundwork for an on-going partnership  through Project Ignite and GO Virginia grant activities. 

Contact Lisa McNair or Sue Magliaro for more information.

DELTA Digital Research Lab developed social media campaigns to help small nonprofits in Southwest Virginia raise their voices and profiles online. Small nonprofit organizations often lack the internal staff expertise and capacity to pursue robust digital programs. This limits their ability to engage the public in their mission, raise funds, expand volunteer hours, and positively impact public policy. Vibrant funding allowed DELTA Digital Research Lab to expand their efforts and partner with under-resourced organizations including various United Way chapters,  the Virginia Rural Health Association, the Boys and Girls Club of the Blueridge, Danville Church Based Tutorial Program, Inc., and the Grace Network of Martinsville-Henry County. 

Contact Katherine Haenschen for more information.

Supporting Healthy Families and Communities through Collaborative Strategies to Reduce Opioid SUD supported efforts in Roanoke City and Pulaski County to develop priorities and strategies that address the Opioid epidemic.  In Pulaski County, the project team worked with the Pulaski Community Partners Coalition (PCPC) to develop strategic priorities focused on increasing parenting skills and reducing barriers to treatment.  In Roanoke, they supported major components of the work done by the Roanoke Valley Collective Response and helped to develop a detailed strategic blueprint for addressing the opioid and addiction crisis from prevention through recovery.  The Roanoke-based effort has resulted in  a $300,000 federally-funded grant awarded to Virginia Tech, which supports the Connection to Care project designed to reduce opioid overdose and connect individuals to treatment through proactive engagement and community partnerships.      

Contact Kathy Hosig, Mary Beth Dunkenberger, or Sophie Wenzel for more information. 

“I am so grateful for the funding to devote sustained attention to my legacy business project, and equally important, for the connections to the expertise of the VT Center for Economic and Community Engagement.” 
- Dr. Elizabeth Morton, Arlington Legacy Business Initiative

“With this seed funding, we have been able to propel our project forward. We have leveraged this funding with several other smaller grants to make connections with service provider and volunteers groups. The resources for travel, meeting spaces, and research assistance has made a critical difference in our work, as we continue to plan for the second annual consortium meeting next fall and to submit an external grant.” 
-Dr. Katrina Powell, The Refugee and Migrant Partnerships Project

“The Institute for Policy and Governance and the Community Change Collaborative profited strongly from our engagement in Vibrant Virginia. The initiative opened up fresh venues and avenues for inquiry and assistance, prompted a lively deepening of conversation on the dynamics of community change among participating faculty and graduate students and stimulated a number of scholarly efforts. In short, Vibrant Virginia helped us address all elements of the University’s mission while providing needed community development support to locations desiring it.” 
-Dr. Max Stephenson, Community Change Collaborative