Jonathan Long: A new narrative for Wichita – opportunity

Jonathan Long, president of Wichita Urban Professionals
Jonathan Long, president of Wichita Urban Professionals Courtesy photo

Progress is what we all should be striving for. Unfortunately, making progress can be difficult given the complexity of the challenge and the high degree of difficulty Wichita is facing to overcome challenges of economics and perception.

Studies from James Chung, Wichita State University and the Brookings Institute have pointed out that Wichita has taken a backseat in categories that drive economic viability and contribute to thriving communities in comparison to other similar-size cities.

Fortunately, these challenges aren’t insurmountable. To move beyond them, we have to focus more on the opportunity and less on the obligation.

Opportunity should be the theme of the new narrative that we write about Wichita. Taking advantage of opportunities will allow us to achieve the progress that we’re seeking.

I meet regularly with young, diverse and talented individuals who believe Wichita is ready for ambitious, driven and passionate people with strong work ethics to mold this city into the community they want to see. We are ready for Wichita to become what my colleague, YPW chair Sam Foreman, has coined “The Opportunity Capital.”

One of the most complex issues and biggest opportunities facing our community is leveraging diversity to create an atmosphere of inclusivity in both community and economic development. Many of the cities we look at as competitors have found ways to make gains in this area.

Over the past year, Wichita Urban Professionals has made progress in this challenge through our inaugural Dreamchasers recognition event, “The Only One in the Room” professional development luncheon and covering different aspects of diversity and inclusion in Urban Magnate, the organization’s publication.

We collaborated with other organizations, including Young Professionals of Wichita, CML Collective, the Kansas Leadership Center, Spirit AeroSystems, Westar Energy and Wichita State. They share an interest in this work to help showcase that improving diversity and inclusion in Wichita is, indeed, a cause that will require the work of all and not few.

Perception is another area where improvement is needed, according to findings from Focus Forward, a project developed by the Wichita Community Foundation being put together by Reach Advisors, headed by Chung, a Wichita native. Perception is one of the most prominent ways that individuals form an opinion.

The project found that Wichita is not perceived as inclusive. There are many hypotheses as to why that might be. Could it be that women and racial and ethnic minorities aren’t as active in local initiatives? Could it be that there isn’t an equitable representation of these individuals in the media or in local workforce? Or in award recognitions or other avenues that we use to promote Wichita? The exact reasons have yet to be determined. What is clear is that change will come only if everyone affected will choose to bring about a solution.

The time is now that we come together to be the change that we seek. We have the opportunity to make Wichita the community of our dreams. Will we choose to let obligations rob us of that?

Sustainable change is slow and methodical. It takes aggressive, intentional implementation. It’s painstakingly frustrating. It’s also the only way to truly make progress.

Jonathan Long is president of Wichita Urban Professionals and a resource coordinator at the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas. Reach him at 316-285-0518 or jlongachieves@gmail.com.

How to get involved

Wichita Urban Professionals has a mission of developing a network of young, diverse and talented leaders to improve the quality of life in the urban communities of Wichita.

It meets every second Tuesday from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Urban League of Kansas, 2418 E. Ninth St.

For more information, call 316-285-0518 or go to www.ictup.org.