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NCW Success Summit is a driver of community innovation

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One of the most intriguing conferences around here is the North Central Washington Success Summit, which this week will bring together more than 150 individuals to celebrate efforts that are working to make our communities succeed. The summit will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at Okanogan Middle School and the theme is "Okanogan — Small Town, Strong Community."  

The tiny nonprofit that puts on the summit (the Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship, with a staff of one part-time person, director Nancy Warner) has audacious goals and is making an impact. Warner, a former staffer of The Nature Conservancy, is a firm believer that if we knit together projects and programs that are already working in our communities, we can find the inspiration and courage to do more with our local resources.   

Those tho attend come away with creative ideas to improve their organizations and communities through collaboration and partnerships.

This approach is an antidote to what has become a cultural norm in our society of ignoring what works in favor of fixating on problems, which tends to stifle creativity. These days, it's more productive to focus on opportunities — what can we do with what we've got, where we are" and that only happens when you are open to thinking in fresh ways about challenges.    Fresh thinking is the driver for all innovation in life.   

Warner started the summit as a way to bring people together and share stories of success. Having attended the last four conferences, I can tell you that the atmosphere is lively and engaging.  Attendees — who represent the Tribes, local government, nonprofits and businesses — inevitably leave with a fresh sense of enthusiasm and some helpful contacts to meet the challenges that we all face in these uncertain times. If you want an energy boost, the Success Summit is the place to be on Wednesday.   

Part of the day will be spent looking at some successful projects in Okanogan, including a video produced by Okanogan High School students about the resilience of the community. We'll also learn about restoring Salmon Creek and how Family Health Centers are serving the needs in the county   

Other topics include reinvigorating the Okanogan language, a digital storytelling project in public schools, the efforts of Team Naturaleza to connect Latinos in NCW with caring for our natural environment, among others.   You may have noticed that The World published a supplement this past week about the Success Summit, which includes stories from around the region of people working together to meet challenges and succeeding.   

Like Nancy Warner, I am a firm believer in the value of focusing on success as a way to unlock opportunities. The World's news staff spends a signficant amount of time uncovering stories of success and contribution to share with our readers every week and I'm proud of the work they do to spend at least time focusing attention on what works in North Central Washington as the inevitable failures and foibles that we are obligated to write about.   

Communities succeed because people work together. That's the fundamental American value that IRIS celebrates and that we support.   

If you'd like to see my interview with Nancy Warner, please log onto and click on videos. More information about the summit and IRIS can be found at