PROVIDENCE, RI – The sense of community and the economy are
among Rhode Island’s greatest strengths, according to a survey of participants
in the Rhode Island Foundation’s Together RI community events in Providence.
“Together RI’s goals were to find out, first-hand, about where
residents see opportunities and challenges, and to create a neutral place to
discuss topics that they think are critical to our common future and to listen
to each other,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.
Meet-ups at the Elmwood Community Center and the Providence
Career and Technical Academy were among of 20 get-togethers held across the
state in order to give people the opportunity to talk face-to-face at a time
when public discourse over social media is increasingly polarized.
“These were neighborly get-togethers that gave folks a place to
be heard, to listen, to reconnect and to engage in civic and civil dialogue at
a time when they are more ‘connected’ via social media, yet more disconnected
from each other personally than ever,” said Steinberg.
More than 200 people attended the Providence events, sitting in
groups of eight and chatting over family style meals. After the sessions,
participants completed surveys that asked them to list the state’s strengths
and challenges among other questions. In addition, some also submitted
In addition to the sense of community and the economy, the top
five strengths included the state’s small size, natural resources and
diversity. Among the most cited challenges were education, inequality and
One participant called the sense of community a strength because
of the “community involvement and participation of people working to make Rhode
Another called diversity a strength because “Rhode Island is one
of the most open minded states because of this and that it has allowed people
to reach goals here that are more difficult to reach in other states.”
Many suggested improvements. “…there's so much toxicity in
my neighborhood due to the level of industrialization the area,” one
participant commented. Another called on the state to “meet our needs. We have
many and we want action.”
About 75 percent of the survey respondents at the event reported
they are now more likely to get involved in community issues after
participating in Together RI and 72 percent said they better understand the
issues their community faces.
“People had productive civic and civil dialogues at the
proverbial kitchen table. There was definitely a desire for the opportunity to
talk with each other and listen to each other. And almost everyone met someone
new,” said Steinberg.
Statewide, the state’s top five strengths were its natural
resources, small size, sense of community, particularly how well people seem to
know each other; diversity and culture, and history and the arts, focusing on
historical preservation and the wide range of performances that are available
The five most cited challenges were social issues, such as the
brain drain and the opioid crisis; government and politics, particularly taxes;
transportation, programs and services, particularly the cost of health care;
and elementary and secondary education.
The Foundation included all the Together RI state and local
results in a report produced by the University of Rhode Island’s Social Science
Institute for Research, Education, and Policy. Posted at https://web.uri.edu/ssirep/files/Together-RI.pdf, the
report breaks out data by session location and includes information on
demographics and the research methodology.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most
comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with
generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded
$43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing
issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership,
fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals
and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true
potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.