The sounds are what stick in Linsley’s mind the most. At first, it was the howling wind and the crash and shatter of buildings falling apart, trees falling, and rain and rock pelting the house. Then the sirens, as first responders came on the scene. Then the rescue helicopters. Then the machinery and generators of the utility and repair people. And then a symphony of chainsaws and other equipment. Finally, silence, punctuated by the occasional engine.
Overnight between March 31st and April 1st, 2023, America’s heartland was struck by over 130 confirmed tornadoes, devastating an area from Nebraska to Ohio and, further south, the area around Little Rock, Arkansas. Over three dozen people lost their lives.
Linsley Kinkade’s house in Little Rock was pummeled by trees, puncturing her roof. Behind her house, where once stood a vast forest of mighty trees, there is now simply a bare swath of land stretching to the horizon. From her property, she can see buildings she never knew were there. Some are now destroyed.
Linsley knew two things in the aftermath of that devastating night. The first was that she was one of the lucky ones. Her home could be repaired, and she and her family were safe and healthy. The second thing was that she needed to get to work.
Little Rock is her home and the backyard of her employer, Winrock International. She and Winrock are in the business of economic development—they had never dipped a toe into disaster response until now. Now, in the wake of the devastation to their home community, Winrock’s team felt galvanized to get involved and do their part to help rebuild.
Luckily, Linsley had made a connection recently who could help them do just that.
It was the 2022 Concordia United States Summit in Lexington, Kentucky. Leaders of government, business, and nonprofits from across America’s heartland convened in Lexington. It was to be two days of meetings, speeches, and talks centered on the unique issues faced by America. And in between those meetings, speeches, and talks, there would be opportunities for meeting other public and private sector representatives to identify opportunities for synergies, collaboration, and partnership.
Going through the list of attendees at the Summit, International Medical Corps’ Erica Tavares says she was looking for opportunities to connect with attendees who might have similar interests or who would help advance her organization’s mission. International Medical Corps, a nonprofit focused on providing medical care and training to those affected by disasters, conflict, and disease, is often one of the first on the ground responding in the wake of emergencies.
Erica was attending the Concordia United States Summit to learn more about what was happening in America’s heartland and to bolster her organization’s efforts in responding to Heartland emergencies. She was on the lookout for organizations to partner with, and one attendee stood out: Winrock International’s Linsley Kinkade.
Winrock International is a nonprofit focused on economic development and sustainable resources. It operates around the world, providing solutions to complex social, agricultural, and environmental challenges.
Linsley was attending Concordia for reasons similar to Erica’s: to learn more about the issues facing America’s Heartland and expand her networks. At first, her team was surprised about why International Medical Corps would request a meeting. After all, Winrock was not in the business of disaster relief, and both organizations work predominantly overseas. But they agreed to the meeting because Concordia makes it so easy to connect.
Founded in 2011, Concordia is the nation’s leading convener, with a flagship summit held every year alongside the United Nations General Assembly. Fiercely nonpartisan and nonprofit, Concordia aims to connect leaders from the public and private sectors to foster cooperation and conversation and to promote solutions to the pressing issues of our time. With operations around the world, the Summit in Lexington was Concordia’s first purely US-based event—a model for US summits to come.
A key element of the Concordia formula is the proactive approach to brokering and hosting meetings like the one between Erica and Linsley. Concordia Summits provide tools to connect with fellow attendees and schedule meetings, as well as a managed space where these meetings can occur. They are structured, organized and make it easy to connect—and disconnect.
Erica and Linsley connected at Concordia and very quickly realized their organizations could be complementary. The two agreed to stay in touch, and they did, connecting again after the Summit and becoming friends. Little did they realize the first big test of their fledgling partnership would come almost a year later and in Winrock’s backyard.
For Linsley, although she was fortunate, the mental toll the disaster has taken is palpable. For those less fortunate, the toll is even more severe.
According to Erica, who has seen this kind of disaster first-hand, it will take months before some people can move back into their homes, return to their jobs, or get back to their normal daily routines. And during that time between the disaster and then, International Medical Corps and Winrock will be partnering to help them stay healthy, stay fed, and get back on their feet.
International Medical Corps hit the ground running, providing healthcare resources to those in need and working closely with local governments and healthcare providers. The team was just wrapping up its on-the-ground efforts almost a week later. From there, Winrock will partner with other organizations to provide the kind of economic and community development work they are used to providing overseas to their own community. But that critical response effort started with the partnership with International Medical Corps, which all came about from a meeting at Concordia.
As I like to say, at Concordia, we are only one degree of separation away from a connection that could change the world. Winrock and IMC have proved that, and the work they are doing together will impact countless lives for the better.
For more information about Winrock International or to donate, please visit: https://winrock.networkforgood.com/projects/72763-thank-you-for-your-donation-to-winrock-international
For more information about International Medical Corps or to donate, please visit: https://give.internationalmedicalcorps.org/page/21928/donate/