Partnering for a Greater Good

Published 12:56 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2019

As we turn our attention towards 2019, we are optimistic about all the possibilities that through collaborating partnerships lay ahead.

That being said, after twenty-one years of working with our local communities, we know that the secret sauce to cultivate many of these possibilities lies in “getting outside the box”… doing things a little differently. And there is the challenge.

I don’t think it is news to anyone to say that people inherently cling to the comfort found in what is familiar—even when doing things the way we always have isn’t producing the results we want. Change is hard.

Real regional change requires folks coming together around a shared vision—one that everybody is willing to sacrifice for, invest in and work towards—one that benefits the entire region. It also requires investing time to build trust between partners. Building meaningful trust doesn’t happen overnight.

For the past twenty-one years, Roanoke River Partners (RRP) has been operating along these lines—working outside the box, building trusting partnerships, and collaborating with interested community leaders to forge a shared vision for our region.

Today, RRP is a network of small towns, counties, businesses and organizations, and community-minded folks who support this rural development along the Roanoke. Though we are fortunate to sometimes earn grants for special projects, there is no funding source to operate this organization other than the investment made by our partners.

Our business model requires that those towns, counties and businesses that benefit from the visitors we draw to the region re-invest in our operation. Our support comes from small towns with a population of less than one hundred people as well as from larger towns. It also comes from regional businesses that benefit from the visitors that our paddle trail attracts. This includes restaurants, camp grounds and other attractions.

Support for this work also comes from people and organizations with compatible missions—like tourism and historic sites and groups. We are indebted to regional partners who lend their support both through financial investment and through the activities and promotions they engage in.

Surprisingly, another source of support comes from people outside our region—people who love the Roanoke and its surrounding communities and people who believe in the work that we are doing to support them.

These folks energize our work by both recognizing the value of the natural and cultural assets we have here and by lending their time, talents and other resources to our work. Among those making contributions to our work are photographers, writers, artists, filmmakers and even the visitors that come to paddle and camp and explore our region.

Each year our region is the beneficiary of valuable contributions in the form of professional photos and films, artistic creations, articles and postings which assist us in telling our story and promoting the region. These products are generously shared for the greater good they might foster.

Much of the magic we witness comes when our partners reach across boundaries and barriers, beyond their own interest—to contribute to something bigger.

Working from a regional perspective we enlist more people pulling in the same direction—not just for their own community but aligning collective efforts for greater returns for our entire region.

Here’s to 2019 being the year that we come together to foster even more good will and greater prosperity for our entire beloved Roanoke River Region.

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at