Mercer County Better Together, Illinois
Since the inception of Mercer County Better together in 2016, using Community Heart & Soul they have leveraged the power of collaboration to strengthen our county and communities. Mercer County Better Together (MCBT) is a 501c3 nonprofit community and economic development organization committed to improving the strength, sustainability and vibrancy of Mercer County, its communities, businesses and organizations through the alignment of resources and priorities.
Residents in Mercer County had a desire to work collaboratively to support their local economy through a countywide planning process. Mercer County Better Together was formed to support a common county vision, and the Community Heart & Soul process was used to guide communities in identifying county and community priorities as part of a countywide strategic planning process. It is important to note that school district consolidations helped residents understand the advantages of countywide collaboration.
Volunteer and Community Response:
Volunteers participated in the Community Heart & Soul steering committee, public sessions for data gathering, and public forums. Over 1000 county residents provided data through forums, stories, sessions, and online surveys.
Heart & Soul Outcomes
• Many outcomes are related to community and county planning, including the establishment of the Mercer County Endowment Fund, the creation of the Mercer County Mental Health Action Program, the Mercer County Strategic Plan, and the Downtown Viola redevelopment plan.
• A Broadband Expansion Plan was created to increase fiber access in Mercer County, and technology needs in the school district were identified and funded.
• Mercer County is also proud of the revitalization of 11 parks and recreation facilities throughout the county.
• Through this work, countywide legislative advocacy was strengthened at state and federal levels.
• Mercer County Better Together transitioned from a countywide planning process to a 501(c)3 nonprofit community and economic development organization. This serves as the backbone organization to accomplish priority work identified through the Community Heart & Soul planning process and outlined in countywide Action Plan.