2013 was the year I thought never would happen. Ever since childhood I had this sinking feeling the Mayans were likely right, and 2013 would be the year that never, well, would be a year at all. As December 21, 2012, rolled past and 2013 moved in with a bang, I knew this New Year was definitely the beginning of something much bigger than me. I just wasn’t sure where the year was going to take me (and us).
Just a few months earlier in the summer of 2012, Kelsey and I officially formed The Facing Project after doing “Facing Poverty in Muncie”—which you can read about here. At the time we weren’t sure if spreading Facing into other communities would work, but we started reaching out to people we knew who believed in the power of stories and would take a chance on the project. By December of 2012, we had five pilot communities signed on—ready to tell their communities’ story. 2013 was going to be the start of something exciting.
Now that the year has passed, looking back it has exceeded our expectations. As it comes to a close, we want to reflect on the journey and share with you the path for 2014.
First, and foremost, our pilot communities are amazing. Atlanta, Georgia; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Muncie, Indiana; Rome, Georgia; and South Bend, Indiana—these communities are facing topics from human trafficking to autism to poverty to the lives of teenage girls. And the outpouring of community support at the book releases and monologue events has been tremendous. Four of the communities held their book releases and events in the last six months. Just from those projects, nearly 1,000 folks turned out and 10,000 Facing Project books are currently sitting on shelves, being used in classrooms, utilized by doctor offices and clinics for families, and inspiring people to get involved. The last pilot community, Atlanta, will hold their monologues in January, and it’s already gearing up to be a record breaker.
We know that “Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne” is being used in college Sociology and Social Work classrooms in Florida and Indiana to help students going into the nonprofit sector understand the lives of those they’ll one day serve. The stories also inspired one woman to start a sleeping bag program for the homeless—I guess a story really can provide warmth.
“Facing Autism in Muncie” was shared throughout k-12 school systems in Muncie, Evansville, Fort Wayne, and Chicago, and is being used by pediatricians and clinics as a resource for families. “Facing Hope in Rome” is guiding over 25 nonprofits to better tell their stories as a collaborative rather than as competitors, and “Facing the Future through the Voices of Teenage Girls in South Bend” is helping inform the Mayor’s office on issues facing youth.
The initial outcomes of each don’t have immediate solutions, but it’s a step in the right direction. The stories are inspiring people to be engaged in their communities by learning from those who live in their communities, and that’s the start of something beautiful.
2013 also saw the launch of The Facing Project website and sub-websites for each of the Facing communities. In the next five years, this site will be the largest depository of first-person, socially conscious stories that can be accessed by educators, nonprofits, researchers, and change-makers.
In the past year, the awareness about The Facing Project through the media has been overwhelming, in a good way. From local news and radio stations in Facing communities to an appearance on NPR, the stories are starting to speak.
And the last quarter of 2013 brought on three new Facing Projects: Facing Drug Addiction in Barbourville/Knox County, KY (hosted by Union College); Facing Hunger in Manhattan, KS (hosted by Kansas State University); and a national project on Facing Immigration.
With just a little over a week left in 2013, we are moving full steam ahead into 2014. We have several exciting developments, some of which we can share.
We are in the process of hiring our first intern who will assist us tremendously with our growth. By this time next year, we expect to have at least 50 Facing Projects either underway or completed. That’s a goal of 1,000 first-person, socially conscious stories in print and on the web by the end of 2014, with 100,000 copies of Facing Project books in distribution. As we saw in 2013, these stories will be used to educate and inspire.
Another major development for 2014 is that Kelsey and I have been invited to headline the National IMPACT Conference in February alongside two major political figures, one of which is damn near a celebrity (we know who, but we can’t tell you who until IMPACT makes the official announcement which is coming soon). IMPACT is the largest college student and nonprofit engagement conference in the country. This is HUGE. We are humbled and honored and all of those emotions that happen when one gets asked to headline a major venue, but mostly we are happy this platform will provide another outlet to honor the stories and inspire more people to be called to action.
2014 hasn’t even happened yet, but we are excited to see what will unravel. Much like 2013, who knows where the next year might take us.
The Facing Project would not exist without the amazing work of Facing communities, and the citizens in those communities who fearlessly share their stories. And without you, our followers, we wouldn’t have the steam to press on. It is your constant encouragement that keeps us pushing forward to help the stories be told.
Thank you for an amazing 2013.
Happy Holidays and here’s to 2014!