Fox Cities: Creating a Community Where Everyone Belongs

Fox Cities, a region of 19 municipalities in central
Wisconsin, is like many communities across the country,
but it’s doing something different.

People love living there for all the area has to offer: a small
town feel with great cultural and social amenities, vibrant
green spaces, good jobs and schools, and general safety.

But, as in many other communities, there
are residents who feel like they are not
thriving and that they don’t belong.
"Growing up, it was very hard to find a sense of community because of my appearance."
“…by the time they reach high school, their faith and hope in the system is gone…”
"It's not like people of color are saying, 'give to me to your detriment,' we're just saying 'share'."
A few years back, in response to a shifting economic landscape, increased diversity, growing poverty, and businesses struggling to fill new positions, long-time residents started asking,
“What will happen to Fox Cities?”
“How can we ensure that this community remains a great place to live for generations to come?”

Those community stewards formed Imagine Fox Cities, an
inclusive community-wide initiative to shape the future
of Fox Cities with a commitment to create intergenerational
well-being and a sense of belonging for all.

Stewards are key to bending the arc of history toward a future with all people and places thriving together. That infinite endeavor is a north star in a world that is not built for everyone to thrive.
Imagine Fox Cities and other stewards across the country are working to create a place where more people have the opportunity to thrive and feel that they belong.
It’s important work: we are all interdependent; none of us can thrive for long when others are struggling and suffering.
Together, we have the power to end that inequity.
That is why belonging and civic muscle are central to the vital conditions that everybody needs to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.
Vital Conditions for
Health and Well-Being
The people and organizations who formed Imagine Fox Cities knew that in order to ensure an equitable future for the community, they needed to understand who did and didn't feel like they could thrive and belong.
Then, they needed to build a broad and growing network of community stewards to develop a vision, implement solutions, and make strategic investments that would put the community on the path toward the north star.
"We knew there had to be a better way to create systemic change."

Imagine Fox Cities began organizing in late 2017 and by mid-2019 convened 81 dialogues with residents from across the area to hear about what they loved and what needed to change in Fox Cities.

They also conducted a 3,000-person community-wide survey on resident well-being, finding that only about half of residents reported that they were thriving, with percentages lower among BIPOC respondents.
Two years later, during the height of the pandemic, they repeated their well-being survey. This kind of ongoing data collection is key to both better understanding the scope of the challenges and, critically, to chart progress as their work unfolds over time.
2019 2021
The pioneers who launched Imagine Fox Cities knew how important it would be to create the broadest possible movement of fellow stewards to do this work.
The effort began with a few and grew wider over time.
It gained traction by bringing in community-based organizations, including those led by young people as well as various races, ethnicities, and faiths; providers of health care and human services; multiple philanthropies; K-12 schools and universities; businesses of all sizes; and elected officials and government agencies.
All these stewards know that they have a vested interest in the future success of the area.
"We're starting to see business leaders, lawmakers, community influencers, and service providers using the foundation of the work being done by Imagine Fox Cities."
"This is the right thing to do, to create a place where everyone thrives and belongs."
"You can't put a band-aid on rooted issues or causes, you have to really to be able to address the systems that continue to do harm."
“It’s great to be a part of the community, to learn about the community and to help the community.”
"Appleton is forward-looking and not status quo."
"Things are definitely changing here. This wouldn't have happened 10 or 20 years ago."
With input from a wide swath of community members, Imagine Fox Cities developed four pillars for its vision of the future:

Kids get off to a great start to life

An economy that works for all

Thriving natural and cultural places that bring people together

Everyone feels like they belong

There is much work to be done,
but Imagine Fox Cities is well on its way.
The work of building belonging and a place where everyone can thrive can happen anywhere.
It takes individuals and organizations from across sectors and with different perspectives all working together, connecting across differences, to change systems.
Shared stewardship, which we see in the Fox Cities effort, is key to creating a brighter future for everybody.

Join the movement to thrive together.




Leaders and change agents who want to have a transformative impact on the health and well-being of their communities will find pragmatic, innovative ideas at Thriving.US and the Well Being in the Nation (WIN) Network.
ripple TRF_ReThink
Discover what we are learning at The Rippel Foundation's ReThink Health initiative about what it takes to thrive together through shared stewardship here.