Dr. Melissa Fry: Helping Understand Our Community

Dr. Melissa Fry, who is the Director of the Applied Research and Education Center and CFSI Board Member, has taken on the task of researching and creating the Community Needs Assessment for Clark and Floyd County in 2015 and updating (and expanding) the report in 2021.

Since its inception in 1991, the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana has filled an important leadership role of helping to build enduring charitable resources to positively impact our community. So when an opportunity arose in 2015 to provide nonprofits and interested community members of Clark and Floyd counties with a groundbreaking new resource – the Assessment of Needs and Priorities in Clark and Floyd Counties – the Foundation took advantage.

The report, which was commissioned by the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and produced by Dr. Melissa Fry and the Indiana University Southeast Applied Research and Education Center, highlighted our area’s greatest concerns, the highest priorities for funding, as well as the gaps and overlaps in services and in funding. Over the years, the report has become a critical resource for area nonprofits and leaders.

In 2021, that report was updated to include new communal testimonies and data findings, and it continued to explore the region’s aspirations for building on its assets to address the area’s highest priorities and greatest challenges. Again, Dr. Fry and her student team spent months gathering information and research, even navigating the unchartered waters of collecting public input during a worldwide pandemic.

The updated report, the Priorities for Progress: Assets and Aspirations in Southern Indiana 2021 proved to be just as important for the region as its predecessor. The report combined a detailed look at publicly available data with the perceptions of area residents and leaders to identify strategies to improve quality of life and quality of place in Clark and Floyd counties.

According to the report, both Clark and Floyd counties have many of the component parts needed to support quality of life and place, as well as to build a vibrant economy. Coordinating those resources as a community with a common interest in our shared success is the key to using our collective assets to address challenges, fill gaps, and realize the full potential of our Southern Indiana community.

“At its full potential, with investments in equitable systems and support for healthy and engaged families, Southern Indiana can be a home to a thriving and diverse economy, abundant in natural beauty, and buttressed by strong social connections,” Dr. Fry said. “We can be a community of shared prosperity.”

Overall, the Needs Assessment has allowed the Foundation to elevate its role as a leader in our area by bringing a collaborative regional focus to critical community problems highlighted in the report that do not recognize geographic boundaries.

The updated version of the Priorities for Progress: Assets and Aspirations in Southern Indiana is available to view or download on our website: www.CFSouthernIndiana.com.

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