Monday, January 3, 2011

Six Degrees

The theory Six Degrees of Separation suggests that everyone in the world is connected to someone else by six people or less.  That means that a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (or the cousin of a friend’s sister’s boyfriend…) could know President Barack Obama or a famous movie star, or someone on the other side of the globe with the same first name as you.  Anyone you can think of can be linked back to you by six people or less, according to the Six Degrees theory.  A more common form of this theory that has been made into a pop culture game is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  

I don’t usually put much stock in theories that are defined on (I don’t generally put a lot of stock in any definitions from their either), so the idea of the Six Degrees of Separation didn’t hold much weight for me.  That is until I started working on a major SC Campaign project in Horry County.  

The SC Campaign has been fortunate to receive some significant federal grants over the last six months that give us a lot to do over the next five years.  The first project, Tier I, will have the SC Campaign working in middle schools to buy computers and set up interactive software and curriculum related to health education.  The second grant, Tier II, has allowed the SC Campaign to have focused, community-wide efforts in Spartanburg County and Horry County.  And in Horry County is where my beliefs in this Six Degree theory started to change.

FUN FACTS TIME!!!  There will be a question at the end, so remember these facts!  Fun Fact 1:  Horry County is about the size of Rhode Island.  Fun Fact 2:  No major interstate leads directly into or through Horry County.  Fun Fact 3:  A majority of the industry in Horry County is tourism, meaning that the population in Horry County can quadruple during the summer months due to beach traffic.

Now that you have had some time to digest the facts, if I asked you Do you think this county has a connected community?, what would your answer be?  You would probably answer like I did, that due to the size of the county (that is comparable to a STATE) and with a population that ebbs and flows based on a fickle industry, there should be no way that people can stay connected in that environment.  If you had cheated off my paper, you would have been WRONG.  A big red “X” would mark the spot, and let me tell you why.

Once I got into Horry County and started meeting with people who were over 50 miles apart, names and organizations that are cornerstones of this community started to appear and reappear.  I met with churches, government organizations, non-profits, and for profit businesses and all of them seemed to know what each other were up to.   They were on advisory councils together, on one another’s boards.  These programs work together to fill gaps left by budget cuts and programming constraints.  Churches opened their doors for mentoring programs; government agencies opened training facilities for classes and summer camps.  In a community the size of a STATE with no external industry and no main transportation route running through town, they have pulled together better than some larger metropolitan cities.

Being a part of this work has been a true learning experience, and knowing how far we have to go to achieve our goals with this grant project, it is wonderful to know that I can take a name of anyone in Horry County and connect it to someone who can make a huge difference in six connections or less…I call it the Six Degrees of Connection.  Take that!

By Taylor Wilson, Grant Specialist at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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