From reporter to The Collective: Why I want the best for Central Florida
By Jon Busdeker
My job as a reporter took me to a lot of places across Central Florida.
I’ve walked inside the Lake Eola Fountain, held snakes in St. Cloud, picked bananas on Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s balcony and once met a handicapped pig named Chris P. Bacon.
But during my six years covering the region – first at the Orlando Sentinel, then at WESH-TV – my favorite stories were always the ones about people making a difference. People like Patty Sheehan, Bishop Allen Wiggins, Jim Hobart, Teena Patel, Emily Ellyn, Eddie Selover, Cole NeSmith and so many more.
At the end of last year, I walked away from the news business. Well, to be honest, it walked away from me after my television contract wasn’t renewed. But instead of packing up and moving to another city to work for another TV station, I decided to stay in Orlando.
And I’m glad I did.
Earlier this year, I teamed up with Andrae Bailey, the founder of Change Everything, a social innovation start-up in downtown Orlando, to launch The Collective, a group designed for change agents and nonprofit leaders who are working to make a difference in Central Florida.
The idea of The Collective is to cultivate and enrich this region’s nonprofit leaders and give them the space to learn from other proven leaders working in government, business, media and beyond. Since March, when we officially launched The Collective, we’ve seen our members collaborate on projects, start new nonprofits and begin the process of solving some this community’s biggest issues.
We now stand at nearly 300 members, including representatives from Second Harvest Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Feeding Children Everywhere and the Orlando Science Center.
Later this month, Bailey and I will host our fifth meeting and welcome guest speaker Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
So, why did I want to launch The Collective? Because I want Orlando and the rest of Central Florida to prosper. While my wife LeAnn and I are transplants, this place has become our home – something we never expected when we first arrived here in 2010. But Orlando has grown on us, and it’s because of the community we’ve discovered here.
But as a community, we are not perfect. This region has problems that must be solved: long-term poverty, homelessness, wage inequality, food insecurity, transportation infrastructure and access to health care.
I can’t solve them alone. But, as a community we can begin tackling our problems if we work together to find innovative approaches to our most challenging problems.
I don’t know what impact The Collective will have on Central Florida, but the response so far has been beyond what I expected. As The Collective continues to add new members, I hope we can build a community of people who will feel empowered to do amazing things and make Central Florida even better.
Over the years, I was often asked why I wanted to be a journalist. The simple answer: I wanted to help people.
In my post-reporter life, that feeling hasn’t gone away.