The goal of Stay Work Play is to expose more young people to the advantages of remaining in or returning to New Hampshire. The effort built off the work of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) and partnering organizations that established the 55% Initiative in 2007. This effort set a goal of encouraging at least 55% of the new graduates to stay compared to approximately 50% who currently stay. This, in turn, would provide more skilled workers in the state, and support economic and community development.
Matt Cookson directed this effort at USNH and services SWP as a client of CSC. It began in 2007 as an effort to learn why such a large percentage of college graduates leave the state, what could be done to retain them, and how improved retention could address state workforce needs. Much data was gathered through surveys and interviews and the results were thoroughly analyzed.
Matt Cookson helped solicit and coordinate over 25 speaking events for the USNH chancellor and himself on this issue, garnering dozens of media hits and gaining support for the effort to encourage more to stay from many businesses, associations, chambers, and young professionals’ networks. The efforts have gained national attention in the media and significant business support, including a strong endorsement from the Governor’s Task Force on Young Worker Retention.
Five charter partners joined in the effort, provided seed funding, and enabled the creation of Stay Work Play NH, an independent non-profit organization that is Board-driven and developed a web site and marketing effort to be a state wide resource to encourage young people to “stay, work, and play” in the state. The organization now has an executive director, a president, a high profile Board, and numerous organizational partnerships. Matt Cookson directed the design and development of the web site at that target market through two external web development firms.
He coordinated a formal “beta launch” with Governor Lynch in July 2010. In November 2010, Business NH Magazine, in conjunction with Stay Work Play, created a state wide event to recognize individuals, businesses, young professionals and others that play a key role in making New Hampshire a more attractive place for young workers. And in December 2010, the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development awarded Stay Work Play with its “excellence award” for economic development.
In just three years, this effort has grown from an idea into a state wide collaborative effort that is sustainable, has significant support and visibility, and can be a viable vehicle for economic and community development across the state.