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"The Indicators a society chooses to report
to itself about itself are surprisingly powerful. They reflect collective
values and inform collective decisions. A nation that keeps a watchful
eye on its salmon runs or the safety of its streets makes different choices
than does a nation that is only paying attention to its GNP. The idea
of citizens choosing their own indicators is something new under the sun-something
Donella Meadows, co-author of "Beyond the Limits"
Envisioning the future of your community can be a powerful experience. Creating a Vision Statement, based on shared values and future hopes can act as a catalyst for change and commitment. Key to this process is active community participation, capturing diverse viewpoints and wide representation of community interests and taking a longer view of the community's assets. And, don't forget the elders and the children in the community! Elders have experienced change in their long lives and children know what they like! Successful visioning gives people several opportunities to participate, either directly in workshops and town meetings or through mail-in surveys and interactive web sites. Although a community's vision should be grounded in realistic expectations, explore beyond that which is practical today...for tomorrow may bring new leadership, new opportunities and new advances in science and technology.
Refer to U.S. State & Local Gateway for easy access to federal information.
Below are examples of visioning techniques, real-world vision statements from working communities and "benchmarks" or indicators that can mark the progress toward achieving your vision.
Indicators In creating alternative futures, considering a range of indicators is an excellent way of tracking your community's progress toward becoming a Green Community. The indicators you select will reflect the knowledge gained from developing a Community Profile ("Where Are We Now?") and a Trends Statement ("Where Are We Going?"). Click here for more information on community indicators.
Financial Tools Click here for Financial tools and alternative approaches for funding Green Communities' activities.
"Community Visioning is both a process and an outcome. Its success is most clearly visible in an improved quality of life, but it can also give individual citizens and the community as a whole a new approach to meeting challenges and solving problems." (From, Community Visioning and Strategic Planning Handbook)
- Brainstorm ideas and capture on flip charts or other means.
- Break into smaller groups and discuss and record ideas more fully.
- Present small group discussions to the larger group.
- Group similar ideas together.
- Assign responsibility for gathering the additional information needed.
- Determine focus areas to ascertain if environmental, economic and social attributes are captured.
Once the additional information is collected, bring together stakeholders to:
- Develop scenarios for alternative futures.
- Produce a pictorial/graphic representation of the alternative future (s).
- Create the first draft of the Vision Statement
- Circulate the draft Vision Statement and gather feedback from community members.
- Revise the Vision Statement and recirculate.
- Create the Final Vision Statement.
Please note that creating a Vision Statement may take time and work to achieve broad consensus. Outreach to the community via newsletters or newspaper articles will facilitate the process.
Ideas for Public Reviews: (adapted from A Pathway to Sustainability)
- Meetings with community organizations
- Reviews with City Council and Commissions
- Public Surveys or questionnaires
- Presentations or displays at community events
- Articles in local news media and community newsletters
- Include in "What's New" on your website
I. The Chattanooga Experience
Chattanooga, TN, is one of the most well-known examples of a community addressing its environmental problems through a visioning process. Chattanooga utilized a creative, consensus building, participatory process, to formulate a shared "vision" of the future. Through this process the community set goals to achieve that vision, designed action plans, and implemented projects to achieve their goals throughout the community.
In 1983, community members were meeting to discuss ways to improve conditions in Chattanooga. Real change began in 1984, when citizens decided a new approach was needed. They realized that profound changes would only result from a public, consensus-building process in which a shared vision for the future was created. Hence, the non-profit organization, Chattanooga Venture was established. This organization would design and facilitate a strategic planning effort working with citizens and community leaders to identify a series of shared goals.
In 1984, Chattanooga Venture organized a Vision 2000, a broad-based, public forum that used heavy publicity to draw citizens from all parts of the community. At the heart of the process was the shaping of a "vision" for the future of Chattanooga, a descriptive synthesis of all the citizens' brainstorming ideas produced during the series of public meetings. The initial process lasted five months and was funded by donations from local citizens and philanthropists. The majority of support for this phase of the process, $120,000, was provided by the locally-based Lyndhurst Foundation.
Chattanooga's Visioning Process
At the heart of Chattanooga's visioning process was the creation of a shared vision for its own future. To develop this shared vision, Chattanooga Venture hired a facilitator with special expertise in establishing community visioning processes. While a consultant guided the process, a large pool of volunteers assisted: professionals and citizens adept in facilitation and organizing.
The typical visioning process is divided into three groups of meetings, with each group designed to produce a specific outcome. The first group of meetings was designed to generate ideas. The second group was aimed at organizing the ideas generated in the first set of meetings. At this point, the community had developed a series of community goals and recommendations. The third and final set of meetings allowed the community to make a commitment to the vision.
The Vision 2000 process consisted of a series of open, public "town meetings", which took place over a five-month period. They were broadly publicized by word-of-mouth and in the media. Over 1700 citizens attended, representing a diverse cross-section of the community.
II. Corvallis, Oregon: Future Focus 2010
In order to ensure that the Comprehensive Plan revisions reflected the community's hopes, values and visions, the City, in 1988, began an open process of community dialogue, "Charting a Course for Corvallis". The vision statement which originally appeared in the local newspaper occupying over eight pages, was a culmination of that process, which involved over 1,000 Corvallis citizens, from elementary school children to community leaders. Community members were invited to respond to the draft vision statement through surveys and additional public meetings. Charting a Course for Corvallis was designed in three phases.
More than 250 citizens turned out for neighbor hood meetings in April 1988 to share their ideas about what makes Corvallis a special place to live, and to identify their concerns about the future, In June, they gathered together to take a second look at those concerns and assign priorities to them. Their answers and priorities became the basis for their vision statement.
Setting Our Sights on the Future
Beginning with a presentation by nationally known futurist David Pearce Snyder, the second phase of the Charting process explored the social and economic trends likely to influence Corvallis in 2010. Several Forums, including one for school children, helped the community to focus on future scenarios. A special "Charting" task force was put to work. Their challenge was to synthesize all the public comments and information on future trends into a draft vision statement of Corvallis: 2010. This group of about 25 citizens spent hundreds of hours toward the development of the draft vision statement between October 1988 and April 1989.
Charting Our Course
This draft vision statement launched the third and final phase of the process and served as a tool to help "Chart Our Course" for the future. Once it passed public review, the vision statement would be officially adopted by the Corvallis City Council and used to update the Comprehensive Plan and related City policies.
In general four types of graphics can be used in the visioning process. Each employ a different type of imagery and contributes to the process in a slightly different way. Combinations of these techniques can be used to visually represent your community's Vision.
Graphs, tables, pie charts, etc. can display and interpret statistical information and trends. They are easily developed with readily available computer software or hand-drawn.
Maps are widely available and can be enhanced with mylar or plastic overlays. Land use maps are most frequently used to display impacts of different scenarios and the resulting trade-offs.
Planning and Architectural Graphics
Site plans, renderings, and panoramas provide two- or three dimensional perspectives on the future landscape. These kinds of graphics can assist a community to illustrate the physical aspects of their vision which may include village plans, community parks, and riparian restoration plans.
Artists' concepts, sketches, photographs, etc. are a powerful way to highlight a community's final vision statement. They can be used to focus on particular features of the Vision Statement such as viewsheds or vistas that are to be enhanced in the future. State of the Art Visual Tools
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
A GIS is a sophisticated system which gathers and analyzes data spatially which can then be produced as maps. GISs' are powerful tools which can integrate nearly any combination of data such as census tract information, site locations of natural features, or zoning codes. Much of the information and data referenced in Green Communities can be used as part of a GIS.
Used in advertising and commercial photography, digital imagery combines emerging photographic technology with computer workstations which permits photographic images to be changed, enhanced or manipulated. This is a great tool for communities wishing to visualize alternative futures. For example, photographic images can be manipulated to show different design features or alternative developments in an urban (town center) or suburban setting.
Multimedia computer slideshows may combine several video, audio and animation to create a sophisticated presentation featuring sight, sound and action. If you are unfamiliar with tools such as PowerPoint or OpenOffice, this may be an opportunity to get a college class involved in the process of illustrating the community's vision.
A great way to reward yourselves for the hard work which resulted in a Vision Statement is to celebrate! This will also highlight the effort and inform the community at large of the process and its outcome. There are many ways to celebrate. Here are some examples:
Invite the community to an open house at a local landmark which may figure in the Community Vision. Be sure to have large display copies of the Vision Statement and the visual representations of the alternative futures so that people can see the result of their efforts.
Engage the community in developing a logo or name which will move the visioning process into the next phase of action planning and implementation. Advertise in the local newspapers, through community newsletters, schools and other community organizations.
Piggy - back on local fairs or festivals. Design a booth or display which illustrates the Vision Statement and Alternative Futures. Be sure to have some hands-on activities so that the community members can join in the celebration and look forward to future activities.
The following examples represent Vision Statements from several locations throughout the country. They range from comprehensive statements such as the Chelalem, Oregon example, to simply stated future visions as with Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 2015 the Chehalem Valley is:
Economy - A diverse economy provides balanced economic options. Downtown is vibrant, the natural beauty of the area provides an environment for tourism and wine industry. The Riverfront is a focus of economic and recreational activity; airport facility is available
Land Use - Plenty of open space and larger lots in the outlying areas; livable neighborhoods in the cities. Transportation choices include walking, biking, or driving. The Riverfront is linked to the cities' core areas. Diverse housing opportunities of high quality, including historic homes, affordable homes, rentals, condominiums and homes for the elderly and disadvantaged are available.
Transportation - A route provides safe and efficient access to and through the community. Downtown traffic is much less and is routed to enhance business; State highways have been removed from downtown. There are adequate bikeways and pathways. Residents are actively involved in planning transportation.
Environment - Natural areas and habitat have been preserved. Agricultural land and open space preserves the view from surrounding hillsides. Automobiles are used less, preserving air quality, a greenway system links pedestrian paths along clean rivers and streams. Residents are actively involved in protecting and conserving the natural areas. Plenty of space is provided for enjoying animals and the earth.
Public Facilities, Services and Safety - Community centers for public offices in Newberg and Dundee. Volunteers share with professionals the responsibility for providing economic public services. A uniform district addresses the fair payment for urban and rural services. Planning efforts and support for the vision focuses the community's future. Residents are actively involved in safety programs.
Parks, Recreation, Community Creation and Celebrations - Parks have adequate bikeways and walking paths. Neighborhood parks provide a focus for recreation; a range of recreation options is available. Cultural diversity enhances Community Festivals and events. Champoeg Park is linked to the Valley. Neighborhood and community ownership and involvement are promoted and encouraged.
Health, Social Services, and Well Being - Health care is provided locally through a one-stop health care facility. Community members may change their sedentary lifestyles. Social services are available locally. Cultural diversity creates challenges and local residents meet the challenge. General happiness, personal, spiritual growth, and families are encouraged and promoted.
Education and Needs of Youth - All levels of education are available, there is a strong business/school partnership. Parents are involved; citizenship training is important. Classes are culturally diverse; individual needs are addressed. Technological changes provide easy access to information and education for all Valley residents. Nurturing our youth is a priority and youth are encouraged to be involved in all aspects of our community.
Arts, Culture and Heritage - Public art, cultural events and activities, and museums are displayed and supported by the community. A living history museum focuses community and tourist attention on the local heritage, and, is supported by several museums which show case the Valley's local history. George Fox College provides a focus for cultural events which promote the value of the area. Public art provides a sense of pride and serve as reminders of the timelessness of the Valley.
Communication Linkages - Computers serve all of the residents by providing access to information about the community. Data linkages between households create opportunities for working together. The Valley is a part of the global village through the worldwide date linkages. Public places are available for residents to meet in person. Issues are explored and discussed publicly in ways that work toward common ground to benefit the Valley.
We envision Salt Lake City as a prominent sustainable city: the international crossroads of western America, blending family life styles, vibrant artistic and cultural resources, and a strong sense of environmental stewardship with robust economic activity to create a superb place for people to live, work, grow, invest and visit.