Our Valley What’s Next Part 1: How the grass roots effort to build a stronger, more collaborative valley got started
Publisher’s Note: There is some community confusion about the Our Valley What’s Next effort that is underway in the Wenatchee Valley. I have enlisted the help of Steve Maher, who is managing this effort on behalf of the volunteer leadership team, to explain the purpose and process. In a nutshell, OVWN is a grass roots-driven community improvement effort that will result in a specific plan with dozens of community organizations taking the lead to achieve specific goals. The action plan will be launched this fall.
This effort is unique in that the public rather than elected officials and their agencies drive it. It’s also unique in that a significant number (23 percent) of those filling out initial surveys described themselves as Latino, so it reflects the diversity of our community.
Here’s the first installment that will provide insight into this community improvement project. For more information, see the organization’s web site: ourvalleywhatsnext.com. Also, check out the Art of Community Project web site for more stories, photos and videos at artofcommunityncw.com. – Rufus Woods
By Steve Maher, coordinator, Our Valley What’s Next
Q. What is Our Valley What’s Next?
A. Our Valley What’s Next/Nuestro Valle Que Sigue is a grass roots, values-based planning initiative meant to shape what the region’s future could look like. At its core, Our Valley aims to improve the lives of residents and to sustain and revitalize local communities over the next 15 to 20 years — and beyond. Unlike other planning and development efforts, Our Valley What’s Next takes its direction from what community members say they value and what they believe is needed in order for the region to prosper. From that feedback, the Our Valley leadership team facilitates the development of specific actions and the implementation of those actions.
This community initiative is organized around six themes or focus areas as part of a whole-of-community planning approach:
— How We Prosper (economy, jobs, economic development)
— How Plan and Grow (land use, transportation, growth and development)
— How We Sustain Our Environment (outdoor recreation, natural resources, environment)
— How We Live and Care For One Another (people, community, health and safety)
— How We Learn and Create (education, life-long learning, arts and culture)
— How We Participate and Decide (governance, engagement, decision-making)
Funding for Our Valley has come from Wenatchee Valley College, United Way of Chelan and Douglas County, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, City of Wenatchee, City of East Wenatchee, Port of Douglas County, Port of Chelan County, Douglas County, Community Foundation of NCW and the America’s Best Communities organization (Frontier Communications).
Q. How did Our Valley get started?
A. Our Valley What’s Next/Nuestro Valle Que Sigue traces its beginning to discussions held by a local economic development roundtable in early 2014, followed by the TEDx “Connecting the Dots” conference in Wenatchee that focused on multi-jurisdictional planning and action. After the TedX conference concluded, community leaders decided the time was right to begin a visioning and planning initiative that would cross jurisdictional boundaries — a first for the region. The name, Our Valley/Nuestro Valle, was intentionally chosen to reflect this collaborative approach.
Q. Who oversees it?
A. Our Valley What’s Next is guided today by a steering committee that includes representatives from the business community, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. The organization’s fiscal sponsor is the United Way of Chelan and Douglas Counties, and its project coordinator is Steve Maher. The steering members include: Shiloh Schauer, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce; Alan Walker, United Way of Chelan and Douglas Counties; Lisa Parks, Port of Douglas County; Gustavo Montoya, El Mundo; Stacy Luckensmeyer, Wenatchee Valley College’s Center for Entrepreneurship; Norma Gallegos, Hand In Hand Immigration Services; Allison Williams, City of Wenatchee; Lori Barnett, City of East Wenatchee; Steve King, City of Wenatchee; Gil Sparks, Community Foundation of NCW board member; Steve Sandman, Frontier Communications; Sara Rolfs, Wenatchee resident and Shayne Magdoff, East Wenatchee resident.
Q. What communities underwent a similar process?
A. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Corvallis, Ore.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Bend, Ore.; Hillsboro, Ore, among others.
Tomorrow, see Part 2: Why it is important to have a community improvement effort like Our Valley What’s Next?