Our Valley, Our Future shows us the power of engaging the community
By Rufus Woods, Publisher, The Wenatchee World
Gustavo Montoya, Publisher, El Mundo
This is a momentous occasion — one that we will look back on in years to come as a defining moment in our valley. The Our Valley, Our Future (Nuestro Valle, Nuestro Futuro) process is a shining example of grass0roots community building — in which we turned traditional top-down planning on its head and invited ordinary citizens to share their vision and take ownership of making positive change.
By contrast, engaging the community first, which is the central tenet of Our Valley, Our Future, turned out to be a powerful approach that is building a sense of shared ownership. One of the assumptions in our society is that citizens are apathetic and will not engage in civic affairs. How often have we heard the phrase “Those people won’t get involved”?
What Our Valley, Our Future has demonstrated is that people do want to get involved and that they will support what they help to create. Thousands of people invested their time to answer surveys, provide feedback and talk about their vision for the future. They were asked open-ended questions about what really mattered to them, and they jumped at the chance to participate. Organizations jumped at the chance to provide leadership on dozens of community improvement projects.
Another thing that makes the Our Valley, Our Future effort significant is that it invited us to imagine about a valley-wide vision of community success. That’s a radical departure from standard practice of looking at things only in terms of jurisdictional boundaries.
Make no mistake about it – those separate plans by counties, cities and agencies are important and necessary. But the Our Valley, Our Future plan describes a broader community vision that is driven by collaboration rather than competition, by direct involvement of citizens, businesses and nonprofits toward a larger purpose.
When you think about it, Our Valley, Our Future is very much in the spirit of Make A Difference Day where ordinary citizens are in charge. Make a Difference Day and Our Valley, Our Future invite individuals, businesses, service clubs and government agencies to participate in any way that makes sense to them. Inviting people to take ownership is a powerful way to think about building community. No one is forced to accept the principles of Our Valley, Our Future. No one is required to agree that cooperation is a good thing.
With Our Valley, Our Future, we are unleashing the creativity of community members — young and old, rich, middle class and poor, of all faiths backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. — to participate in making a difference. Involvement is voluntary — it’s a coalition of the willing. At its essence, it is more than a program or a plan — it’s a movement.
The plan that emerged from this process is one that emphasizes continuous community improvement. We see this as the start of a new era where all of us take ownership in building a valley that is collaborative, cooperative, respects and values everyone in our community, and one in which we are committed to addressing our challenges together.
This is an effort that will bring us closer together and help us achieve more in our communities through joint action based on shared community.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker once said “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Our Valley, Our Future reflects that powerful confidence and resolve to make our communities great by pitching in and making things happen together. We are taking our valley’s future in our hands and committing ourselves to building more resilient, compassionate and successful valley.