Decatur Next

Decatur Diary | March 26, 2010

A Base to Build On:
Lessons from 2000

Listen to these words from Decatur residents who were involved the last time the community set priorities for its 10-year Strategic Plan:

“The precedent has been set.” “We are breaking down the walls.” “There’s no ‘they’ anymore. The ‘they’ is me.”

Better yet, take a look at this video produced a little over ten years ago, when Decatur used a series of round table meetings to gather information, then put together a new decade’s to-do list with the community’s help.

It would be hard to ask for better results from a community outreach effort. And even more importantly, it would be hard to imagine a more effective way to move a community from conversation to focused action. Ten years later, you can hear the confidence in the voices of residents and City officials whose expectations have been raised by the way priorities from the last Strategic Plan were implemented. Check out our latest interviews in the two posts that precede this one.

We’re adopting the same round tables approach for the next-decade update of Decatur’s Strategic Plan. You can read all about the big picture goals of the process in the column to the right. And the invitation is open right now to sign up to participate.

Here’s how the process will go: When you sign up, you’re committing to joining your neighbors for a large kick-off gathering, then a series of three small-group meetings on issues Decatur needs to tackle in the next decade. Why multiple sessions? Our experience last time confirmed what most of us know about meetings. It takes an initial meeting just to get acquainted and agree on some general goals. After that, participants get progressively more comfortable – and more honest – sorting through ideas and exploring solutions together.

Watching that 2000 video, it’s easy to grasp the takeaways. Over the course of their time together, residents began to see themselves more and more as having more in common than having differences they had to defend. That’s when the solutions exploration could begin in earnest.

There’s another advantage in getting people to volunteer for a series of meetings with the same folks. Together, they develop deeper insights and form deeper commitments to the action points their groups’ propose. They become champions of the process and ambassadors to others in their broader networks. It’s viral citizenship. And it’s very effective.

As one of the 2000 participants said, it’s no longer a matter of demanding “they” do something about City priorities. “There’s no ‘they’ anymore. The ‘they’ is me.”

So soak up the history and the goals by clicking around this website. Then, sign up to participate.

Keep coming back to these pages regularly and share your own thoughts. We’ll keep you in touch.

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