Decatur Next

Decatur Diary | August 24, 2010

First, Celebrating Collaboration;
Next, Turning Ideas into Strategies

The opening video at the Decatur Next Celebration at Decatur High School Aug. 24 said it all: 700-plus Round Table participants; 245 public meetings; 6,000 hours invested; 7,894 ideas presented; and 14,032 website visits.

The August 24 event was an opportunity, first of all, to enjoy the moment. Since April, more than 700 Decatur residents have been meeting together in small groups – Round Tables – to identify key concerns and pose crucial questions about how to shape the next 10 years of community life in Decatur. For an overview of the process and its goals, check out the column to the immediate right, and read the posts preceding this one to follow the Round Table process from the first meeting.

Reception AttendeesTuesday night at the high school, Round Table participants and citizen-facilitators made the most of a social evening. After a main hall reception, attendees followed a Decatur High Drum Line to their seats in the auditorium for a program of videos and presentations.

City officials and the city’s consulting team summarized the Round Table conversations. If you missed the event, you can find the final report here.

“Now, the hard work begins,” said Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd. “We’re going to roll up our sleeves and work to translate all of the over 7,000 bullet points we’ve captured into goals and action steps.”

The challenges in the work ahead are in retaining inspiring goals while resolving what may seem, at this stage, like conflicting priorities. It will mean, said Mayor Floyd, “acknowledging trade-offs and reaching agreement when we have competing goals.”

Jon Abercrombie, part of the consulting team that designed the Round Tables phase, reminded everyone that the opportunity to disagree, then work through disagreements is a welcome process: “Debate,” said Abercrombie, “is a good thing. Even conflict is a good thing, provided everyone is committed to resolutions in the end.”

Which takes us to Phase 2 of the Strategic Planning process. Ambitions for that stage were suggested at the Aug. 24 meeting, as well. A planning team led by the Atlanta-based design firm of Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates (TSW) was introduced and will now begin translating and testing ideas from the Round Tables with illustrated concepts – again, in collaboration with city staffers, elected officials, and residents. Caleb Racicot, TSW’s project manager, stressed the community-consulting team partnership: “This is not a purely top-down process, and this is not a purely bottom-up process. This is a community that works together.”

More details about exactly how that process will unfold will be forthcoming, but here’s Decatur planning director Amanda Thompson explaining how, generally speaking, Phase 2 will play out.

While everyone acknowledges that some potentially tough choices await participants in this next step towards the new Strategic Plan, one thing remains clear: “If there was one thing we all agreed on,” said Mayor Floyd, “it was that we love this city very much, and we value the very strong sense of community we share.”

The evening concluded with a video featuring a variety of residents expressing what Decatur means to them.

Have thoughts on how the round table process worked for you or ideas on how our next phase should be structured? Leave them below, then check back often for updated information.

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