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FutureWalk Phase 2 kicks off

What if you were to imagine a community that co-creates its values? What if you imagined a community that's able to describe its own future?

What if you were able to reach out across a diverse population and listen to citizens within that community? What if you were to agree with your fellow citizens on critical actions to be taken? What if you were able to collaborate and execute those initiatives?

"What if" lies at the heart of FutureWalk, the New Richmond Area Community Foundation's endeavor to shape the future of the community.

FutureWalk took its first public steps last Tuesday evening at the high school when a group of residents listened to a presentation led by Bill Buell (The SPACE and Domain Inc.) and Jodi Thone (The Center for Good Work) designed to explain how the process will work, the goals motivating the process and a proposed timetable for executing the process.

In the fall of 2011, the NRACF held a strategic visioning session that yielded three initiatives: to raise money, to raise awareness of the foundation and to create and embrace a community vision. FutureWalk is the foundation's answer to address these initiatives.

Phase 1 involved finding out if other communities across the country had asked "What if" and pursued a process to change and shape their futures.

Seven cities were selected and scouts were dispatched to Windsor Calif., Steamboat Springs Colo., Tupelo, Miss., Columbia M.D., Albert Lea Minn., St. Louis Park, Minn., and Bemidji, Minn.

The scouts asked members of each community if they were able to plan for the future and if they were, what practices they used to accomplish this change.

Tuesday night, Phase 2 of FutureWalk commenced with reports from two of the scouts.

Tupelo's process

Michele Hermansen visited Tupelo, Miss. She began her report by providing some perspective on how far Tupelo had come. In the 1930s, Tupelo was the poorest city, in the poorest county, in the poorest state in the union. It was a community with wide racial distinctions.

In 1934 George McClain, the man widely acknowledged as the person responsible for inspiring and leading the change in Tupelo, bought a bankrupt newspaper from a bankrupt bank. At the heart of McClain's revival was the idea that the citizens of Tupelo needed to be responsible for their own future.

Using the paper and the community foundation he started, going door-to-door and face-to-face, he convinced his fellow business owners and neighbors that their futures were in tied to the successful futures of their customers.

Until the lot of their customers improved, he believed, their businesses had a limited ceiling. Unless everyone succeeded, ultimately no one would succeed.

Tupelo residents figured out that they needed to value the individual and that quality public education and reading would be essential to their success. Their dedication to the individual and to education helped them weather the turbulent racial challenges of the 60s.

They also recognized that collaboration would be central to succeeding and so they formed a council of governments which brought representatives from every governing body in the county together once a month to improve communication and to share a meal and talk about their success and challenges.

They came to recognize that to attract industry, they would need to be responsible for providing skilled workers, reinforcing the necessity to provide a quality education for their citizens.

Tupelo has been recognized as an All-American City four times, most recently in 2011.

St. Louis Park

Darian Blattner visited St. Louis Park, Minn.

St. Louis Park's transformation began in 2005 when 750 people came together to talk about what they wanted their community to look like in 10 years. Out of their discussions emerged eight vision-action teams to address eight areas - environment, transportation, sidewalks and trails, gathering places, community events, housing, arts and culture, and diversity.

The teams worked together for six months to develop individual action plans focused on their area of interest. Each group created a one-page statement defining what they wanted their community to look like in 2016.

Their efforts lead to an 18-month plan adopted by the St. Louis Park City Council in 2007, which employed a number of their ideas. That plan had four basic tenets: 1) St. Louis Park is committed to being a connected and engaged community, 2) St. Louis Park is committed to being a leader in environmental stewardship, 3) St. Louis Park is committed to providing a well-maintained and diversified housing stock, and 4) St. Louis Park is committed to promote an integrated arts culture and community aesthetic in all city initiatives.

The city is currently working on three new programs: Children's First News which highlights activities for youth in their community, STEP - the St. Louis Park Emergency Program which works with their food shelf program and, they have designated 2013 as their Year in Health providing a series of programs geared toward improving the long-term health of their residents.

One of the keys to St. Louis Park's success was working hard to keep the vision alive and in front of citizens knowing that it is a long and deliberate process, said Blattner.

Another key, it was very important for team members and community leaders to listen to their citizens.

Rubber band mirror

Jody Thone, president of The Center for Good Work, began by explaining how the dynamics of a rubber band mirror, the process a community must undertake to change its future. It must have an anchor point, values and traditions from which to start. It must also have the ability to stretch, to create energy to launch and reach for the vision it desires.

Amidst a barrage of flying rubber bands, Thone concluded that securing a successful future is better accomplished when all the rubber bands shoot in the same direction. Success improves when visions are united and citizens work together toward the same goals.

Thone then guided residents on an imaginary walk into what New Richmond might look like in 20 years. For many with eyes closed, they walked through imaginary fields and along the Willow River to a bluff where they looked out over the horizon at the community they dream to create, a thriving, vibrant, diverse community of the future.

Following the walk, Thone asked participants to write a single word that represented what was most important to them about the future on a rock provided earlier by Buell. Participants then discussed their choices with folks at their table.

Buell ended the evening by presenting a process by which residents of New Richmond can realize the future they dare to create: listen, process and analyze, communicate and act. The physical boundaries used to define New Richmond will be the New Richmond School District.

Four tents, representing four interdependent initiatives, have been established along with timeframes in which to accomplish their missions.

The first tent is the Community Hosting Tent whose purpose is to "invite and receive input from a diverse cross section of the targeted geography (New Richmond Area School District), crafting and using a multitude of listening methodologies insuring civility, respect and breadth of input."

The second tent is the Research, Analysis, Processing and Interpretation Tent assigned to "objectively summarize the breadth of input from the Community Hosting Tent and to further discover, examine and analyze resources that will contribute to the base of knowledge necessary to craft action plans."

The third tent is the Communications and Public Relations Tent whose purpose is to "create significant and lasting awareness for the FutureWalk initiative in a way that promotes recognition for our Community Hosting, invites participation in our Action Teams, develops collaborative interest and positively celebrates the FutureWalk initiative."

The last tent is the Action Tent whose purpose is to "implement action initiatives based upon the summaries of the RAPI Tent in a way that invites volunteer participation in teams, drives collaborative execution and achieves initiative outcomes according to planned timeframes."

The timetable for each tent is as follows:

* Community Hosting Tent - February 2013 - June 2013

* Research, Analysis, Processing and Interpretation Tent - February 2013 - August 2013

* Communications and Public Relations Tent - February 2014 and Beyond

* Action Tent - June 2014 and Beyond

Residents were charged with spreading the word and recruiting ten people to pick a tent and sign up.

Buell believes the future is about the power of every individual to choose. He issued three challenges to participants: Refuse to be less than you can be, refuse to let mediocrity dictate how your community functions, and refuse to let the absence of leadership drive the future path of your community.

To participate in FutureWalk, visit: and click on the FutureWalk logo, or email Buell at: and add FutureWalk in the subject line.