Developing a Clear Vision for Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Through its work with the National Civic League and its resident engagement, Eau Claire, Wisconsin was able to develop a clear vision for its future.

Through its work with the National Civic League and its resident engagement, Eau Claire, Wisconsin was able to develop a clear vision for its future.
Project Background

In Eau Claire, WI, city, county and non-profit organization leaders convened to discuss the city’s pressing challenges, including Eau Claire’s need for enhanced community services and additional facilities. The group contracted with the National Civic League to facilitate a planning process that combined large community planning meetings and small focused work groups. This group identified more than 500 stakeholders. People were recruited into an ad-hoc coalition committed to implementing an inclusive, problem-solving approach to community planning. Additional members were recruited so that the group better reflected the ethnic, geographic, age, gender, and occupational diversity of the greater community. The people involved represented business groups, education groups, environmental groups, faith-based organizations, healthcare providers, housing groups, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, retirees, students, and government entities. Through this process, they developed a set of community values and implementation strategies with measurable outcomes. The result was “Clear Vision Eau Claire.”

Clear Vision Eau Claire

This vision included six community priorities:

• Civic engagement
• Economic development
• Education
• Health
• Transportation
• Quality of life

Clear Vision Eau Claire, was designed to bring all sectors of the city together to create a broad community vision and strategic plan, aimed at building a reinvigorated sense of purpose with clear, common priorities. The Clear Vision process supports the formal planning, decision- making and budgeting processes of the city, county, and school governments, strengthening the capacity for effective collaboration by providing an integrated and coherent community perspective essential for effective coordination among government agencies.

Strengths

The Clear Vision is unique in many ways and demonstrates the collective strengths of collaborative community work:

• Previously, the many local government and community organizations in Eau Claire had never joined in a collaborative effort to identify common needs and priorities. Community planning efforts were typically conducted by a government agency as a formal decision-making process ultimately accountable to a single government authority.
• In traditional governmental planning processes, citizens provide input at designated times. In Eau Claire’s Clear Vision process, citizens are actively engaged in designing and conducting the process, determining the format and substance of recommendations, writing the final report and determining the implementation strategies.
• The citizen recruitment process was unique; many of the participants had never before been involved in public policy discussions, especially ones in which they came as individuals rather than representatives of organizations or government agencies.
• Participants that reflected the diversity of the Eau Claire community in terms of gender, age, racial/ethnic background, and economic interests were actively recruited.
• The group works to integrate citizen participation into established decision-making processes and organizations (government, business).
• Large group processes and small group discussions have been integrated to facilitate active participation.

Success

These ventures impact the lives of every resident in Eau Claire. Successes include:

  • An extensive Bike Plan that has increased health and transportation access for residents
  • A Confluence Project that expanded the community event space near Phoenix Park and brought in new development
  • Health Chapter in the Comprehensive Plan that focused on safe buildings, inter-connected sidewalks, convenient bike trails, accessible parks and community gardens.
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