A Shared Vision in Uncertain Times – Dubuque, IA

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Sustainability and conservation
  • Engagement Approaches Embedding a culture of engagement, Partnering with residents, Visioning/ strategic planning
Project Description

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A Shared Vision in Uncertain Times


Spurred by a depressed economy in the 1980s, Dubuque recognized a need to  leverage partnerships and residents’ strengths to put the city back on the map. By creating common goals and a shared identity throughout several visioning processes since the 1990s, Dubuque has become known for their sustainability and equity efforts.

Project Summary:

In 2007 Dubuque used the All-America City Award process as one avenue to build and accelerate their previous engagement efforts. The campaign to apply for the award was kicked off to the broader community by asking citizens, “What do you think makes us an All-America City?” With this input, the application and presentation group submitted a more inclusive and collaborative application and was named an All-America City in 2007. The application process proved to community members that their ideas and hard work over the previous decade had become a reality and improved the quality of life in Dubuque.

Engagement Strategies:

Dubuque’s sustainability efforts were greatly bolstered by employing engagement strategies. The traditional engagement model of a citizen-led taskforce coupled with the creative, grassroots outreach from the Dubuque Community Foundation created the successful Sustainable Dubuque initiative. The initiative has won the community many awards, helped reduce water usage by 6.6 percent on average and continues to be a proud piece of Dubuque’s identity. Dubuque has also used visioning processes and a collaborative approach to address the changing racial demographics to help create a safe and welcoming city for all residents.

The business community, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, local not-for-profits and local government worked together to help address the issue by creating Inclusive Dubuque. The initiative gathers demographic data, conducts surveys, and convenes community dialogues, focusing on equity in housing, economic wellbeing, education, health, safe neighborhoods, transportation, and arts and culture.

The local government in Dubuque continually attempts to improve their engagement efforts by organizing their civic actions, so that they complement each other and engage people to learn together along the way. The evolution of their visioning process to address challenges and emphasize partnerships has led to broader engagement and more sustainable solutions for the community at large. Learn more about Dubuque’s journey to use civic engagement principles to create a thriving community.


The process helped community members tell the Dubuque story and see their connection to it, which boosted community confidence after winning the award. Dubuque went on to being named an All-America City in 2012, 2013 and 2017 as well.

Additional Resources:
Inclusive Dubuque Website
Dubuque, IA– 2012 AAC Winner: Presentation
Dubuque, IA’s 2013 AAC Experience Video

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