I would like to start this column by thanking each and every participant of the March Leadership Summit. It makes me so proud that 122 community leaders gave a day from their jobs to discuss community challenges and issues and build on what matters to the citizens of Gainesville-Hall County. I am especially proud of our community’s entrepreneurial spirit, civic energy and the prestige this community has achieved. In many aspects, we are the envy of most communities in the State of Georgia.
A huge THANK YOU to Otis White, President of Civic Strategies, Inc. and Jon Abercrombie, director of Common Focus. Otis and Jon lead community-wide conversations and citizen engagement programs throughout the country, and they dedicated their time and energy to facilitate our summit. They helped us to listen to each other, learn from one another and obtain the most from this outstanding group of community leaders.
Otis and Jon did an outstanding job of introducing the process of “community visioning” to the summit attendees. Visioning gives us an opportunity to dream about the way we want Gainesville-Hall County to be 25-30 years and organize these dreams and ideas into a formal list of shared ideals. We had an interactive day of thought and discussion about building the Hall County we all hope for.
One of the highlights of the summit was a presentation by George Fletcher of Greenville, South Carolina. George was a major player in the successful completion of Greenville¹s Vision 2025 process which they titled, “The Spirit of Innovation.” One of the points I gained from George¹s remarks is that for years, both communities have benefited from having progressive leaders. If there is one advantage that Greenville has over us, it is their second visioning process in the last 18 years.
Thriving communities support change and new opportunities. They cannot just do the same things better they do them differently. Visioning dares us to imagine a community whose growth is fueled by creativity, inspired by the spirit of the community and ignited by the goal of excellence for all who live and work here. Visioning allows us to start translating our dreams into reality together.
I shared a poem with the summit attendees titled , “Freedom¹s Plow” by Langston Hughes. In his poem Hughes wrote:
“When a man starts out to build a world, he starts first with himself and the faith that is in his heart, the strength there, the will to build. First in the heart is the dream. Then the mind starts seeking a way. His eyes look out on the world, the eyes see the materials for building, see the difficulties, too, and the obstacles. Then the hand seeks others hands to help, a community of hands to help thus the dream becomes not one man¹s dream alone, but a community dream. Not my dream alone, but our dream. Not my world alone, but your world and my world, belonging to all the hands who build.”
At the end of the summit, the following question was asked of all participants: “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree,” please rate whether you believe Hall County should begin a community visioning process in 2005? The results were 4.535 which is extremely high. I think we can safely argue that there was an overwhelming consensus to proceed with visioning.
My greatest hope for this visioning process? First, a greater spirit of cooperation between all governments. Second, a process that allows all citizens to have a better understanding and commitment to our community. And, lastly, the generation of new ideas for addressing old problems.
There is much work to be done to build a better Hall County for all our citizens. The results of summit are being processed and packaged in a post-Leadership Summit report that should be available soon. The important thing for our community, and those who serve it, is how we use this pool of knowledge to make a positive impact on leadership performance.
It is also very important that we not only listen and care about the many issues and challenges we face today but about the generations of Hall Countians who will inherit it. Next month… who is responsible for executing the Vision?