LOWER NAUGATUCK VALLEY NAMED A FINALIST IN ALL AMERICA CITY COMPETITION
2. NCL believes a strong civic infrastructure provides the skills and processes for a community to effectively address important local issues. Using the ten components of NCL’s Civic Index as a guide, discuss how your community’s civic infrastructure is helping the community address its key challenges.
Give examples of how your community has encouraged:
- The most basic challenges and concerns of the community;
- Collaboration between community sectors; and
- Shared decision making among diverse segments of the population.
Five years ago, a synergy and common sense of purpose and direction emerged. Three new organizations, The Valley Council of Health and Human Service Organizations, the Greater Valley Alliance for Economic Growth and Healthy Valley 2000 were created. The integration with existing agencies like the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Griffin Hospital and Council of Elected Officials created a new momentum. In 1993, the fifty-five member Valley Council of Health and Human Service Organizations was founded. Each member has a volunteer board; together they total over 800 community members; and represent over 2,500 employees. Healthy Valley 2000 was formally launched in October, 1994. Two local foundations provided grants totaling $225,000 funding the project for two years. The funding was used to assist with planning and facilitation and to hire a full time Project Coordinator. United Way agreed to serve as the fiduciary and host agency using its tax-exempt status for grant applications and providing in-kind space and administrative support. Griffin Hospital, corporations and non-profit agencies stepped forward with generous in-kind and financial support including public relations and printing. The Greater Valley Alliance for Economic Growth was founded four years ago. HV2000, the VCHHSO and the Alliance are the three legs of the stool that together have advanced the community’s agenda to improve health and quality of life.
Two hundred Stakeholders representing every community constituency manage Healthy Valley 2000 and work on initiatives. The co-chairs are the Chamber Director and a Mayor. A Griffin Hospital V.P. chairs the Planning Committee. All Chief Elected Officials are Stakeholders. The Stakeholders developed a vision that was widely distributed in the community. As adopted, the vision is to improve the health status and quality of life of the community by making it a better place in which to live, work, shop, raise a family and enjoy life. Underlying this vision is a commitment to maintain unity through regional cooperation, work to enhance community image and pride, better utilize the Valley’s unique resources, especially its two major rivers, and to embrace cultural diversity. Stakeholders wanted to foster, not deter, initiatives by other individuals and organizations. An Honor Roll, now with 38 programs, was established to publicly recognize others and support programs that are consistent with the community’s vision.
The Community’s goal was to use research, quantitative data and a broad-based visioning and participatory process to identify and gain consensus on priority community needs and problems and identify resources to address them. This process resulted in agreement on five priority areas of Arts & Recreation, Community Involvement, Economic Development, Education and Health. Each area has a task force whose role is to continue to review needs and initiatives related to the area. Each of the 37 projects has a team headed by a captain. The teams are responsible for accomplishment. Seventeen projects have been completed.
Every decision is based on information, dialogue and reaching consensus. A new skill learned by many has been meeting and agenda preparation and management. The project and stakeholders hold themselves publicly accountable. All Stakeholder meetings are publicized and open to all. A regular agenda item is to identify and recruit others. The vision and goals are reviewed to ensure they remain current and reflective of the broad community. Research will be updated to track and assess overall community improvement. New initiatives will be identified and undertaken as needs are identified. Continued funding has been achieved through a combination of foundation support and matching contributions from private sources. Initiatives are being supported through in-kind services, grants, private funding and sponsorships.
The efforts have been about mobilizing and empowering the community to solve its own problems and build on existing strengths and resources. Together they are the most comprehensive community mobilization, planning, needs assessment initiative ever undertaken and has resulted in a model and blueprint that will guide and position the community in the next century.