“Sustainability is about making connections.”
Of many lessons learned over three days of workshops at the Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy in Salt Lake City, this one resonated with me the most. This is a crucial moment for The Tomorrow Plan – we will now move from envisioning our future to building it. As we move forward, we cannot forget the value of connections.
Connecting to the public was a major theme of the workshop. It is often difficult to engage the public in the planning process, but it is the only way to create a meaningful plan. It is so important that one speaker suggested that half of the plan’s budget should be spent on communications alone. As we measure the outcomes of our plan, we must communicate our successes (and struggles) with the public, and show them how various elements of the plan work together to build a more sustainable future. Ultimately, The Tomorrow Plan is meant to serve the people of Greater Des Moines, and they should see how it benefits them.
The workshop was also an invaluable opportunity to connect with local leaders. I was honored to be part of the Des Moines team including Meg Fitz of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Elizabeth Presutti of DART, Mayor Ruth Randleman of Carlisle, and Bethany Wilcoxon of the Des Moines Area MPO. Though we live mere miles apart, it took a trip to Salt Lake City for us all to come together and discuss how we can collaborate. Because we are working on several different plans and have different goals, it is easy to forget about the bigger picture, but the workshop helped us realize that there are many opportunities for us to work together. No one leader or organization can accomplish everything alone – we are all better together.
Finally, the workshop offered us a chance to connect with leaders from other cities across the country. The ten cities represented all received the same HUD grant and were undertaking similar planning efforts, but each team came to the event with its own successes and failures. The workshop gave us all an opportunity to learn from those experiences. Learning about successful initiatives from other cities can help us consider new options and decide what may work best here in Des Moines.
As the Polk County Housing Trust Fund begins its work on a regional affordable housing plan this spring, we will keep in mind the value of these connections. Only by connecting our resources to our challenges, connecting to other agencies, and connecting to the public, can we see all of the opportunities available to us. We all have a long road ahead, but through the combined efforts of The Tomorrow Plan, Capital Crossroads, and DART Forward 2035, we have a bright future to look forward to.
Josh Hellyer joined the Polk County Housing Trust Fund in 2013 as Policy and Communications Coordinator. In that capacity, he is responsible for collection and analysis of community housing data as well as affordable housing policy research. Prior to joining the PCHTF, Hellyer served as a member of the ISU Housing Inventory study team working to identify affordable housing inventory and trends in Polk County. He is responsible for effective communication of PCHTF collected housing data and policy positions. He also assists with graphic design and content creation for the PCHTF website, eNewsletter, and social media outlets. Hellyer received two Bachelor degrees from Iowa State University in Community and Regional Planning and French. He received the American Institute of Certified Planners’ Outstanding Planning Student award in 2013.