The Akron-based Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaboration of sixty-five Northeast Ohio philanthropic organizations, has announced an eighteen-month, $3 million initiative to bring together thousands of people to discuss the challenges facing the region and create a public mandate for change.
Called Voices & Choices, the initiative will engage citizens from all fifteen counties in Northeast Ohio by inviting them to participate in citizen interviews, group forums, and large-scale town meetings. The major components of the initiative will include public education, to highlight regional issues and opportunities; public deliberation, to generate ideas and foster dialogue to establish regional priorities; and the engagement of community leaders to make thoughtful, deliberate regional economic decisions.
"By breaking down jurisdictional boundaries created by cities and counties and thinking regionally," said the fund's chairman, Robert Briggs, "we will create economic transformation to stimulate exponential growth."
D.C.-based AmericaSpeaks will manage the project, building on recent experiences leading similar initiatives in Chicago, Cincinnati, Charlotte, and New York, and working in partnership with the fund and the Universities Collaborative, which is composed of the University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Lorain Community College, and Youngstown State University.
"By convening tens of thousands of people," said AmericaSpeaks founder and president Carolyn Lukensmeyer, "we will shift how people identify with the regional economy and craft a public constituency for regional action."