The process of developing a vision is a wonderful
opportunity for people to come together, take a pragmatic look at their area,
and work cooperatively to describe a direction they want to go. It takes good
information and hard work to make a link between the present and the future. One
thing we know is that the success of creating a vision and its subsequent
acceptance by a community directly correlates to the diversity of the group who
developed it. Broad interests yield broad support; limited interests bring
limited support.Just the
Creating a vision begins with a group of stakeholders
or those with invested interests in a project, resource, or community. They are
asked to state what they value about their area and what they would like to see
improved in the next five to ten years. The final vision can be any length – a
single sentence or a few bullet points – as long as it is clear, focused, and
Visions are based on reality; they are not wishful thinking. The advantages
of using a group to do this work are to use their collective imaginations to
create the most positive, practical, possible outcome for the project or
resource; to enable shared authorship of the vision which will translate into a
sense of ownership and commitment to seeing the vision realized; and, assuming
the group represents diverse interests, to broaden support among the community
Once written, a vision statement helps to define the direction in which to
proceed. For example, a vision statement can be used to work "backwards" to
develop a plan of action. Ask: "If this were the future, and this vision has
happened, what was done?" "How did we get this outcome?" This helps avoid
focusing on negative reactions such as how difficult or impossible it will be to
Vision statements can also aid in recruiting volunteers and keeping people
motivated. The terms vision, mission, goals and objectives are often used
interchangeably. They are related but distinct parts of the puzzle. Here’s
- Mission: answers why a project is starting, and its purpose.
- Vision: summarizes the ideal state of a project.
- Goal: transforms a vision into a discrete statement of direction.
- Objective: breaks down a goal into tasks that are measurable and
How To Do It
1. Gather the players
Bring together key stakeholders
diverse interest groups, resource experts, and others who represent the
community. This may be a citizens
or a working task force. Set the meeting up with a
facilitator, a means to record and post all comments such as flip charts
arrange chairs in a single circle to allow everyone to see each other. Explain
the exercise, state the time limits, and stress the importance of participation
and respect for one another’s thoughts.
2. Get focused
Define and set a limit on what the vision will address. Such a limit might
be set by asking each stakeholder to answer the question "I want this highway
project to _____." The discussion would be limited only to those things that the
proposed project could reasonably influence. Make sure everyone understands and
is in agreement about the limits before proceeding.
Have people identify and define those things that
make their community or their organization special through story telling.
Consider how it might be described to a visitor. Capture all comments. Look for
themes and commonalities among the attributes and have the participants cluster
and label them accordingly. If there are several, it may be necessary to
prioritize the attributes before continuing and rule some out.Definition
Take those attributes and imagine how they might be
described to a visitor five to ten years from now including benefits or changes
that might result from the project. Given these qualities, in this place, what
is possible? What is the dream? If it is slightly out-of-reach, that is okay; if
it is as unrealistic as a New Year’s resolution, then scale back. Have fun
thinking of scenarios.
5. Write it
Using the words
captured during the brainstorm,
begin to put together sentences to form a statement. Try beginning with "To
become the… To be known as… To be… To offer… To maintain…." There may be a lot
of focus on single words, or making subtle changes, but this is important to the
process. Everyone should be comfortable with what is said and how it is
6. Agree on it
The final vision should be
something that the participants feel addresses what is most important for their
community and describes the relationship between those values and the project.
With a vision in hand, tell others about it by issuing a press release,
or posters, creating buttons or shirts, or using most any other medium. Let
everyone know about the vision so work can begin on implementing it.
Articulating and describing a desired future.
Use It If...
You see great potential in your area and know that others do as well.
You desire to get a group inspired and make them more cohesive.
You want a clear, agreed upon way to keep a project focused. A created
vision statement allows you to check and challenge your actions by asking, "Will
this help us reach our vision?"
Forget It If
- You need action. There’s a clear, single threat that needs to be fought
against and all of your energies are directed at doing just that.
- You do not have broad-based representation from diverse interest groups to
create a vision. Without this, it may be difficult to get support or help in any
efforts; what you may get is loud, strong opposition.
- You have too many skeptics or unwilling participants. The visioning exercise
is irrelevant if people are unwilling to buy into it and accept the process as
Timing is Everything
Create a vision in the beginning stages of a project or
formation of a group. It should not change.