visionPDX was designed to be an open, inclusive process. To that end, the committee adopted three guiding values for the outreach process:

  1. Create ownership, over simply creating “buy-in.”
  2. Start from where people are in terms of readiness for the engagement activity.
  3. Tailor the engagement to what best speaks to the targeted audience.

To honor these values, outreach projects both in the grant-funded programs and the Vision Committee work explored methods and processes that were creative, that built on existing community knowledge and relationships, and that reached out to diverse populations.

Engagement and Stakeholder Interviews

While planning for the engagement phase, several volunteers felt strongly that many communities would not want to take a survey or hold a discussion group on these topics right away, without a former relationship having been established.

Instead, having honest conversations first about what these communities were already doing in engagement, what worked and what didn’t work well, and how to best reach out to theircommunities was most important. It was felt that building relationships with these organizations, groups and individuals through Engagement Interviews could lead to further discussion around the four core questions, and would also benefit the project with a wealth of information on how to better dialogue with diverse groups.

Nineteen interviews were held with individuals and small groups. Interviewees were chosen to represent as many diverse populations as possible, within the general category of “people who are less likely to be involved in civic decision-making.”

Vision Committee members also identified the need to interview key strategic partners and stakeholders. By asking questions about other organizations’ visions and missions, their current goals, and how best to improve outreach, visionPDX sought to work in partnership with key leaders on creating and implementing the vision.

Staff and volunteers identified key stakeholders, and conducted twenty meetings beginning in March 2006, with the understanding that these interviews and relationship-building meetings would continue to happen during the course of the project. In addition to Portland-focused interviews, some efforts were made to reach out to other government entities outside of Portland.

Both sets of interviews were enormously helpful in grounding the engagement work of visionPDX. Most interviewees expressed interest in the project and encouraged visionPDX to continue the conversation with them and similar organizations in order to encourage increased support for the future vision.

See the visionPDX Engagement Report for more detailed information on what we learned from these interviews.

Survey Tool

The outreach was centered on a survey with open-ended questions to provide an opportunity for participants to give personalized answers and to contemplate ideas to impact change for the future of Portland. The survey contained the following four questions, developed by a group of Vision Committee members:

  1. What do you value most about Portland and why?

  2. What changes would you most like to see in Portland right now?

  3. Imagine Portland 20 years in the future and all your hopes for the city have been realized. What is different? How is our city a better place?

  4. As you imagine the Portland you’ve just described, what are the most important things we can do to get there?

The Committee decided to use these open-ended questions so that people could feel free to share their big ideas, and not be limited by multiple-choice categories. The Committee also did not want to limit responses to areas directly controlled by the City of Portland government. Since one goal of the vision project was to get beyond “silo” thinking about how things happen in our society, it was important to get the broad view of people’s values and concerns and then later determine how the City and its partners could address them.

In order to be truly inclusive, visionPDX worked to translate the questionnaire into as many languages as possible. Working with volunteers, partner organizations and grant recipients, visionPDX was able to publish its questionnaire in: Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), English, Korean, Lao, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. These translations were used to gather hundreds of surveys in different communities; almost 12% of the visionPDX respondents have a native language other than English.

Community Grants Program

The visionPDX grants program, which comprised a large portion of our overall engagement effort, funded non-profit and neighborhood community outreach programs to conduct information gathering. Led by Vision Committee volunteers, the Grants Subcommittee allocated $250,000 in grants, and chose 29 organizations from 143 applications. The project term was April through September 2006.

Community grants supported organizations’ ability to talk to people they knew best: people in their neighborhoods, clients and community partners, to name a few. Community-based organizations were trusted to implement strategies appropriate for the target populations they identified.

The three overarching goals of the grants programs were to distribute the funds to organizations to:

  • Reach people throughout the City of Portland;

  • Reach out to diverse populations; and

  • Engage the public through creative outreach strategies.

The grants have had long-lasting impact in many of the communities in which they were carried out. Organizations learned more about their constituents, and are using this information to plan programming more strategically. Partnerships have been formed among grant recipients. Participants and volunteers have learned leadership and organizing skills, and have gone on to use their voice on other community projects.

The grants process is widely seen to have successfully established relationships with communities that have been difficult for government to reach.

See the visionPDX Engagement Report for more detailed information on what we learned from this grants process.

Mid-Course Correction

While visionPDX did not set out to conduct a scientifically rigorous survey, Vision Committee members wanted to reach a fair cross-section of the Portland population. To ensure that we were meeting this goal before the end of our outreach period, we worked with our consultant, the PSU Survey Research Lab, to analyze the demographic information on the surveys we had submitted through July 2006.

We presented the demographic information at a public meeting in August 2006 attended by Vision Committee members, volunteers, and several grant representatives. This group had an open conversation about the gaps in the data collection, and brainstormed ways to close the gaps before the end of the outreach period.

What the demographic analysis told us was that while we were hitting many of our targets in terms of reaching minority and underrepresented groups proportionally to those groups’ population, there were several holes. Looking at demographics and a zip code analysis, it was determined that, compared to Census figures on population proportions, we were coming up short in reaching out to youth, elders and East Portlanders. We also determined that grant recipients’ outreach was forming the majority of our survey responses.

Three actions came out of this meeting:

  • A number of youth in East Portland were given stipends to collect surveys from peers.

  • A partnership was formed between visionPDX, grantee BroadArts Theatre, and Marshall High School, to fundraise for BroadArts to perform their vision-funded musical “If I Were the Queen of This Forest,” to an audience of the entire Renaissance Arts Academy student body. Classroom discussions on visioning and civic engagement, as well as survey completion, were part of the partnership.

  • Finally, the outreach phase was extended by an additional month to ensure that these strategies were given time to work, and also to allow visionPDX to ramp up an online survey tool to engage the general public more broadly.

This open evaluation process and subsequent actions including extending the outreach phase demonstrates the project’s willingness to learn from experience and respond to new information quickly.

Data Analysis

Binders filled with responses to visionPDX questionnaire – over 21,000 pages of comments.

The surveys from the 2006 outreach phase were primarily collected by community groups and volunteers. The first challenge was to enter all 13,000 survey responses, plus additional notes from dozens of small group discussions, into an electronic format that could be coded and organized.

While some grant recipients were able to enter their own data, many others were overwhelmed at the task of not only collecting the data from their communities, but also typing in questionnaires with often long, detailed responses to the open-ended questions. visionPDX had expected the grant recipients to manage their own data entry, but it became clear that other arrangements would need to be made.

After looking for an affordable consultant and finding none, an innovative partnership was formed with a local Portland Job Corps site. PIVOT (Partners in Vocational Opportunities Training) proved to be a perfect match – visionPDX was able to get support in entering thousands of questionnaires, and PIVOT students gained typing experience, exposure to new ideas about their hometown, a visit from the Mayor and an opportunity to testify in front of City Council.

Once the surveys were all entered electronically, visionPDX partnered with Portland State University’s Survey Research Lab to organize the data from the surveys. The consultant team read all responses and coded them for content. This enabled the data to be easily organized into nine major topic areas: Economy, Education, Environment, Government, Public Health, Public Safety, Social Issues, Transportation and Urban Livability.

Once all of the data was coded and categorized, the Data Analysis Work Group (DAWG), a group of 35 volunteers, read, analyzed and summarized all of the community input. The project emphasized staying true to the data by ensuring that all perspectives voiced by the community were documented. At least two people read each and every comment, and the teams worked together to draw conclusions about what they had read.

Staff took the notes on main ideas, community values and tensions in the data and created a summary of all nine topic areas which was used in the next phase.

More information on this process can be found in the Community Input Summary (see sidebar page 45 and download from

Vision Creation

After the data was read and analyzed by the Data Analysis Work Group, another group of volunteers formed the Drafting Committee and wrote draft statements to reflect the summarized data.

The creation of these statements occurred through many hours of large and small group discussions and multiple written drafts. The evolving product went through extensive internal review and editing with the Vision Committee. Slowly, the model of the vision, values and five elements began to emerge.

Then, the draft statements were taken back to the community in a second outreach phase. See the visionPDX Engagement Report for more information on this check-in with the community.




In a separate report, Voices from the Community, the visionPDX Input Summary, we share detailed analysis of the 21,000+ pages of comments from the community. A roughly 90-page summary is also available on the visionPDX website.

Included in the report:

Summaries of values and main ideas in nine topic areas

Detailed description of the data collection and analysis.

Top: A woman fills out a visionPDX questionnaire.

Bottom: Grant recipients and participants applaud at a grantee reunion event.

Top: City Repair volunteers perform a skit at Earth Day 2006 to entice people into thinking about Portland’s future.

Bottom: A performer at a Vecinos en Alerta fiesta helps create a celebratory mood for visioning.

Top: Young Korean Americans meet for a visionPDX social hour.

Bottom: Graphic facilitation at a World Café captures the conversation and ideas of The Arc members.

A member of the Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas demonstrates accessibility features at City Hall during a visionPDX event.

Vision into Action / 1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100 / Portland, Oregon 97204 / Phone: (503) 823-9585