visionPDX was designed to be an open, inclusive
process. To that end, the committee adopted three
guiding values for the outreach process:
- Create ownership, over simply creating “buy-in.”
- Start from where people are in terms of readiness
for the engagement activity.
- 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
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
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
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.
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:
- What do you value most about Portland and why?
- What changes would you most like to see in
Portland right now?
- 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?
- As you imagine the Portland you’ve just described,
what are the most important things we can do to
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
More information on this process can be found in
the Community Input Summary (see sidebar page 45
and download from www.visionPDX.com).
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.