Siems: Vision 2020 striving for a healthy community

Published 1:12 pm Sunday, March 6, 2016

By Greg Siems

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Blandin Community Leadership Program in Grand Rapids, Minnesota with 25 other fantastic individuals from Austin. I’m confident in saying we all returned with many new ideas, skills, and friendships that we didn’t have before. I, for one, am excited to put those resources to work in making Austin a better place for everyone.

Gregory Siems

Gregory Siems

One element of our training at Blandin included reflection on the “9 dimensions of a healthy community.” Those dimensions are (in no particular order): economic opportunity; safety and security; life-long learning; inclusion; recreational and artistic opportunity; environmental stewardship, infrastructure and services; spirituality and wellness; and community leadership.

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All of these dimensions are essential, but everyone naturally has one or a few that are closer to their heart than the others. We all have unique passions and talents that help us do the work that we do. For me, I couldn’t help remarking on how well all of Vision 2020’s goals align with these dimensions.

Our volunteer committees are striving to achieve many things in Austin, whether it is a business-friendly environment, educational excellence, or increased access to recreation. They’ve developed countless projects and programs in furtherance of these objectives and more. They have accomplished an incredible amount already.

On the other hand, it’s not surprising that these efforts take a lot of time and effort to plan and organize. There are many details to consider, people to coordinate with, and actions that need to be taken. It can sometimes be easy to get frustrated when progress is slow-going or things don’t turn out quite like you planned. These challenges are inevitable in life, but when they occur it always helps to take a few steps back to see the forest for the trees.

All it takes is remembering why we care about Austin and get involved in the first place. For each committee, they can look back at their original vision statements to see the inspirations for their efforts, which were developed and voted on by citizens throughout Austin. I think the “9 dimensions” offer a similar opportunity to frame our community work. When the going gets tough, we need only to pause and remember what really matters.

Another important aspect of the Blandin program is gratitude. I’m thankful to live in a community that cares about these kinds of things and is aiming for something higher. We have a lot going for us in Austin already, but there is always work to be done.

What’s more, I’m thankful for the seven previous cohorts of Austin residents that experienced the Blandin leadership program and have put their training to good use. People, above all else, are Austin’s biggest resource, and we all must work together to keep moving forward.

I hope you will join us in this effort. Your ideas and skills are valuable and needed to work toward whichever of the dimensions happens to be of interest to you. Therein lies the true beauty of a community: through all of our unique individual abilities and experiences, we can come together to create something truly special for everyone.