If you stop and concentrate for a moment, there is an immense amount of energy in our city. You don’t have to listen intently to hear the amplified voice of change on the horizon. The noise starts to sound like a drum beat, increasing in tempo every day, with every initiative and resounding call to action. Jacksonville has a bold character that resonates even while we forge through a perceived identity crisis and inferiority complex.
We know our city isn’t what it was, but we’re not sure yet what it will become. We just know we’re not yet satisfied. We obsess to progress. But how will we ever know how far we’ve come, or how far there is to go, if we don’t know exactly where we want to be? Will we ever get there with fragmented momentum?
In 2012 and 2013, through JAX2025 surveys and public visioning sessions, JCCI (Jacksonville Community Council, Inc.) asked the citizens of Jacksonville to envision what an ideal Jax would look like in the year 2025. 18,000 diverse Jaxsons, from all sides of town, answered to define our collective priorities and establish our shared vision.
JCCI has been recording, measuring and reporting on this type of data for four decades. In fact, through JCCI, Jacksonville is the first community worldwide to do a community-based quality of life indicators report. “We’ve been recognized as a best practice by the United Nations, presented in Brussels to the EU and our model has been used in well over 1,000 other communities worldwide,” Ben Warner, JCCI President and CEO, said.
One of those communities was San Antonio, Texas, where JCCI consulted with SA2020, a nonprofit with a mission similar to JAX2025 for its own city. San Antonio had some issues. They were losing educated talent to Austin, they were continually ranked as one of the fattest cities in America, they were stagnant in their mainly service industry-based economy. So, they asked our own JCCI what they should do differently to be a different kind of city.
One of San Antonio’s goals was to be a brainpower city by 2020, and already this year, they were named the top brainpower city by Forbes magazine. Not to mention, they cut their adult obesity rate by nearly 20 percent in only two years. They’ve made significant strides in becoming that different kind of city and, “it happened because the people of San Antonio began working together to create the change they wanted to see,” Warner said.
JAX2025 is a collective impact model – a structured approach to achieving change by coordinating efforts and keeping communication open.
We’ve got the communication part down. We will hashtag and socially mobilize like nobody’s business. We’ll voice our opinions and dissatisfactions on Facebook, Medium, local news sites’ comments sections and over coffee at Bold Bean until we’re blue in the face. But the reality is – Actionville is nothing but a hashtag unless we are making it so.
When JCCI asked us to tell them what we wanted to be, they didn’t just take note of our response and craft a way to measure it. They designed a blueprint for how we can coordinate our efforts toward a shared vision. There are 10 targets we should hone in on, paired with simple things each of us can do during this action phase. It’s a paint-by-number plan to make our dream state, our future state.
Both institutional alignment and individual action is required for our vision to become reality. Public, private and not for profit sectors should work collaboratively on unique methods of getting us closer to our targets. When these organizations assemble and respond to what people say they want and need, it’s up to the people to reciprocate. To build on our collective strength as we work synergistically toward our shared goals all of us need to get off the sidelines, out from behind our devices, and take personal responsibility. If you say that better public transportation in our city is important to you and you feel it should improve — are you riding the trolleys, skyway or bus system? If you say you want a cleaner and greener city — are you doing your part to reduce what goes into our landfills? If you feel we need to focus on revitalizing downtown — do you patron businesses in the urban core frequently? If each of us spend energy, time and money focused on the targets in our shared vision, the power in unified movement will move us all forward.
It’s easy to anticipate the day when our gem of a city will finally come into its own. Especially when we’re in the thick of the creative process and opportunities seem infinite, while ideas abound. That is the nature of potential. But the nature of progress requires action. Each of us have a major role to play in crystallizing our city’s future, and like the pressure that builds to form a diamond, we have a lot of work to do as we shape and polish this jewel that is our city.