Steer Fort Worth
The very first day after Betsy Price was elected Mayor of Fort Worth, she spoke to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and identified that increasing the civic engagement of young adults would be a top priority for her. One reason for this was the discovery that fewer than 1% of voters under 40 had actually voted in that most recent election.
Leadership Fort Worth immediately responded to the Mayor to let her know of its history with developing young leaders through Leading Edge, a program targeted to young people from 25 to 35. We offered to develop a complementary program focused on engaging this generation at a civic level in a way that would demonstrate the community’s commitment to hearing their voice and allowing their leadership in areas for which they have particular passion. The goals were to honor the perspective and skills of the young adults and to provide examples of how they can make a difference in their community.
The City contracted with LFW to design just such a program. To begin, LFW developed a proposal to the Promotion and Development Fund and was successful in securing funding for the program.
LFW facilitated the first public gathering of those interested in participating at a lively event at Joe T. Garcia’s. It was at that event the name, “Steer Fort Worth,” was created.
After considerable research about programs targeted to young adult citizens, it was clear that the program needed to have several facets to allow individuals to participate at various levels. The three specific opportunities became:
- Task Forces to work on issues of great importance to young adults
- Luncheons to hear and learn from leaders in the community
- Happy Hours With a Purpose to allow networking and to connect participants with significant locations and individuals
Leadership Fort Worth took on the management of the Task Forces. The Mayor’s Office provided staff to manage the other two efforts.
1. The initial effort was to identify issues on which young adults were passionate. Vision Fort Worth with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce was already involved in a year-long research effort to identify just such issues. Their initial goal was to find those elements in the community that would attract young adults to want to live and work in Fort Worth. With slight adaptation, they enlarged their research population beyond just young professionals so that there was a representative cross-section of young adults in Fort Worth. Approximately a dozen issues were identified.
2. The Mayor’s Office then conducted a social media campaign to get as many people as possible to respond to create a priority rank order of those issues. The top four topics were:
- Urban Development
3. LFW designed and facilitated a “Big Brainstorm” session with close to 300 participants. At this event, all participants were given the opportunity to refine the focus of the very large issue topics. After a process to allow them input on all four issues, the Fort Worth Independent School District provided a digital voting process so that all opinions could be compiled. In that way, a specific charge was developed for each of the four topics. The event concluded with participants signing up to indicate to what extent they wanted to be involved. This ranged from an eight-month commitment to a task force, to choices to serve as a resource, to a desire to receive information on a specific topic, to a desire to be involved only in the Luncheons and Happy Hours.
4. LFW provided facilitators for each of the task forces and recruited content experts to work with the groups, and the task forces began to meet. Research clearly showed that without a clear structure, young adult programs attached to other mayoral or city offices floundered for a year or more before they began to make progress. The facilitators provided the structure to allow the Task Forces to accomplish the following goals:
- To identify information needed about the specific issue focus
- To clarify where the gaps in service were
- To develop processes for making decisions about what they wanted to do to achieve an actionable result
- To develop its own structure and become self-managed
- To assure that they were successful
- To provide professional presentations at the Report to the Community
5. The second Big Brainstorm session provided the results of the research that Vision Fort Worth had completed with the TCU Neeley School. In addition, LFW facilitated a work session to assist the Task Forces as they planned for implementation of their projects.
6. To prepare for the Report to the Community, LFW provided a training session with community resources to give feedback to the presenters from each Task Force. This preparation made a significant contribution to the extremely impressive presentations that were made.
7. LFW and the Mayor’s Office worked to assure a successful Report to the Community event. Specifically, there was great attention given to assuring that the decision-makers of the community attended.