Facilitating Conversation for Richmond’s Future

Garet Prior2.jpg

We believe in fighting against the division of our community's past to achieve ONE Richmond. A dynamic network of social, emotional, and physical connections to facilitate an equitable distribution of power.

A thriving city built upon uniquely individual, yet interconnected neighborhood centers. In building up community individuals and institutions to provide the highest-quality of life through a world-class system of education, safety, affordable housing, regional public transportation, accessible biking and walking infrastructure, jobs, recreation, social services, mental and physical health, environment, arts and cultural resources, and public infrastructure. To make this happen, it beings with individual action and accepting one’s responsibility.


Richmond Forward is a group of relationship-based community organizers. Driven by the belief that inclusion and empowerment will lead to a thriving Richmond.

We are not here to supplant existing change efforts or play the role of institution, we act as a catalyst for systemic change. Our hope is that we arrive at a day where we are no longer needed.

Diversity is counting numbers, inclusion is making the numbers count.
— VCIC speaker quoted this at APA VA Conference
Never do for others what they can do for themselves.
— Saul Alinsky

We move Richmond forward by...

  • Demanding transparency and accountability of ourselves and government
  • Pursuing citizen and stakeholder collaboration that is formative to decision-making
  • Improving accessibility to information
  • Contributing alternatives and solutions to push decision making out of ruts and beyond the status quo
  • Connecting people to other people and available resources
  • Facilitating discussion with the goal of collaborative action-oriented results  
  • Organizing alongside relationship-based community groups to identify and promote people of physical assets  
  • Translating public documents to allow for greater inclusion in decision making
  • Educating citizens and government on best practices
  • Obtaining equitable outcomes for distribution of resources and power 


    Work with, not against.


    We work towards what’s possible. We’re not interested in being against something just to be against something. Our goal is to ensure difficult conversations happen instead of letting hard topics or the lack of options stall out the overall decision-making process.  We work with a collaborative spirit to build “what’s possible” rather than with a naysayer spirit of “that won’t work.”

    Middle out.

    Some people work top down, focusing on leaders and policy without a focus on the people they serve. Some people work bottom up, aiming to leverage grassroots support to bring about change. Richmond Forward works in the middle. We request authentic citizen and stakeholder collaboration and boost the voice of grassroot efforts. We communication directly with decision-makers and improve accessibility to information. Everybody’s voice needs to be at the table, and not just for show.

    Bring some outside perspective.

    We’re not the only ones working on public education, neighborhoods, or relationship building. Other people and organizations around Virginia (and beyond) are doing things that work. It’s worth studying what others have done and applying that to our context here in Richmond. Some outside perspective can inspire us to imagine new ways to tackling old problems and push us beyond the status quo.


    In pursuing our vision of ONE thriving Richmond, we are driven by the following core convictions:

    Education is our top economic and civil rights priority.

    Making education a first-choice for Richmond families is the most impactful and sustainable economic development investment. Richmond’s schools are the most prominent reflection of “two Richmond’s” where only 8 of 43 schools have been constructed post-intentional segregation and prolonged disinvestment continues a legacy of cyclical poverty.

    Neighborhoods are the building blocks.

    Neighborhoods are Richmond’s historic and present-day gathering places for cultural, economic, and civic life. Building with these centers for community wealth will provide the social capital and strength towards lasting change while simultaneous reinvesting in our community assets.

    Relationships are essential to change.

    For lasting and authentic progress to occur, it must recognize (and be informed by) the steps of individual change. Acceptance and resolution cannot be forced onto people, nor can it occur without honest acknowledge and work.  For Richmond to move forward from its divided past, it must develop and take seriously community relationships.  Overtime we will develop the necessary elements of an engaged citizenry and responsible leadership  through which healthy solutions will occur. Without this, we will continue to repeat mistakes and weaken our community.


    Richmond Forward’s Name History

    We are reclaiming a name that was once used to divide Richmond, and working to reconstruct what past efforts worked hard to divide.  

    In the 1960s, a white, nonpartisan political organization comprised of City Council members formed to block the growing black majority in Richmond through the annexation of Chesterfield County land. A Richmond Forward member described, this annexation as “designed and approved solely to keep Negro candidates from being elected to city council” (pp. 7). Further history on this version of Richmond Forward can be found in Dr. Julian Hayter’s, “From Intent to Effect: Richmond, Virginia, and the Protracted Struggle for Voting Rights, 1965–1977,” and “Politics of Annexation,” authored by Dr. John Moeser and Dr. Rutledge Dennis.  

    How We Got Started

    The idea and framework emerged from two years (2014-2015) of researching and writing about Richmond on Garet Prior’s blog. The intentions behind this blog were to serve the personal sanity of the author, and to make his mom proud that his words were on the internet.  

    What ended up happening is that research on topics like education-led economic development or the Academic Improvement Plan, started to gain attention of elected officials and the community. Also, during 2015 the RPS Facilities Task Force was formed and comprised a range of community stakeholders. Many of those who would become the driving force behind Richmond Forward met here.

    Then, two major events happened that birthed Richmond Forward:

    1. When the 300-page school facilities plan was completed by the Facilities Task Force and community meetings were being held, there was no online resource with publicly accessible background documents. In effort to provide transparency and translation, the website was formed to post all materials and graphic designer Gabriel Vernon developed this One-Pager.

    2. Elkhardt Middle School was closed in February 2015 due to dangerously high-levels of mold, and a small group from the facilities task force reached out to Area 10 Faith Community who helped provide communications and food to help Elkhardt staff move. Over 40 volunteers responded and CBS6 news provided coverage to raise awareness.

    The overwhelmingly positive response solidified in our minds that organizing to improve education and neighborhoods was a major need in Richmond.

    In 2016, we experimented from our base as a transparency tool to policy analysis, student expression projects, and advocate training. Please read our exciting 2016 Year 1 recap for more background.

    In 2017, we’re focusing our approach to act as a value-added resource of policy analysis and education. We still believe in raising the level of engagement within the community, but will rely on strategic partnerships within communities to “bring more people to the table.” We’re going to focus on what they are eating at the table.



    Internal Organizers

    The following individuals work on the nuts and bolts of Richmond Forward:  

    • Garet Prior, Founder and Chief Organizer  

    • Kelly Hall, Organizational Guru  

    • Gabriel Vernon, Graphics Wizard

    • Greg Suber, Communications Mastermind

    • Maria Tackett, The Professor


    External Organizers

    The following individuals have stepped up to be the contact for Richmond Forward initiatives, based upon our timeline for action:  

    • Ansley Perkins, School Facilities and Government Transparency 
    • Rupa Murthy, Superintendent Search and Community Visioning
    • Ralph Westbay, Superintendent Search and Budget
    • Jenny Aghomo, Community Engagement and Master Plan  
    • Don Cowles, State Reform and Budget

    Policy Action Team

    Our policy and action team is comprised of parents, teachers, students, businesses, nonprofits, service providers, philanthropists, elected officials, and government employees. These individuals provide crucial information and speciality analysis that helps us translate this information to the masses. Due to their place of work, some wish to remain anonymous.

    If you would like to join the Policy Action Team, please email us!

    The Network

    We have (or are forming) strategic geographic partnerships with relationship-based groups in the West End (Area 10 Faith Community), East End (Peter Paul Development Center), Southside (Sacred Heart), and we're actively looking for a Northside partner.

    We're also seeking to connect with and help grow community-wide networks. We have relationships with groups supporting parent and teacher advocacy and state funding reform with Support Our Schools and Virginia Excels.

    In the past, we have connected with the following Richmond-area groups as they represent key stakeholders in the network of a dynamic Richmond: Art180, Chamber RVA, Micah Initiative, Communities in Schools of Richmond, St. Paul’s Episcopal, VOICES, and Leadership Metro Richmond.

    A special coalition of Richmond-area nonprofits were formed to execute the Mayorathon. The following sibling advocacy group we are looking to team with again and will always work to signal boost:

    • GroundworkRVA
    • Storefront for Community Design
    • Bike-Walk RVA
    • Sportsbackers
    • James River Association

    If your organization would like to join the our network or collaborate on a project, please email us!