2017 Reflection

2018 begins our third year of existence. You can read words (probably too many) on our beginning, organization, values, and mission, and past actions on our “About” page. 

2017 Actions (and Inactions)

Before we can look ahead to the new year, let’s reflect upon the past.

We started 2017 with a focus on unlocking the language of government (policies, regulations, and budgets) to serve others in advocating for change. This directive, led us to set an ambitious list of goals.

Goal setting is as important for what we didn’t accomplished as much as what was completed.

For us, our intention to start an advocate training/bootcamp and lead a conversation on next-level community school partnerships never came to fruition. We had conversations with possible partners, but never had someone take on the role of co-partner in these endeavours.

Here’s what we accomplished:

The Compact

Mayor Stoney’s plan to tackle his #1 priority, education, was to form a compact to facilitate discussion between the many interests. Our role in this process began in March with an explainer and analysis to help inform citizens before upcoming community meetings (see our handy poster and update). Throughout the community meetings, we tracked the Compact, its changes, while providing recommendations for improvements for government and advocates.

Along with proposals from by other advocates, the Compact was approved in the fall with changes to address concerns about transparency and inclusion.    

Richmond Forward created poster to communicate public engagement opportunities. 

Richmond Forward created poster to communicate public engagement opportunities. 

The Budget

Budgeting always comes with a slew of foreign government terms. In 2017, we we created this Budgeting 101 explainer to help folks navigate the system. Also, in pursuing additional dollars for school facilities, we joined with the with the VCU Medical Student Association and American Heart Association to push for a cigarette tax, in addition to dollars for PILOT collection, and cuts to proposed CIP projects to redirect money to school facilities.

Although we didn’t see major changes to the budget for school facilities, we forged new partnerships for future years.

Mason Elementary Community Engagement

In July, after no movement had been taken by the School Board on school facilities, the medical masked teachers of George Mason Elementary forced the issue to the forefront. Our role was to support these teachers by raising awareness and support input during the community meeting. In our call for support, we joined with Peter Paul Development Center, Church Hill Activities & Tutoring, Area 10 Faith Community, Support Our Schools, Fox Elementary PTA, Principal Furgeson and staff of Mason Elementary to provide free transportation, feed over 200 people, and pass out more than 500 event flyers.

On July 31st, people from the Mason community and from all of Richmond, packed the house. Although this didn’t lead directly to action, it communicated that the concerns of the East End  are all of our concern and responsibility.

Area 10 Faith Community bought enough pizza to feed over 200 people. 

Area 10 Faith Community bought enough pizza to feed over 200 people. 

School Facilities

In August, the School Board did agree that action was needed...by October 16th. So we started the timer and followed along. On September 4th, Mayor Stoney announced that he would help fund Phase I, only if the School Board passed a plan. Tick tock.

October 16th arrived with little fanfare and no action. Not cool.

In the absence of action, our Funding and Policy Action Team met to discuss what we could do to advance a action and raise up voices. As we were preparing actions, movement at the School Board (driven by Board member Menz-Erb) began.

With facilities listed as a discussion item, we decided to ramp up the public call for speakers to press for action on November 6th. On election day, in a turn of irony (or calculation), Menz-Erb’s loss was followed by a renewed sense of priority by the School Board to act on facilities. 

By November 22nd, the School Board had two options to evaluate. Seven days and eight hours of meeting later, the School Board had an approved facilities plan.

Thriving Richmond

Rupa Murthy and John Sarvay, two all-star humans, discussed the idea to get education advocates into a room to coordinate and identify a collective set of actions. With John’s professional expertise on how this could be accomplished, we identified the concept of “collective impact network” to inform our action, thus Thriving Richmond was born.

On October 3rd, an awesome gathering of more than 60 community leaders of various advocacy, service provider, and philanthropic groups met to discuss action steps. Over 300 responses were generated, so we knew more discussion would be needed for priority setting. Our follow up meeting led to this survey to gather additional information and the group is in the process of finalizing next steps for 2018.

Over 60 community members showed up to the first Thriving Richmond event. 

Over 60 community members showed up to the first Thriving Richmond event. 

Richmond Forward Organizers

Kicked off by a brilliant email of recommendations from Blaine Lay, our internal organizing team (Kelly Hall, Gabriel Vernon, Greg Suber, and Maria Tackett) spent time rewriting our entire communication and restructuring the organization to clarify our purpose and intent. This new structure was then built into the website with help from Laura Shibut.

VCU interns Jessica Diaz, Jonathan Revenson, and Jake Phillips helped with social media, student outreach, and creating communication materials.

Ansley Perkins tracks the School Board’s actions on school facilities and the Compact. Rupa Murthy, Don Cowles, and Ralph Westbay help with following the Superintendent search, budget, and movement for state funding reform. Jenny Aghomo is fine-tuned into city-wide community engagement and Master Plan update (Richmond 300) efforts.

Next Steps

In an attempt to take Richmond Forward to a next-level of sustainability and quality services, we’re going to take the next month to focus our efforts and define responsibilities (see numerous words on the “About” page).

If you have organizational development intelligence or interest, your help is needed! Contact us today. 

There's meal tax, facilities plan, and Compact to talk about, so we’ll be in touch soon!