On Sunday, October 25, 2015, our board spent eight hours in a retreat. It was an overdue extraction from the day-to-day conversations we have about fundraising, parking, bike lanes, and walkability, and we were all quite excited to spend the day together. Here’s a quick summary:
Our mission, at least for now, remains the same: Mode Shift Omaha advocates for transportation options that enhance quality of life and opportunities to live, work, and play.
Vision (for Omaha).
We spent some time discussing our vision for Omaha using a post-it notes exercise (see below). Many of us naturally used words like livability, bike-friendly, multi-modal, and density. Safety came up multiple times, as did equity. We referred back to these words often and we used them as a guide throughout the day.
Transportation and Transparency.
You all know us as transportation advocates, which will remain our focus. But what will also be elevated in importance is making our local governments’ (and other decision-makers – ahem, Omaha Performing Arts) decisions and decision-making processes more transparent. The reality is many of us have been working on these issues for years, yet we still don’t fully understand and can’t articulate how it all fits together.
As we move forward, an important part of our work will be to make these processes transparent so that we all can be more effective advocates. We have been, to a certain extent, doing this anyway, but it will become a more deliberate part of what we do in the future.
Reactive and Proactive.
Quickly and aggressively reacting to what’s happening around us has been our modus operandi for the past several years. It’s what we do and we’ve been pretty good at it (think bike/ped coordinator position issue in 2014 or the current issues related to downtown parking). The trouble with always being reactive is twofold: first, you never know what’s coming, which makes it difficult to be prepared and ready to react. Second, it’s difficult to control the conversation in a positive way.
We plan to maintain our reactive strength while building our proactive nature. The best current example of this has been our work on the BRT front to date. This involves getting out in front of the conversation a bit more, generating ideas, and pushing the envelope a bit.
Our Model for Effecting Change.
We developed a three-part model by which we hope to operate. Here’s what we’re thinking. We:
- Educate & Engage – We aim to educate and engage citizens and government officials on active transportation issues.
- Influence – We aim to influence the choices of decision-makers and the perspectives of the public.
- Monitor – We aim to monitor the execution and implementation of projects.
As we monitor projects, we will learn more about what’s working, what’s not, who is making decisions, and why those decisions are being made; all of which will help us enhance the manner in which we educate, engage, and influence.
We discussed several possible campaigns and narrowed the list to three that we will focus on. They include:
- Bus Rapid Transit – We aim to do what we can to ensure the BRT is an excellent system.
- Campaign for Transparency – We aim to bring transparency to decisions that concern Omaha transportation projects: Who makes the decisions? When are they made? What criteria is used? Who funds the projects? etc. And, most important, how can informed citizens be part of the process?
- Neighborhood Outreach – We aim to connect with parts of our community that we’ve not yet adequately reached and determine how we might work together and/or be of service to them.
We’ve got a lot of work in front of us. Thanks to your great support during and after Omaha Gives, we have a good balance of funds from which to work. We’re now in the process of building an organization while continuing to nimbly react to all the different things that come up as the city and region evolve. Here’s what our focus will be for the next 6 – 12 months:
- Hire part-time staff person
- Prepare a business and fund development plan
- Prepare a board and volunteer development plan
- Make several internal operations refinements, including updating our website
- Focus programming around pressing issues (e.g., downtown parking) and campaigns
- Identify macro-level and process metrics
One underlying element in all of this is doing a better job of engaging our exceptional members and volunteers in helping to move the organization forward. You are our fuel. You make us go. As we venture forward, we’ll be relying on you more and more to help us build Omaha into a city that is safe and enjoyable for all modes of travel. Let’s do this together.
Here’s how you can help right now:
- Volunteer to help organize and implement one of the three campaigns. Please contact:
- Craig Moody if you want to get involved in the BRT campaign
- Chris Behr or Lee Myers to get involved with the transparency project.
- Jay Leighter to get involved with the neighborhood outreach project.
- Volunteer to help with the organization administration areas noted above. Please contact Angie Eikenberry.
- Write blog posts or editorials about transportation-related issues. Please contact Angie Eikenberry.
- Make a donation to support our work.
Thank-you for the work you have done to bring clarity and focus to the mission of Mode Shift! Your commitment is much appreciated.
this all is very encouraging thanks to everyone involved, for me the overarching value/goal is Democracy in the broad sense of for the people by the people (and more specifically that the people who are effected by decisions have a say in them), so making public the processes and helping citizens to grasp them (and their potential roles in them) is most welcome, and as you all know developments like infrastructure are long-term issues so glad that there is some intentional shift from being largely reactive to aligning yer mission/mode to echo the kinds of government/economic processes you are addressing (one will always need a way to rally masses who won’t have an ongoing engagement with these issues but care enough to show up as needed), excellent also to be practicing the kinds of governance that one hopes to see in our formal political institutions, and if that could include outreach to the many related NGOs (many now conveniently located together in the Community Engagement Center @UNO ) as well as building community/citizen connections/support that could only be to the good.
Would be great if in our efforts to act locally we could track nation/international trends in economics, ethics, and all (right-sizing our economy and city for instance and getting out of the nightmare of crony-capitalism trickle-down economics/politics) ever onward!