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Building a Better Arizona One Community at a Time

An update on the Five Communities Project:  95 communities submitted letters of intent for the Five Communities Project.  Chairman Lattie Coor calls the letters ‘bold ideas’ that will help people address some of the most challenging isssues that Arizona and the nation face in the 21st century-job creation, building a competitive education system, protecting our natural resource and increasing citizen involvement.  This following story recently appeared in Flagstaff Business News.

When Sonja Burkhalter showed up to a Flagstaff meeting hosted by the Center for the Future of Arizona, she was curious to learn more about the Five Communities Project. As director of Northland Family Help Center, which provides services to victims of domestic violence and child abuse, Burkhalter has a tough job, but her outlook is hopeful. “I’m also committed to the idea of being part of the solution, not just complaining about the problems, but [playing] an active role in making things better,” she said.

Arizona could use more people like Burkhalter, especially now. Lattie Coor, the former president of ASU, spends his time as CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, looking for solutions to improving the state’s quality of life. He is encouraging readers of Flagstaff Business News to learn about the Five Communities Project, and to submit letters of intent.

First, some background. The nonpartisan Center for the Future of Arizona was created nearly 10 years ago with some novel ideas, like creating a vision for Arizona. The state may have been the first to commission a Gallup poll, where state residents rated their opinions on a variety of topics. The result was The Arizona We Want, a comprehensive snapshot of Arizonans’ values relating to education, the environment, the economy, and residents’ attachment to communities.

More recently, the Center for the Future of Arizona joined other states in the 2010 Civic Health Index. Some discouraging statistics emerged, putting Arizona near the bottom of the list of participating states. Categories included low voter turnout, Arizonans feeling less connected to one another, and the belief that elected officials are not accurately representing the constituency.

“Only 12 percent [of respondents] thought people in the community cared about them. That just stabs me in the heart,” said Coor. “But even more ominously, there were only 10 percent who thought their elected officials represented their interests”

However, Coor remains upbeat. “I think it can be the beginning of something, rather than the end.” Plus, he predicts small shifts in behavior could move Arizona from the lower rankings to being in the top 10, especially if people who are concerned about the state’s direction get involved.

That’s where the Five Communities Project comes in. The competitive process is designed to move the state toward solutions. Arizonans are invited to submit letters of intent for projects focused on goals identified by the Gallup poll, like preparing students for careers, creating quality jobs and increasing civic engagement. The premise of the Five Communities Project is to glean ideas from people in communities who can best identify solutions and follow through with a plan of action.

Kerry Blume, president of United Way of Northern Arizona, sees many groups with similar values, especially regarding the economy, education and health. That is why her organization is working closely with the Center for the Future of Arizona, encouraging people to become more involved in the community. Blume would like to see groups collaborate and come up with proposals for the Five Communities Project.

“I would encourage people, if they are from an organization, to think about who else, what other organizations in town might share similar goals, how might we form a collaborative kind of application that would represent many organizations that share common interests,” said Blume.

The deadline to submit an electronic letter of intent for The Five Communities Project is May 16. The 10 finalists will each receive a $5,000 development grant to help offset the cost of completing the grant proposals. From those proposals, five projects will be selected for funding over a three-year period. Funding levels could range from $25,000 to $100,000 each year for a three-year period. The letter’s guidelines can be downloaded at  HYPERLINK “http://www.thearizonawewant.org” www.thearizonawewant.org. Additional background information is available at  HYPERLINK “http://www.arizonafuture.org” www.arizonafuture.org. FBN



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One Response to Building a Better Arizona One Community at a Time

  1. Stacey Wittig June 2, 2011 at 4:22 AM #

    I loved this article when I read it on paper. It just as good online!

    Great story, Theresa. Thanks for the inspiration!

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