Last night at around 9:00, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan stood in the back of the Town Center in the Fayetteville square, grinning from ear to ear.
That’s because at around 6:00, around 170 residents showed up to share their vision for the future of the city as part of the first night of the Fayetteville Forward summit.
The purpose of the Discover and Dream portion of Fayetteville Forward was designed to challenge participants to share their ideal vision of what they’d like to see Fayetteville become. Participants arrived, and took their place at tables of 8 with papers, post-its, markers, and pens scattered on their tops. We took our seat with at a table with two business owners, a Fayetteville Public Schools administrator, a teacher at Fayetteville High, the owner of the New Design school in Fayetteville, and city alderman Sarah Lewis.
What followed was 3 hours of conversations, interviews, collaborations, and imagination between strangers from a diverse sampling of Fayetteville’s population, and the result was a surprisingly clear, and widely shared vision of what Fayetteville wants for itself.
Toward the end of the night, we were asked to move to new tables full of people we didn’t know to construct “Dream Trees.” The concept behind it was to share the dreams that the people at the table had, and put them together and present them to the crowd. After all of the groups presented, there were a lot of common themes. They included:
- Focus on Education / A new, state of the art High School
- Sustainability/Continuation of the Green Valley Concept
- Establishment of Mass Transit / Light Rail system
- Maintain / Cultivate Fayetteville’s Natural Beauty
- Creating Jobs, Cultivating Environment for Business
- NWA Regionalism / Collaboration with Neighboring Communities
- Expanded WiFi-Broadband Access
- Supporting Arts Culture in Fayetteville
I was skeptical that something so collaborative, with so many diverse opinions represented could be productive, but the vibe inside the Town Center remained staggeringly positive throughout the night, and as far as we can tell, the first night of Fayetteville Forward was a huge success.
The thing that was confirmed last night for me was that residents of Fayetteville identify with, care about, and love this place as much as any group of citizens love any community in the country. Enough to forgo dinner, and spend 3 hours with a room full of strangers with all sorts of differing opinions and ideals to discuss the dreams they have for what Fayetteville can become.
If you were there last night, what were your thoughts? What did you take away from the summit? Do you think it was productive?
If you guys didn’t attend last night, there are two more chances to participate in the discussion.
What do you want to see happen in Fayetteville? What’s the most important thing that we should focus our energies and efforts on? What’s your vision for what we should become?
[If the slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos on our Flickr page.]