116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — A long-term visioning project focused on improving Johnson County is asking for residents to share what’s most important to them.
Should it be a priority to build strong neighborhoods? Should there be more of a focus on job training opportunities that attract, develop and retain the workforce? And where does affordable housing fall in the priority list?
Better Together 2030s online brainstorming and voting game looks to start that discussion as the project continues to work on long-term planning in Johnson County.
Better Together 2030 includes four groups — Iowa City Area Development Group, Iowa City Downtown District, Think Iowa City and Iowa City Area Business Partnership — along with leaders from local government, business, education and other areas of the county.
Last October, about 80 community leaders gathered to participate in an activity looking at 36 different trends — from categories of demographics, environmental, political, technology and economy — and discussing how likely they are to happen. The “Big Sort” activity showed Johnson County is more ready for the future than not, according to Rebecca Ryan, a futurist and economist working with leaders on the visioning process.
Ryan and her team put together two scenarios after the activity: an expected future and an aspirational future. The 10 overlaps between the two futures — called crossover levers — are the basis of the project’s next phase.
Some of the overlap includes focusing on building strong neighborhoods, increasing environmental sustainability and making the Iowa River a “signature” asset of the community. There also should be a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as a collaborative approach and growth mindset.
Now, Johnson County residents are asked to get involved and share their input of what’s most important to them.
One of the ways to get involved is the “All Our Ideas: Brainstorming Game,” which can be found online at icareatogether.com/better-together-2030.
The question guiding the game is what would best improve the community. Individuals are given two options and are asked to choose what’s most important to them, said Monica Nieves, Think Iowa City’s vice president of marketing and communications. The game then shows another two options until the user stops playing.
“I like calling it a game because there's no end to it. There's no right or wrong answer,” Nieves said.
Individuals also can add to the game if they have an idea they don’t see represented, Nieves said. As of early March, there are more than 30 ideas circulating in the game.
Nieves said she tries to play the game for a few minutes each day to see what new ideas are being submitted. Some of the repeating themes Nieves has noticed include transportation and collaboration between nonprofits in the county.
Nieves added that the game and descriptions of the “crossover levers” have been translated to four other languages, including French, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic.
“It's really important to us that we hear from as many voices as possible,” Nieves said.
The brainstorming game closes on March 12. Then the next step will be for the project’s steering committee to figure out what priorities are most important to residents and rank them.
Nieves said there will be more opportunities for the public to get involved as work continues to create the community visioning plan, which will be a “living document that people will refer back to.” The plan is expected to be published in early summer.
“Our hope is that it gets used in strategic planning at every level across Johnson County,” Nieves said about the community visioning plan.
Residents can stay updated about Better Together 2030s work online at icareatogether.com/better-together-2030.
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