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Advanced Practice 3: Citizens Reaching For Results

Advanced Practice 3: Citizens Reaching For Results

Making a Difference and Measuring It in the Truckee Meadows Region

Truckee Meadows Tomorrow (TMT) is a nonprofit membership organization that maintains and reports on indicators of the quality-of-life in the Reno-Sparks-Washoe County region of northwest Nevada. Development of the indicators grew out of a regional planning stalemate over the rate of growth of the area. While, for a decade, the indicators were not used as intended to drive regional planning policies from the top down, TMT has used the indicators to engage citizens and organizations in a bottom-up approach to improve the quality of life. TMT not only acts as a data intermediary in compiling and producing community indicator reports but goes beyond that role to be an advocate and partnership-builder for community and regional improvement.

How Truckee Meadows Helps Citizens Reach for Results

TMT's original indicators were developed through an extensive citizen-based process. A broad-based task force combining professional planners and community representatives conducted numerous community discussions, widespread surveys, and events to elicit citizen input. They targeted all community interests, including ethnic and youth communities typically not well represented, and in doing so, stimulated community trust, built credibility, and developed community indicators that greatly interest citizens. TMT has, in turn, empowered citizens to stimulate action to improve conditions that concern them most. TMT does this by encouraging citizens and organizations to "adopt indicators." "Adopters" pledge to take specific actions within their power—from a parent volunteering at her child's school to the district attorney implementing programs to combat child abuse and domestic violence—that represent their contribution, however large or small, to improving an indicator. Citizen members of TMT have reached for bigger results by engaging government organizations, businesses, and nonprofits to sign "Quality of Life Compacts" to take and measure larger-scale actions aimed at improving specific indicators. The Washoe County government, the Washoe County School District, the Washoe Education Association, United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra, the Sierra Pacific Power Company, and the Girl Scouts of Sierra Nevada Organizations are a few of the organizations participating in Quality of Life Compacts.

Citizen Roles in Community Involvement

Consistent with Advanced Practice 3, Truckee Meadows Tomorrow engages citizens in many roles to reach for results. The thousands of citizens who took part in discussions and survey activities to develop the original indicators were engaged as issue framers in defining quality of life in their community. Through TMT's Adopt-an-Indicator program, hundreds of citizens in the region have become collaborator-coproducers of quality-of-life solutions. TMT's quality-of-life indicator reports make its citizen-members evaluators who track outcomes for their region. These members also act as advocates for improvement by engaging their community in improving the quality of life, through programs such as Adopt-an-Indicator and Quality of Life Compacts and a range of promotional events and educational efforts to keep building awareness of the indicators and what they say about the region. The Truckee Meadows slogan, "You make a difference. We measure it," reinforces the important roles citizens play.

Additional Community Improvement Themes

As a membership organization with limited funds, TMT depends heavily on collaborations it forges with numerous organizations for in-kind services (e.g., printing and distributing reports, producing videos on quality of life issues) to keep its activities going and keep the indicators in the public eye. Collaborations with citizens to adopt indicators keep many people aware and active in quality-of-life issues. While resources and accountability are not systemically linked to results through a major organization's performance management system, TMT has taken a collaborative approach to creating those linkages on one quality of life issue at a time through its Quality of Life Compacts. The compacts are a step toward developing a self-reinforcing system that links plans and actions to indicators and desired results. In signing the compacts, organizations are making themselves accountable for measurable actions and putting substantial resources behind improvements that can make a difference in the region's quality of life.

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