Last weekend, the Power of 32
took a concrete step toward its goal of harnessing the creative energy within the 32-county area that makes up our region. More than 100 enthusiastic participants gathered for two days of "training camp" where they were taught skills for leading "community conversations" throughout the region in the coming months.
Power of 32 is the largest regional visioning project ever attempted in our area. It was announced last year, and is a two-year process designed to involve every resident in "creating a shared vision for the region's best future."
State and county lines are often unnecessary roadblocks to cooperation, says Selena Schmidt, Power of 32's executive director.
"I look at it that there is sort of an artificial right-angle plopped down right in the middle of where I live," she says. "We've seen a variety of numbers, but about 50% of people in the region cross some jurisdictional line during their day each day … folks in Pittsburgh going to Youngstown, going to Morgantown."
One business owner told the organization that "a full one-third of the people working at his company in Cranberry live in the state of Ohio." Beyond our work lives, Schmidt says, we embrace the entire region as home. "The first place I ever went rock climbing was in West Virginia. And how many people do we know who vacation at Deep Creek?"
"We all breathe same air, use the same water, drive the same highways, and we get our ideas from the same amazing group of 48 colleges and universities," Schmidt says. "The only thing we find at these artificial boundaries are problems, not solutions."
Cross-border connections are already being made. Power of 32 staff recently connected people in Morgantown and Greensburg, all struggling with similar water issues and eager to share ideas.
Part of what's unique about this project is that it began with no predetermined set of issues. The agenda is entirely set by the people of the region, who can share their thoughts at these "community conversations" in the coming weeks and months. "Our regional vision we'll come up with at end," Schmidt says, "is not going to be based on anything but this real information from community conversations."
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Writer: Melissa Rayworth
Source: Selena Schmidt, Power of 32
Image courtesy of Power of 32