myNKY invites residents to help shape Northern Kentucky's future

If you had a million dollars to allocate to your community, where would you spend it? Housing? Jobs? Education? Health? Transportation? This is the question posed, in game form, on Vision 2015’s new website, www.myNKY.org. The site and the new six-month campaign, myNKY, were launched last Thursday with an event at Northern Kentucky University’s Bank of Kentucky Center.
 
During the Norse men’s basketball game, spectators were shown videos produced by Vision 2015, and featuring NKU President Geoff Mearns, among others, asking the question, “What is your NKY?” (You can watch the videos at www.youtube.com/user/itsmynky.) A key part of the event was one of the campaign’s most interesting features, a wall, designed by Covington creative firm BLDG, that invites people to write on it their response to the statement, “I want myNKY to be ________.”

Volunteers from among NKU’s student body invited people to give their ideas, and many did. The input was as diverse and eclectic as Northern Kentucky’s population—some want more green space and more walking-friendly neighborhoods; others want more arts and culture; many are concerned with transportation (if you’ve ever sat in traffic in Union or Florence, you know why); several are concerned with education, and still more with job creation.
 
All of this input is exactly what the group at Vision 2015 wants. Their campaign’s request is for local residents—on both sides of the river—to let their voices be heard and to actively shape the next Northern Kentucky five-year strategic plan.

Vision 2015 has designed the myNKY campaign to be highly social—with their interactive website (in addition to the $1 million allocation game, there are poll and challenge questions); Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages; a QR code campaign across Northern Kentucky in coffee shops, libraries and on campuses; and the moving wall that will travel to various locations in the region and beckon people to participate.

Vision 2015 committee member Dan Hunt, an attorney at Northern Kentucky law firm Ziegler & Schneider, PSC, says that to be as inclusive as possible, the campaign has to reach people where they are. He says that if they were to have town hall-style meetings to invite input, some of the very people the campaign most wants to reach—young working people and families—would be too busy to attend, so they are bringing the campaign to the people. And since most people spend a great deal of time online and on social media, that is where they will meet.
 
Northern Kentucky has a long history of strategic planning. And its seemingly boundless recent growth in population, startups and industry is evidence of that planning's success.

Kara Williams, Vision 2015’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Communication, sat down with me recently and gave a rundown of where Northern Kentucky’s strategic planning has been, and where it wants to go:

In 1995, a group of 100 people, Forward Quest, came up with a 10-year plan that, while ambitious, was soon made obsolete with the rapid takeover of internet technologies and the light-speed changes the web brought to all aspects of our lives. So in 2005, 2,500 people were involved in a year-long planning process to revise the goals and plan, which became Vision 2015. The current strategic plan is focused on six goals: a competitive economy, educational excellence, livable communities, an urban renaissance, effective governance and regional stewardship.
 
Vision 2015’s Ohio-side counterpart is Agenda360, and Vision 2015 is working to make sure that its goals and plans align on both sides of the river—to partner with Agenda360 for the good of the entire region. Vision 2015’s mission is to set goals for the next five years, and they want the participation of 10,000 or more people in doing that. They want to get input from the people who live in both Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati—not just politicians and business leaders, but also the students, workers and families who call this place home, and who plan to live and work here into 2020 and beyond.
 
Northern Kentucky is where the “holler” meets the city, and so its needs and concerns are as vast and broad-ranging as its landscape. For the campaign to truly be successful, it will need to engage all sectors of its population, from the farmers to the young people who will graduate from its high schools and colleges and decide whether to stay here, or go to some other city. The region’s young people will decide where to live, where to work, where to buy homes, where to start up businesses and where to raise the children who will become the next generation of Northern Kentuckians.

Back in the party suite for the launch event, the energy and enthusiasm were palpable. Vision 2015 staffers in bright orange T-shirts passed around an iPad to attendees to play the $1M game. At one point during the basketball game, the Norse were down 67 to 49, and the pep band broke into “Don’t Stop Believin," almost perfectly encapsulating the optimism in the room among the attendees, which included a variety of community leaders and stakeholders such as former NKU President Jim Votruba; Kenton County Judge Executive Steve Arlinghaus; Covington Mayor Sherry Carran; Jordan Huizenga of Children Inc.; Amanda Greenwell of UpTech, an organization with the goal of attracting entrepreneurs to create an informatics industry in the region; along with representatives from Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, the Brighton Center, US Digital Partners, the United Way, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the Northern Kentucky Chapter of the American Architects Association.
 
I ducked out of the suite several times and saw many college students, but also senior citizens, parents and their young children, and young creatives and professionals, all from a diverse range of races, cultures and classes adding their thoughts to the myNKY wall—exactly what Vision 2015 was hoping for. It was an encouraging sight—and even though the Norse men didn’t win that night, something tells me that myNKY will.
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