What's Next, Alexandria?: Breaking Ground

Someone once said that 80 percent of success is showing up. It's no small feat then that 165 Alexandrians showed up last night to First Baptist Church - including community leaders and city council members - for the first of four "What's Next, Alexandria?" community dialogues the City is hosting. 

Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, founder and former President of AmericaSpeaks and Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, congratulated the City on a full room of participants - a big first step. Lukensmeyer has travelled across the U.S. helping facilitate these same conversations. 

Throughout her 30 years of organizing, Lukensmeyer noticed that our ability to engage has deteriorated because of a fragmenting society, hyper-partisanship, incivility and disrespect in our discourse. She emphasized the need for citizens to sit down and talk to each other, face to face. 

And that’s what Alexandria did last night. The City and volunteer facilitators huddled around round tables of eight to 10 to discuss three questions:

  • What does ideal engagement feel like? 
  • What is expected of you as an engaged citizen?
  • What do you expect in return for your effort? 

In the coming weeks, the City will post the answers of each group, so stay tuned for that. You can also watch the entire meeting online and view the presentation. 

The City could be breaking ground, Lukensmeyer noted, because we are talking about community engagement on a different level than most American cities. We are discussing "what types of public engagement best matches the community" - the principles of citizen engagement and the ways citizens should be engaged. Best of all, they are including the community in that process. 


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