group follows Extension strategies
Like many inner-city areas,
southeast Raleigh has longed for the kind of development and prosperity
that have taken root in other parts of North Carolinas capital
city. With the help of professionals from North
Carolina Cooperative Extension, citizens of southeast Raleigh have
begun the process of making that dream a reality.
In March 2001, Raleighs
City Council created the Southeast
Raleigh Assembly, a group of 45 citizens charged with the mission
of developing a strategic plan for the area. Group members included
residents of the area and community business leaders.
Charles Haywood, N.
C. State University associate vice chancellor for student affairs,
and developer Bill Mullins, president of DSM Inc., were chosen to lead
the group. But even the local newspaper questioned how a group of 45
people could accomplish anything.
Such challenges are nothing
new to Cooperative Extension. Raleigh City Councilman James West, who
retired in 1995 as county operations director for Cooperative Extension,
knew first hand of Extensions strength in strategic planning.
I had experience with
Extension in facilitation, especially in bringing together diverse groups
of people to identify priorities and solve common problems, West
He approached Richard Liles,
head of Extensions Personal and Organizational Development System
(PODS), about developing a strategic planning process for the assembly.
Liles, along with Mitch
Owen, Extension innovation and organizational development leader, and
David Jenkins, associate director of PODS, pulled together a team of
Extension facilitators to develop a system for guiding the large group
and helping the assembly realize its goals.
Facilitators came from across
Cooperative Extension. They included county directors Cheryl Lloyd of
Durham County and Fletcher Barber of Orange County; agents Katherine
Williams and Morris Dunn of Wake County; Extension faculty at N.C. State
University, Bernadette Watts, Judy Groff and David Mustian; and Thelma
Feaster of N.C. A&T State University.
Both Haywood and Mullins
praise the role that Extension played in facilitating the process that
led to a strategic plan for the area.
Our immediate difficulty
was to identify key issues, Mullins said. Thats where
Extension played a key role. Their facilitators kept us away from special
interests and gave us a structure to help keep us going.
Liles said, We followed
a tested model for visionary planning. The group started by identifying
strengths and opportunities in the community, relying heavily on the
citys demographic and other research data.
Out of that process came
six priority issues housing, community, public safety, human
capacity building, business and commercial development, and equity resource
Team members analyzed each
issue, looking at symptoms and causes of problems, then discussed how
these could be resolved. Once goals were identified, each team developed
strategies and action plans to meet those goals.
Liles urged assembly leaders
to seek community input throughout the process. In March, group leaders
organized a Town Hall meeting in southeast Raleigh to solicit ideas
from citizens. About 180 people turned out to discuss the plan.
One of the facilitators
was Bernadette Watts, Extension training and development leader, who
worked with the business and commercial team.
The real reward for the
community will be getting Raleighs City Council behind priorities
the assembly has laid out for southeast Raleigh. Though the council
is still awaiting a final report, members approved $350,000 this year
to begin work on some of the assemblys priorities, West said.
He expects to see additional council funding in coming years.
One of the short-term goals
outlined in the plan is cleaning up dilapidated properties in a more
efficient manner to improve neighborhood appearances. The council also
approved additional inspector positions to track down dilapidated properties,
as well as an attorney position to handle the legalities of nuisance